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Government criticised for placing job ads with Guardian

LONDON – The government is being criticised for placing the majority of its recruitment advertising for public sector jobs with left-wing newspaper The Guardian.

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A study by Nielsen Media Research showed that 26,175 out of 42,914 public sector jobs placed in national newspapers between January and September were advertised in The Guardian.

Most of the jobs are advertised in The Guardian's Society supplement, its largest weekday section, which appears every Wednesday.

The figures will trigger criticisms that the Labour government is filling all the public sector roles with its supporters. However, The Guardian has been known for its strong public sector recruitment pages long before Labour returned to power in 1997.

The government has already come under fire for placing high-profile Labour supporters such as Greg Dyke and Gavyn Davies, the respective chief executive and chairman of the BBC, in the two top roles at the state broadcaster.

Tory shadow secretary of state for culture, media and sport Julie Kirkbride has seized upon the research to target the government. She is to write to every Whitehall department asking how much money is spent on advertising in each newspaper.

Kirkbride's research is expected to show that millions of pounds a year in advertising is spent with The Guardian, a favourite newspaper with the media and public sectors.

The COI Communications department handles advertising for public sector jobs and is responsible placing all 42,914 jobs.

The 26,175 ads it places with The Guardian compares with Scotland's Sunday Herald in second place with 7,586 ads and ethnic minority newspaper The Voice with 2,719.

The Times newspaper takes 1,269, plus 1,255 in The Times Education Supplement and 802 in the Sunday Times.

The Guardian's rate card price for a full-page colour ad is £10,762, and a black-and-white page £7,762.

The government's relationship with the Society supplement is already being closely watched by Labour critics, because the publisher is Benjamin Wegg-Prosser, former special adviser to Peter Mandelson, when he was a cabinet minister. Wegg-Prosser's role, however is not an editorial one.

The Guardian has dismissed the criticism and called it unfounded. The paper pointed out that any talk of collusion with the current government was ridiculous and showed a lack of understanding of how the recruitment market, and the government's involvement in it, worked.

A spokeswoman for The Guardian said: "So far this year, thousands of individual clients, with individual budgets, have advertised in Society Guardian. Those decisions are made independently and are based entirely on value for money and response rates. Those clients include Conservative and Liberal Democrat-controlled local authorities."

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