Tuesday 24 August 2010

Moving money around

The latest edition of Carmarthenshire County Council's propaganda sheet arrived this week. It's a 40-page (20 in English, 20 in Welsh) 'newspaper' which is full of the council's 'good news' stories trumpeting the council's successes, and featuring a good sprinkling of photographs of members of the council's ruling group.

According to the council, it's not a cost to the taxpayer because it's funded by advertising revenue. So, naturally enough, I looked to see how many adverts there are. The answer is that there are quite a few. There is a big but to that, however. All but two of the adverts are placed by the county council itself, advertising one or other of its own services or facilities. And, of the two which are from outside the council, one of those is by the builder of a new school - and appears alongside a story about the opening of that school.

Effectively, this means that the cost of producing the newspaper has been moved out of the budget of the PR department and redistributed across the departments placing the advertisements - which is not at all the same thing as saying that it is no longer a cost to the taxpayer. It also blurs somewhat the distinction between editorial and advertising copy. If the same people are responsible for both, isn't the whole 'newspaper' just one giant advertisement in effect?

The council would no doubt argue that this is a cost-efficient form of advertising. I'd like to see the evidence of effectiveness rather than just reach (as well as being certain that it is replacing rather than supplementing other advertising). In principle, if the figures add up, it's not a wholly unreasonable argument to put forward to justify the expenditure, although it doesn't convince me.

But it isn't the same thing as saying that there is no expenditure. That's just playing with the way the accounts are presented.

1 comment:

senn said...

It'sabsolutely fantastic!
The council chiefs never put a foot wrong and Carmarthenshire is not only the Garden of Wales but the Garden of Eden too.