We learned over the weekend that the Home Office has outrageously spent £2m funding commercial TV series bigging themselves up:
"Unlike normal documentaries, the programmes are commissioned by ministers with the purpose of showing their policies or activities in a sympathetic light.
The media watchdog Ofcom has disclosed that it had opened an investigation into one of the programmes, Beat: Life on the Street — about the Government’s controversial Police Community Support Officers, to see whether it breached its broadcasting code."
As BOM readers will know, Bonkett's Numpties* in Yellow Jackets are a problem (see this blog). They were introduced as a cost cutting measure to replace real coppers, and when last sighted there were 13,400 of them. But they have never commanded public confidence - eg that appalling case when they reportedly left a boy to drown in a flooded gravel pit.
So to address this yawning credibility gap, the commissars decided to take the law into their own hands. Stretching Ofcom rules about transparency and editorial control to the max, taxpayers' money was used to fund extended propaganda films disguised as fly-on-the-flourescent-yellow-jacket documentaries. An outrage Uncle Joe would have been proud of.
The dark deed was masterminded by the government's propaganda ministry, the Central Office of Information (COI). They're so detached from what we think that they're actually proud of what they've done: a spokesperson says:
"Advertiser-funded programming has allowed the Government to successfully reach 22,804,675 people with important messages, such as those around tackling crime and disorder, or encouraging people to give blood.
COI aims to help government departments communicate their services for citizens, achieving maximum communication effectiveness and value for money."
Important messages around... maximum communication effectiveness... services for citizens - this is the modern language of state control (although HTF they can know they've reached 22,804,675 people - rather than say, 22,804,674 - is beyond me).
The COI was established on the second day of WW2 as the Ministry of Information. It was our MiniTruth, and its mission was wartime propaganda. Fair enough - there was a war on. The trouble is, despite the passage of 60 years, the COI remains in the business of wartime propaganda: streams of ads on TV, radio, newspapers, and increasingly the internet, all telling us that unless we jolly well pull our socks up, Jerry will win.
And it's not cheap. Last year, central government propaganda cost us £400m, including £168m spent on traditional advertising - making the government Britain's second biggest advertiser, behind only Procter and Gamble. Here's the summary from COI's Annual Report:
As we can see, although the spend on traditional ads has apparently stabilised, spend elsewhere is roaring away. In particular, the amount spent on digital media is exploding, up more than tenfold in four years to £35m pa.
And remember too, the COI's £400m only covers direct central government propaganda. As the TaxPayers' Alliance reported a few months back, local councils spend huge amounts on their own "publicity", currently running at £450m pa. Add in money spent by local NHS authorities, local police forces etc etc, and we're talking a figure around £1bn pa.
So that's another £1bn pa George could use to cut taxes. At a stroke.
The news from the Tory MPs' holiday reading list is that the number one required read is:
"Nudge, the hit pop-psychology book by the Americans Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein. The authors’ argue that sometimes voters need a light push to do the right thing, a sentiment that chimes with Mr Cameron’s policies on welfare and tax."
We haven't yet read Nudge, but as we blogged here, that idea sounds horribly like nanny in a new set of clothes.
And Nudge's concept of "choice architecture" certainly sounds like extaordinarily good news for all those ad agencies who feast on taxpayers' wallets round at the COI.
We're grinding our teeth again (HTP Spokey).
PS Numpties or numties? Our original blog spelled it numties, which we lifted straight from a paper written by the Director of Kent Police College. But as commenters pointed out, that's totally wrong: the authorised BBC spelling is numpties. Just goes to show you can't trust a Director of Kent Police College like an old time copper.