Based on the experience of the last two years there is a good chance that next month’s budget will see $300 million allocated for spending on advertising by the Federal Government in the coming financial year with most of it concentrated in the period before this year’s election is officially called.
From the $46 million paid to media organisations in the first year of the Howard Government, the current budget provides nearly $251 million for putting messages on television and radio and in print.
The startling growth in the efforts of Government to manage public opinion through paid advertising is shown in the following table kindly sent to me by a Labor staffer who has updated the figures prepared by the Parliamentary Library
I referred to it in a Crikey report earlier this month.
Spending of this kind certainly gives a great advantage to an incumbent government, but the published figures understate the actual advertising spend by not including the cost of pre or post campaign expenditure, such as: advertising agencies, public relations, market research, printing, direct mail, call centres or even fridge magnets.
These costs are hidden away in the budget estimates of the departments carrying the campaigns.
In the example of the WorkChoices advertising campaign these “extras” added $23 million to the $32 million spent on the media to make a total of $55 million.