Backlash over government plans to advertise on BBC

Government chiefs may act to persuade the BBC to air some of its advert campaigns free-of-charge to cut costs.

Francis Maude, who is heading up Whitehall’s efficacy drive, has opened talks with the BBC to air “public-service” messages for next year’s Census.

This could prove unpopular with both ITV and the Beeb. The former will dispute a loss of income from government advertising, while the latter will have to answer questions of its non-partisan status.

Maude explained his proposal to The Times: “It wouldn’t be a propaganda operation. It wouldn’t undermine the BBC’s independence. This would not be government advertising, this would be public information advertising.”

Dan Sabbagh, writing for Beehive City, points out that commercial radio would also struggle without the £58 million the government spent on radio advertising in the year up to February. “Advertising costs, and the government, like anybody else, should pay for it,” says Sabbagh.

“One of the results of that spending is that we get soaps, drama and news on ITV (for example) – and when you think about it, that doesn’t seem like an unreasonable bargain.”

(Sources: Brand Republic, The Times, Beehive City)

This article appears in issue 256 of Media Digest.

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