In the Prime Ministerial press office they are well aware of the sensitivity that those rather precious journalists in the Parliamentary Press Gallery would have to the idea they were being fed with electronic press releases.

Hence the Howard spinners came up almost a year ago with the clever device of releasing what was described as a Weekly Radio message. To all intents and purposes it was dressed up to look like something that was broadcast in its entirety on some station somewhere while in truth it was nothing but a message made available in the hope that in an age where radio news budgets were declining some station somewhere would use a grab or two.

It is a way of letting stations anywhere in Australia appear to have their own journalist feeding in an item from Canberra when they have no one but the kind staff of John Howard working for them.

This morning’s release of the “weekly” (I use the quotes because they are becoming more frequent than every seven days) can be read or listened to here. It gives a wonderful little plug to the generosity of the Coalition Government in making a contribution to Lifeline of money provided by taxpayers.

So successful has this little device been that Prime Minister Howard now has video press releases as well although these are disguised as You Tube appearances. While people might look at them on the internet, (you will find this morning’s effort about APEC here) they inevitably find their way on to free to air television news bulletins as well.

It is further proof of “The insidious rise of the Video News Release” Crikey drew attention to last week.

How effective all this is in influencing listeners and viewers I am uncertain but I am impressed by the use of a version of the old fashioned chain letter that email is providing political parties with. I keep getting copies sent to me of a list of Labor’s potential ministry showing the predominance of previous experience in the trade union movement. It really does make you think a bit when, without any comment, your attention is drawn to the extent that a job with a union appears to be a prerequisite to preferment within the Parliamentary Labor Party.

Whoever devised this internet campaign really can spin with the best of them.