COI defends record on spending in the regional media

LONDON - The government has rejected calls for it to spend more of its advertising budget in local radio and newspapers and dismissed criticism that it is shunning the regional media.

COI Communications has hit back at criticism from the Newspaper Society, which represents the local press.

An enquiry into the government's press and publicity machine last month, chaired by Bob Phillis, the chief executive of the Guardian Media Group, urged COI to monitor its use of the regions after taking evidence from the society.

After reviewing the position, COI has ruled out a major change.

Peter Buchanan, COI's deputy chief executive, said: "We don't think that the facts support the view that has been put forward by the Newspaper Society. Via COI, government departments already invest extensively in regional media."

A COI analysis shows that its spend in the regional media fell from £30m in 2000-01 to £28.5m in 2001-02 and £23.8m in 2002-03. However, the share of its total budget spent in the regions remained broadly constant at 19%, 20% and 20% in the three years.

Buchanan said: "We do accept the principle that people have a different relationship with local media and this is perhaps best reflected in our investment in commercial radio, where we are the UK's number-one advertiser."

He added: "All media are selected on the basis of effectiveness and providing best value for the taxpayer."

He said COI would investigate further its relationship with the regional media following the recommendations by the Phillis committee.

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