Wednesday, November 30, 2005

A BBC/Guardian partnership?

About a month ago, TAE noted that in the space of a week, The Guardian published two seperate editorial hosannas to the BBC, one in the regular Guardian, and one in the Sunday Observer. The latter came under the headline Worth Every Penny: The BBC still delivers the goods. At the time I wondered out loud whether this was an unconscious reference to the amount of money the BBC poured into The Guardian itself via advertising. One of the comments to the post took me to task, suggesting that I was "tipping over into conspiracy mania".

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.


Anonymous tired & excitable said...

Question time, cont'd:

Re the BBC's newsrooms:
How much airtime do current Guardian employees get compared to those from other Brit newspapers?

How many employees in the BBC's newsrooms once worked at The Guardian? How does that number compare with other Brit newspapers?

Ideally, annual data for the last 10 yrs, but at least for the last year.

How much traffic will the Brit freedom of information law bear? (The whole idea of FOI, not incidently, was lifted from the Great Satan, as usual -- which leads to the last question, Is it a cheap Brit copy, or the real thing?)

9:06 AM  
Anonymous bc10 said...

Nice post, well researched. Does the FOI act apply to the BBC too? I knew it applied to local & national government but wasn't aware you could make requests of the beeb.

10:26 AM  
Anonymous Mark Vassallo said...


another stat that I'd like to see (if you have the time) is the breakdown of media adverts by newspaper, and whether the same sort of figures you quote for the BBC are also true (or follow the same trend) for ITV and Channel 4. Not sure that we could make the same conclusion for Sky, as they already have a ready made outlet for their ads in the News Corporation papers. As a card-carying Guardian reader and BBC supporter, it's my impression (and it's just an impression) that The Guardian carries more ads for Media positions than all other papers (the same is true for Public Service positions, too).

12:10 PM  
Blogger Scott Callahan said...


It may well be that The Guardian carries more media related ads in general, and not just more BBC ads, than any other. But I'm not sure why that would be all that relevant. I doubt that other papers are turning away requests to run such adverts, so if your impression is correct (and I wouldn't be surprised if it was), it is so simply because the advertisers themselves (BBC, ITV, channel 4) have chosen to make it so. Nothing is stopping them from spreading their advertising budgets around more equitably.

Now, given that ITV and channel 4 are private organizations, they ought to be perfectly free to target people of a particular ideological bent for their workforce (although, if it is so, the public ought to at least be made aware of it.) But the BBC, being funded through taxation, ought not be so free.

BTW, it's no surprise that, given your card-carrying membership in The Guardian fan club, you are also a supporter of the Beeb. Just it is no surprise that, as a BBC critic I am also a Guardian critic. But that is pretty much the point....they are ideologically of the left, and the BBC being an organization financed at the public's expense, that ought not be the case.


PS - the fact that The Guardian is the primary outlet for public service employment recruiting is at least as outrageous as is the BBC's diproportionate spending. How that remains the case is, frankly, astonishing to me.

1:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...,7496,1653602,00.html

>>The BBC's research and development department is to be split up and moved from its current home at Kingswood Warren, the birthplace of landmark technological breakthroughs including high definition TV, digital radio and Nicam stereo<<

Well they did invesnt Nicam Stereo, ill give them that.

But HDTV was the Koreans work, LG.

DAB, was accoridng to the beebs own site .."
"'DAB digital radio' has been developed by a consortium of manufacturers and broadcasters."

What a love in!!

1:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Along with Biased BBC, an interesting journal.

By the way, there is a typographical error in the sixth paragraph: "persepective".

May I ask in which sense the word "liberal" is used? The American sense (progressive) or the economic sense? Is the British usage of the word also social?

5:39 PM  
Blogger Scott Callahan said...


Thanks for pointing out the typo. I need to start using the spell checker.

Liberal is indeed used in the American political sense. It is a regrettable reality that the policital left has managed to coopt the term.


7:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for that.

Here in France, the term "liberalism" refers to economic liberalism, a right-wing ideology, which you understand I can confuse with the American sense of the word, a left-wing concept. (Believe it or not, there are economic liberals in this country.)

I hope, for the sake of comprehension, that the left-right scale is fundamentally the same in our different cultures (Left: socialism, redistribution; Right: [economic] liberalism, competition).

How is the term "liberalism" understood in the United Kingdom? (Damned semantics.)

Anyway, as a veto-ing, dirty, cheese-eating, trade unionist, prejudiced Frenchman, I should not be conversing with a warmongering, capitalist, Bush-voting, FOX News-watching, McDonalds-eating, French-hating, American pig.

PS: I like your blog.

8:18 PM  
Blogger Scott Callahan said...


I think the left-right scale is fundamentally the same, although I suspect the left in the US is not quite as left as it is in France, and the right in the US in probably a bit further right than in France.

My sense of the UK is that, domestically at least, the term liberalism is understood in much the same way as the US. Hence, the Liberal Democrats are actually the most socialist and statist of any of the parties.

And, of course, cheese-eating surrender monkeys are always welcome to join in here with us warmongers.


PS - Thanks.

8:42 PM  
Blogger Bill Sticker said...

The Beeb has always put the bulk of it's recruitment advertisements into the Grauniad, ever since the 1970's and probably before.

No real surprises there.

7:47 AM  
Blogger John F. Opie said...

Hi -

Umm, don't mean to sound hairsplittingly pendatic, but the Koreans didn't invent HDTV. That's an IEEE standard that was threshed out in the late 1980s/early 1990s when it became obvious to those in the industry that there was going to be a convergence between TV and computing equipment, and that given the dog's dinner that the TV companies were making of the whole thing, it was time for the IEEE to get involved and set some standards for the rest of us. Take a gander at IEEE standards 1180 to 1990 for a start.

And rather nice ones they are, too. Comes from letting engineers who deal with reality design things rather than some ignorant bureaucrats try their hands at it: take a look at MUSE and HD-MAC, as well as the French 819 line system that was actually used for a while.

Best regards and a great blog...


PS: and yes, the BBC is a pool of lying bastards that couldn't earn a decent wage selling their sisters in Soho, but if you want to look at real corruption and incompetence, check out the ARD and ZDF: Germany thinks the BBC is such a brilliantly great idea that they went and created two of them while no one was looking when they were resetting the country back when. The only reason why this isn't better known is that no one wants to read that much German.

2:28 PM  

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