Shirking tax and pats on backs can stain any brand
A view from Jeremy Lee

Shirking tax and pats on backs can stain any brand

As exercises in cynical media manipulation go, the announcement that Channel 4 had organised a long-term tie-up with Cancer Research UK seemed to be among the most brazen.

Timed within minutes of the embargoed release of Channel 4’s annual report (which included eye-watering executive salary increases and bonuses all round), if it was an attempt to drain some of the poison contained within, it will quite rightly be judged a failure.

There was no hiding that, at a time when other publicly owned organisations are under severe financial strain, Channel 4 appeared to be splashing public cash around on staff with such profligacy.

Its chief executive, David Abraham, trousered a £100,000 bonus, taking his total remuneration package to an astronomical £744,000, while the chief creative officer, Jay Hunt, took home £542,000, having been handed an additional £116,000 for an apparently "exceptional performance".

While Channel 4’s Paralympics coverage was indeed a triumph – and 4Creative has quite rightly been credited with making the ad of last year – by anyone’s standards, these sorts of rewards seem to be beyond the pale, especially when Channel 4’s share of viewing actually dipped last year and it made a loss.

The partnership with Cancer Research UK is, of course, a laudable one, but Hunt’s state-funded bonus alone would pay for four NHS oncology nurses – something its remuneration committee would do well to reflect upon.

Google, too, has found itself the subject of disapprobation over its financial contribution (or lack thereof) from MPs after it paid just £6 million in UK corporation tax on sales of £3.2 billion. The company claims that it "sells" its advertising from Dublin, suggesting that Mark Howe, the London-based managing director of agency operations, North and Central Europe, and country sales director, Google UK, must have one of the nicest of little numbers going, as well as a misleading job title.

While it was satisfying to see consumers punish Starbucks for confecting a similarly elaborate – but perfectly legal – supply chain system to minimise its UK tax exposure by going to the ethically sound Costa Coffee instead, such is Google’s dominance that a similar scenario is sadly unlikely.

But for both Channel 4 and Google, this must surely be time for a little introspection and an opportunity to examine their own social consciences. Rewarding success and remaining competitive are crucial to the functioning of any market-driven economy. But what looks like greed or a deliberate avoidance of paying your way is clearly not acceptable and leaves the brands, irrespective of the other good work they do, looking rather morally bereft.