B.C. government dramatically increases number of news releases in March
CBC received double the number of news releases in March it did in February
The B.C. government had a lot to say in March, judging by the number of news releases and announcements it sent out, which more than doubled those received in the previous month.
On Friday alone, CBC Vancouver received 30 news releases and some members of the media noted on Twitter they had received even more than that.
Keeping track: 32, count 'em, 32 <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/bcgov?src=hash">#bcgov</a> news releases published so far today. It's not yet 3 p.m. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/bcpoli?src=hash">#bcpoli</a>—@theBreakerNews
If you thought the B.C. gov't was sending out a lot of news releases, you're not wrong! They set some kind of record this month <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/bcpoli?src=hash">#bcpoli</a> <a href="https://t.co/Vavn4hbe9H">pic.twitter.com/Vavn4hbe9H</a>—@ByJamesKeller
I've been away from my email for about 2 hours - unreal <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/bcpoli?src=hash">#bcpoli</a> <a href="https://t.co/4eo93aJHtG">pic.twitter.com/4eo93aJHtG</a>—@JenStDen
The announcements ran the gamut: everything from a re-announcement of a highway widening project in Langley to a $4-million commitment to improve communication technology and services for people without functional speech.
Not illegal, but 'speaks to character,' critic says
Dermod Travis with Integrity B.C. says it's clear to him that the high number of media releases are all about the coming election.
"The first quarter of 2017, the government has issued 965 news releases. If you look at the same quarter of 2009, they issued 535. Both election years, and we're nearly double," he said.
"Media outlets are generally not going to cover them, but there are online publications that are going to post them, word for word. They're going to be cited by the local MLA when he's making speeches in the riding.
"This is part of a propaganda effort by the government to ensure Liberal MLAs are seen in the best light possible."
The government was recently warned by the auditor general that a TV ad about the 2017 budget was too political. Travis says these new releases are in the same vein.
He adds there is nothing illegal being done by the government issuing large numbers of news releases, "but it speaks to their character."
"There was one news release where they included the fact that an improvement project would include brushing and sweeping of the area around a rest station," he said.
"This is ... not part of communicating real government services and projects that people need to know about."
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Advanced Education, which is responsible for government communication and public engagement, says he was unable to comment on the volume of news releases across government but said the communication budget has dropped $13 million since 2001 to $26.7 million in fiscal year 2016-17.
"The role of government communications is to highlight the many services, programs and new initiatives. News releases are one tool to achieve this and are often focused on the local or regional story."
With files from Justin McElroy