29 September 2007

government advertising... just spin

In an election year (the election date still to be announced), the amount of federal government advertising on television has been extraordinary.

From The Age (of 2 September)
Taken for a spin by messages ad nauseum

The Government spruiks its policies using the public purse, reports Jason Koutsoukis.

SBS advertising executive Sarah Keith observed last week that Canberra had become the pot of gold that no one in the industry had seen coming.

"August is traditionally not the best month in terms of bookings and revenue, but not this August," she said. "The Federal Government is our biggest client and it's putting a smile on the face of many people in the industry."

No wonder. Barely an ad break passes on TV without some spruiking of the Howard Government's brilliance on a range of policy fronts.

The ads are clean and simple. Nothing so crass as "Vote 1 John Howard", but still a less subtle attempt to reinforce the perception that his Government is doing good things for superannuation, national security, the "war on drugs" and workplace relations.

Such is the power of incumbency.

The way the High Court reads the law, the Commonwealth has virtually unlimited power to spend however much money it sees fit on information campaigns it deems to be in the public interest. Spending on advertising campaigns does not have to be approved by the Senate in the way other forms of appropriation do.

Yet the repeated use of taxpayer funds to promote government programs raise broader issues for voters as they ponder their choices for the next election.

Is the Federal Government misusing taxpayers' money to send a blatant party-political messages? And do the advertisements overstep the official guidelines, which say they should strictly inform taxpayers only of their "rights and responsibilities"?

And given the inherent cynicism that colours many a journalist's copybook, do government spin doctors have a point when they argue that taxpayers would never get a true understanding of how to access government programs if they relied only on media reports.

The rate of spending on advertisements increases in an election year. In the four months before the 1998 election, the Howard Government spent $32 million on advertising; before the 2001 election, it was about $78 million.

Before the 2004 election, that figure topped $100 million and about eight weeks away from the 2007 poll, the ad spend is threatening to surpass $200 million.
and also

PRIME Minister John Howard has spent nearly $2 billion on government advertising and information campaigns since coming to power 11 years ago.

A Sunday Age investigation has found that just weeks from calling an election, the Government has 18 advertising campaigns on the air, with a $23 million climate change campaign to air after this week's APEC conference.

The Sunday Age investigation has also shown that since the last election in 2004, Mr Howard has spent a record $850 million of taxpayers' money on government advertising. The Government disputes this figure. "It's probably closer to $400 million," said Peter Phelps, chief of staff to Special Minister of State Gary Nairn.

Spending this year is expected to peak at $200 million before Mr Howard calls the election. After that, the Government will be prevented from airing any communication campaigns because they could influence the election.

The record spending comes despite Mr Howard being elected on a pledge to cut it back.

And a great satirical piece from Mike Carlton in The Sydney Morning Herald (29 September)

A massive package of financial and practical aid for the struggling advertising industry will be a central theme of the Federal Government's campaign for re-election. Final figures have not been revealed, but the Prime Minister indicated yesterday it would take hundreds of millions of dollars to rescue advertising agencies from what he called "perhaps the worst of the many national emergencies we face".

The new money would be on top of the $213 million the Government spent on advertising in 2006 and the $1.42 billion outlaid since it came to power in 1996.

"This is not some election gimmick. We're already doing our utmost to help," Howard said. "The Government's multimedia advertising campaigns for our Work Choices policy, for climate change, keeping children safe on the internet and for becoming an Australian citizen have been a huge boost to the industry.

"But everywhere I travel around Australia I still find advertising people doing it tough. Account executives, copywriters and art directors are walking away from their desks, with nowhere to go but their Thredbo ski lodges or their Port Douglas holiday villas."

The Government will also offer more practical aid along the lines of the highly successful Work Choices campaign featuring the Workplace Authority executive director, Barbara Bennett.

Today, there was a counter-advertisement during the football grand final.

I like this other perspective of our current National Security campaign

I am also tired of watching useless government advertising.


The AFL grand final was on today, so I watched that at home. The last two years, I didn't care much for the teams playing in the finals (Sydney Swans and West Coast Eagles). However, this year I was gunning for Geelong Cats who really deserve the premiership and they thrashed Port Adelaide by 119 points (which is a huge margin). Woohoo!

This evening, Kim, Jordan and Liam came over for dinner. I made lamb rogan josh curry for dinner.

No comments: