A BBC/Guardian partnership?
That prompted me to make a freedom of information request of the BBC regarding a breakdown of the amount of money it spent on recruitment advertising in the print media. Today, TAE got an answer.
In the fiscal year from from April 2004 until March 2005, the BBC spent a total of £568,343 on recruitment advertising in a total of 49 newspapers. The recipient of the largest amount of revenue from such BBC advertising was, by far, The Guardian. Nearly 41% of the BBC's expenditures, or £231,944, went into The Guardian's coffers. To put this into some perspective, this is over two and a half times more than the amount received by the next largest recipient, The Western Mail (a Welsh paper) which received £92,388, or just over 16% of the total expenditures. The Times/Sunday Times received a combined total of just £53,326, or a shade over 9% of the total. The amount received by The Guardian alone is approximately equal to the next seven largest recipients combined. And one of those seven, The Manchester Evening News, which received £11,100, is in fact itself a member of The Guardian Media Group.
Now, perhaps this rather blatant disparity in the distribution of the BBC's (tax-financed) advertising expenditures, can be easily explained. After all, one might expect the BBC to justifiably focus a lot of its recruitment efforts where the audience is, so if The Guardian has a particularly large readership, perhaps it makes sense that it receives a particularly large share of the BBC's advertising expenditures. Is that the case? Alas, no.
According to the National Readership Survey, of the 13 top line dailies in Britain, The Guardian ranks eighth, garnering just 2.5% of the total adult population. The Times has a readership 1.5 times larger than that of The Guardian, although it received only 22% of The Guardian's take in BBC advertising monies. The Daily Telegraph received only 15% as much, despite the fact that it has a readership almost double that of The Guardian. The paper with the biggest readership by far, The Sun, received no advertising revenues at all from the BBC's recruitment efforts. So, it would seem clear that it is not an effort to reach the widest audience that had produced such lopsided expenditures.
Perhaps it is, instead, a desire to reach a particular kind of audience that has driven the decision to spend so much at The Guardian. But what kind of audience is the BBC reaching at The Guardian? Well, it is no secret that The Guardian is a left-leaning newspaper. Even Emily Bell, editor-in-chief of The Guardian Unlimited, admits (nay, proclaims) that it approaches the news from a "slightly more liberal perspective". Even if the BBC is not intending to target a left-liberal audience from which it will pluck its future employees, that is, in fact, precisely what it is doing when it spends nearly half of all its recruitment advertising in a single newspaper dominated by a left-liberal perspective.
Is this really the way that a tax-funded, "public service" enterprise ought to be running itself?
In any event, and in light of this information, I can only reiterate what I suggested a month ago...perhaps there is more to The Guardian's belief that the BBC "delivers the goods" than meets the eye.