Olympic Games dominates DCMS spend

Figures obtained by PRWeek show that 96 per cent of last year's Department for Culture, Media and Sport comms budget was spent on the London 2012 Olympics.

Olympic fever: The GREAT Campaign is capitalising on the Games
Olympic fever: The GREAT Campaign is capitalising on the Games

With one month to go before the Games begin, PRWeek can reveal that the government department overseeing the event spent £556,000 on Olympics publicity during 2011-12.

All other comms spending, including publicity around the delivery of broadband and the department's press office, amounted to just £22,000.

A spokesman for DCMS explained that the overwhelming majority of the £556,000 referred to the costs of The GREAT Campaign, which uses the Games to 'highlight all the many and various things that make this country an attractive destination'.

The spokesman added: ‘This is a co-ordinated, cross-government campaign designed to make the most of the economic opportunity presented by the unprecedented attention that will fall on the UK as a result of our Diamond Jubilee and Olympic year.'

The news, which comes as part of PRWeek's ongoing 'State of the Public Sector' reports series, follows speculation that the Government may close DCMS after the Olympics in a bid to save money.

The Institute of Economic Affairs has suggested that closing the department could save around £1.6bn per year.

Over the past 12 months, the Government Olympic Executive, seated within DCMS, has taken over much of the responsibility for handling comms around London 2012. This was formerly the remit of the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA), the body responsible for the construction of Olympic venues and infrastructure.

Games organiser LOCOG also has responsibility for comms around the Olympics, though details of its spending cannot be accessed under Freedom of Information laws as it is a private company.

Between 2007 and 2012, the ODA spent £16.3m on comms activities. Included within this is £844,000 spent on tours of the Olympic Park between 2009 and 2012.

However, the ODA expects to see its comms spending reduced to £605,261 during the year of the Olympics itself, as the onus shifts to DCMS. The ODA's annual comms spending has steadily dropped over the past five years, from a high of £3.8m in 2007-8 to £2.2m in 2011-12.

Despite the focus on PR, the ODA has never employed PR agencies, instead concentrating on its in-house team, now reduced to ten employees.

Godric Smith was seconded to DCMS from the ODA in January to act as director of 2012 comms. He is now the most senior comms official at DCMS and his remuneration is within the £195,000 to £199,999 pay band.

He has been replaced at the ODA by head of comms John Evans whose remuneration is within the £43,291 and £97,404 pay band.

Smith, who was Blair’s official spokesman when he was Prime Minister, is running a 100-strong temporary press office to handle the huge influx of international calls relating to London 2012.
The GOE press office, which comprises staff seconded from other Whitehall departments, will operate 24/7 on a shift basis during the Olympics.

In Autumn 2011, the ODA’s comms department was restructured and staffing was reduced to reflect an ‘anticipated drop in workload’ following the completion of the main venues of the games. The ODA seconded out 16 members of comms staff – 11 to LOCOG, four to the Government Olympics Executive and one – Smith – to DCMS.

An Olympic Delivery Authority spokesman said: 'Last autumn we restructured our communications operation to reflect progress in completing venues and a number of staff were seconded to the Government Olympic Executive, the London Organising Committee and Transport for London. A much reduced team has been retained to manage the ODA’s communications activity.'

The ODA has also stated that no decision has yet been made on whether it will retain a comms department in the final quarter of the 2012-13 financial year.

Also read 'state of the public sector' story BBC's comms budget cut amid licence fee freeze.

And Department of Health comms jobs slashed

HOW I SEE IT

Dotti Irving, CEO, Four Colman Getty

It's a bold move, but the Olympics has always been about culture and sport together. The build-up in the UK and the cultural offer coming up to 2012 has been fantastic, and as DCMS is at the forefront of this, it's right to focus on it.

Dan French, Co-founder, Clifford French

It's an eye-watering figure during tough economic times but it is understandable, given the global platform the Olympics will provide for London and the rest of the country. With a global audience of four billion expected to watch the opening ceremony, the DCMS has to capitalise on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

IN NUMBERS

£16.3m ODA comms spend 2007-2012
£844k ODA spending on Olympic Park tours 2009-12
£556k DCMS spending on Olympic activities 2011-12
£22k DCMS spending on non-Olympic activities 2011-12
Source: FOI request



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