Clarence Valley Council will continue spending an undisclosed amount of money on advertising in print media, including its weekly column in the Daily Examiner, despite the Office of Local Government (OLG) amending the Local Government (General) Regulation 2005 to remove requirements for councils to continue with statutory newspaper advertising.
However, because the COVID-19 pandemic has meant that many country newspapers have stopped printing, either because they cannot afford to or the printer, too, has shut, the Independent is no longer receiving a share of CVC’s advertising budget.
Ironically, the Victorian Government is investing $4.7million in its regional newspapers, by booking “one page of print and digital advertising in more than 100 regional news outlets each week for six months”; however, the NSW Government’s OLG has reacted by advising NSW councils they are no longer required to advertise “in response to the closure of some local newspapers and to assist councils to reduce their costs”.
The council’s general manager, Ashley Lindsay, said he had not given the issue “any thought yet”.
However, a letter to convenor of the Clarence Forum, John Hagger, from CVC’s corporate and governance director, Laura Black, spells it out Mr Hagger asked, in part: “Does council intend to save local people money on council’s advertising costs by removing all advertising burdens currently paid to the … Daily Examiner?
“If so: Where is any reference to those decisions reflected in the IP&R documents [currently on exhibition]?”
Ms Black’s response: “Print media is only one component of our advertising and communications programs/projects.
“Communications in print media is valued by the community and we don’t plan to change that while there is opportunity.
“Council does not play a role in endorsing the products or services of organisations independent to it, including the media.”
Meanwhile, the Strategic Improvement Information download on CVC’s website states in the strategy column that “Advertising Costs [are under] review to ensure budgets reflect new methodologies”.
The ‘six-monthly progress’ column stipulates for the 2019/20 year: “Recent changes in advertising methodologies including increased use of electronic platforms and social media have resulted in general savings across council”, to the amount of $38,344.
Staff have flagged further savings of $21,133 for the 2020/21 financial year.
In an answer to a further enquiry by Mr Hagger, Ms Black wrote: “I am unaware of their ever being a Cost Centre for Advertising specifically, as it is an activity conducted throughout the organisation for various legislative and service related reasons.
“Budgets and expenditure on ‘Advertising’ is a component of the ‘Administrative Expenses’ line item and, in 2020/2021, the [advertising] budget is approximately $450k.”
Clarence Valley Council’s statutory financial reports, as of June 30 each financial year, reveal the following amounts were spent on all forms of advertising over recent years: 2012, $466k; 2013, $520k; 2014, $512k; 2015, $502k; 2016, $454k; 2017, $561k; 2018, $477k; and, 2019, $438k.
The 2019/20 spend is not yet available in the public domain, the financial audited reports are usually released in October of each year.