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June 4, 2009 10:14 AM

Figures obtained by Newcastle East Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Spokesman Greg Stone identifies that annual Government spending on mass-media advertising has increased by nearly ten times the rate of inflation over the last year.

In a reply to a parliamentary question tabled by the Lib Dems, the chief executive of the Central Office of Information advises that the annual spend for 2007/8 reached £193.3 million, up 17.8% on the previous year.

Of this total, spending on TV advertising rose by 10% to £73 million, radio by 20% to £34 million, press by 30% to £51 million, cinema advertising rose by 91% to £4.4. million, and digital advertising rose by 47% to £11.6 million, although "out of home" advertising (such as billboards) fell by 5% to £19 million.

Overall, the COI has spent £532 million on advertising in the three year period 2005-8.

Although the Lib Dems asked for a regional breakdown of spend, they were advised that the majority is committed nationally and that data for the North East is not available.

Reacting, Greg Stone said: "Obviously I acknowledge that for some purposes Government spending on publicity is vital, such as over the swine flu outbreak.

"However, I am sceptical as to whether all of this expenditure is effective or even necessary.

"Whenever I tune in to local commercial radio in the car, every other commercial seems to be Government-funded plugs for child trust funds, advice about employing migrant workers, and warnings about bringing sausages into the country when coming back from holidays.

"My concern is that the Government is throwing vast sums of money at advertising often trivial issues, and is allowing costs to spiral out of control.

"Over the last three years more than half a billion pounds has been spent on publicity, but there is no clear evidence that this has been value for money.

"Instead of spending ever-greater amounts of money on spin, Government should be looking to make savings in such areas."