Irish Independent: Orwellian Media Monitoring Unit to be run by private corporation for all government departments *

Irish Independent
By Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor
01.09.2008

The Government’s in-house information service on the media, which costs nearly €350,000 a year to run[…]

The work of the infamous Communications Unit is being privatised as part of the cost-cutting savings drive in the civil service.

The Government is putting out a tender looking for a private company to carry out all its media monitoring and press-cuttings service.

The change will not affect the Government Press Office, to which the Communications Unit reports.

Apart from the office in the Taoiseach’s department, it is believed that all other departments pay to have similar work done at an unknown cost.

The plan is to[…] centralising this function and getting it done by an outside firm.

The Government is going to test the waters by seeing what prices come back for what will be a highly lucrative contract.

Working from Government Buildings for 18 hours a day, the unit monitors the media by trawling through radio reports and newspaper stories.

Criticised

Since being set up in 1997, the work of the Communications Unit has frequently been criticised by opposition parties.

The total cost of the unit since its establishment 11 years ago is now just short of €3m and it costs €27,000 a month to operate.

[…]frequent comparisons to the all-seeing Big Brother from George Orwell’s novel ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’,

Last night, a spokesman said the Department of the Taoiseach had issued a tender for a centralised Government contract for the provision of a press-cutting and media-monitoring service for all government departments.

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