UK government spends 2 million on TV documentaries promoting their policies

The government’s Orwellian-named “Central Office of Information” has been funding a series of ITV documentaries which paint their policies in a positive light. The programmes were made to look like regular documentaries, and most viewers would not have known that they were government-funded.
Back in 2006, the Times was reporting that the government were ploughing an estimated 200,000 pounds into a fly-on-the-wall ITV documentary, “Beat”, which painted a decidedly rosy picture of the controversial ‘plastic bobbies’, the Police Community Support Officers. The department in charge was the creepily-named “Central Office of Information”, a government department with a strikingly low profile. The COI describes itself as “the centre of marketing excellence for government. It provides strategic advice, consultancy, procurement and project management for public information campaigns”. The department is run by the former Chair of advertising giant Saatchi and Saatchi, Alan Bishop.

Now the BBC reports that the broadcasting regulator Ofcom has launched an investigation into the programme – which is now revealed to have cost more than 800,000 pounds. Ofcom will be looking into a breach of broadcasting rules that “show sponsors must be clearly identified and not allowed to influence the content of programmes”. Home Office staff were reportedly closely involved – and the fact that the government had been funding the programme was not made clear to viewers. At least eight other documentaries have reportedly been funded by the government in the last five years, to the tune of nearly 2 million pounds.

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