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Fair and equitable would be fine

05 May 2016

Fair and equitable would be fine Image

Editorial Comment By Shane Scanlan

Pictured is the City of Melbourne’s “corporate ad”.

It’s the council’s prime means of communicating with you, but Southbankers have never seen it.

The council spends $145,000 each year publishing its “corporate ad” in four publications – none of which circulate here in Southbank.

On the other hand, the council is happy to pay to have its ad seen outside the municipality in: Abbotsford, Aberfeldie, Alphington, Airport West, Ascot Vale, Avondale Heights, Brunswick, Clifton Hill, Collingwood, Essendon, Fairfield, Fitzroy, Gowanbrae, Keilor East, Keilor Park, Moonee Ponds, Niddrie, Northcote, Oak Park, Preston, Reservoir, Strathmore, Strathmore Heights, Thornbury and Travancore.

The council says the ad is to communicate “upcoming relevant council information to residents and businesses”.

In the example pictured, the council talks about the opening of its new Docklands community hub. Southbankers should not be too put out.  No one in Docklands saw it either.

One of the council’s four selected publications claims to circulate in Southbank and Docklands.  This is wrong.  But surely the council knows this?  How hard can it be to have an understanding of local newspaper circulation within a municipality?

Are they that far out of touch?

The answer is yes – deliberately.  That’s why the council outsources the “research” to a multi-national, London-based agency – which is akin to using a sledge-hammer to crack a nut.  I doubt that we were even considered by this agency and the council refuses to (because it can’t?) provide evidence to the contrary.

Some years ago, the council distanced itself from its media buying to avoid embarrassment for its support for the then-monthly publications of Deputy Lord Mayor Susan Riley.

Readers will have worked out by now that this story is a whinge because my publications have been consistently overlooked for this council spend.

My preference would have been to meet with the relevant council officer to explain the situation.  This request was rejected.  Instead, an attempted justification of the present situation was provided several weeks later.

I’d heard the incorrect claim of duplication of readership in the past, but this time there was the added claim that my publications were unsuitable because of their monthly publishing schedule.  This effectively closes the door on Southbankers ever seeing the council’s “corporate ad”.

It’s worth noting that Cr Riley’s council-supported monthly publications are now defunct.

I have three publications and, between them, they serve nearly half of the City of Melbourne’s 128,963 residents.  The ABS estimates that there are 60,496 people living in the CBD, Southbank and Docklands (33,433 in the CBD; 18,192 in Southbank and 8871 in Docklands).

To be fair, there is some duplication of readership in the CBD.  But there are no other publications circulating in Southbank and Docklands.

This month in my CBD News, I report on an instance which shows that the City of Melbourne doesn’t mind paying big money when asked by big media players.

In December, behind closed doors, it ignored its officers’ advice to refuse a charity request from a private company run out of the Herald-Sun for $230,000 worth of sponsorship.  

I mention this to illustrate that the council is happy to override officers’ recommendations when it suits them.

On other occasions, it can piously find reasons why it is inappropriate to even talk about things believed to be the remit of officers.

At the February 16 Future Melbourne Committee meeting, a residential councillor wanted to talk about the value of including CBD News, Southbank Local News and Docklands News in the council’s campaign to publicise this year’s elections.

The Lord Mayor, Robert Doyle, closed him down saying: “I think we’ve got to be very, very careful here. Councillors have never involved themselves with decisions around how that information is to be disseminated through the media.  And, the moment we do, I think that is fraught with governance danger – that we would involve ourselves in decisions about where the media spend should be,” Cr Doyle said.

I am not a charity and I don’t seek special treatment.

Fair and equitable would be fine.

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