Why councils must ban the Daily Mail!


5:08 pm - September 24th 2009

by Clifford Singer    


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Daily Mail - not at my expense"Town hall bans staff from using Facebook after they each waste 572 hours in ONE month," proclaimed a recent Daily Mail headline.

This was an astonishing revelation: Portsmouth City Council workers were so addicted to the social networking website that they had broken the space-time continuum – compressing 19 hours of surfing into each working day.

Alas, the reality was more mundane. 572 hours was in fact the total usage for all 4,500 of Portsmouth’s employees. Individual use was a less physics-defying seven minutes a month – or 14 seconds a day. And that was during the peak month; average daily use was 11 seconds.

The Daily Mail subsequently amended its headline, though not before receiving a good deal of ridicule in its readers’ comments. (The original headline still appears at the TaxPayers’ Alliance website, whose prolific cut-and-pasting shows a cavalier disregard for such pillars of capitalism as intellectual property rights.)

But 11 seconds a day was still enough for Portsmouth bosses to ban Facebook – even though they conceded they could not say whether the offending surfing had occurred outside of lunch breaks. Those 11 seconds also prompted an agonisingly long Daily Mail polemic from Dragon’s Den judge Theo Paphitis (now there’s a man who would benefit from the 140-character discipline of Twitter), while the TaxPayers’ Alliance’s Mark Wallace said: "Even if everybody spends even a small amount of time on the site it is still paid for by the taxpayer. It is a huge amount of work time, and therefore money, being wasted."

Some commentators – Paul Evans and Mark Pack among them – reckoned this line of reasoning was as suspect as the Daily Mail’s maths, but Wallace was having none of it. He told Mark Pack: "It’s easy to divide and divide a number until it seems insignificant (re your 11 seconds figure) but if you look at the actual cost this is the equivalent of two full time staff doing nothing all month! That’s clearly wasteful – even if the time wasted is paid on minimum wage that’s over £28,000 a year, which is quite a few people’s council tax."

But why stop there? Why not ban sneezing at work – or blinking? Those lost moments all add up.

Make sure you Holden to those stilettos, Amanda!Meanwhile, sensing the opportunity for a scandal in their own backyard, the sleuths at Peterborough Evening Telegraph used a Freedom of Information request to reveal the top 10 websites visited by Peterborough council staff during July.

Facebook scraped in – at bottom position – but the council defended its use, stating: “There are a range of legitimate reasons for staff to be accessing the internet during the working day.

For example we are currently using Facebook and Bebo for our Safer Peterborough work to engage with a wider range of local people.” Staff had also been encouraged to back a Facebook campaign to bring the Radio 1 Big Weekend show to Peterborough.

But more shocking was the Daily Mail’s appearance as seventh most visited site. What justification could there be for accessing articles such as "Kerry Katona replaces brown birthday puppy after deciding she didn’t like its colour" and "Daddy’s little girl: Suri Cruise falls asleep in her father’s arms after an exhausting day on set" during working hours?

How many other council employees visit the Daily Mail website at taxpayers’ expense? We don’t know, but this is exactly the kind of thing that the Freedom of Information Act was established to expose, so we are currently making FoI requests to local authorities around Britain.

In the meantime, just as Portsmouth didn’t wait to establish whether workers had used Facebook outside of lunch breaks, we urge all councils to adopt the precautionary principle and banish the Daily Mail from their workplaces

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About the author
This is a guest contribution. Clifford Singer runs The Other Taxpayer's Alliance website. You can join the Facebook group here.
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Reader comments


Ban this time-wasting filth now! I’ll not have my tax pounds funding these workshy public sector layabouts surfing MailOnline all day!

but this is exactly the kind of thing that the Freedom of Information Act was established to expose, so we are currently making FoI requests to local authorities around Britain.

Heh! Excellent! In fact we should compile a list of all councils around the country and how often the Daily Mail website is visited and how much time people around the country collectively waste their time reading such trash when they should obviously be doing work.

Very good stuff indeed, nice to see someone else as well as Jamie finding the humour in terrible journalism.

BAN EVERYTHING!

Another thing I would just *LOVE* to find out is how many “immigrants” are employed by Daily Mail and General Trust to clean their offices or to work in the canteen and how much they’re getting paid.

This TPA stuff is demanding to be subverted. I suggest everyone who reads this and works in the public sector opens a browser window, goes to the TPA site and stays there all day (assuming that your public sector PC can handle multi-tasking as you’ll want to use other stuff – believe it or not some people in the Welsh Assembly still have to use windows 95).

Then hopefully we can get the TPA to complain about public sector staff reading their own website.

Dunno about you, but Facebook speeds up the way I communicate with people. I don’t just use it for personal communications either – I often ping people a message about somethign work-related rather than bothering to fire up Outlook. It saves me time looking up addresses, not to mention making phone calls.

I’m a freelancer these days, but I used to have a day-job, and sometimes I’d send a message to people about something work-related via Facebook in the evening (if I remembered something.

Facebook has improved my productivity, cut my phone bill, and got me to do work for my (then) employers out-of-hours.

The Daily Mail, on the other hand, turns a number of local government employees into hopeless shit-for-brains who are no longer capable of basic reasoning. This menace is robbing the taxpayer and should be banned forthwith.

Can you copy and paste the basic details for the FOI request?

Then we’ll outsource it – by letting everyone use that template and send it to their local council. Then we can collate responses and details here…

I haven’t got round to making my requests yet, but you can do it through this site – and there’s lots of good info besides:

http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/

I guess we could always ask the TPA to help us – they do it all the time.

I’m not allowed to use FaceBook at work so I have to resort to calling managers a cunt to their faces.

It’s very time consuming.

BAN THIS SICK FILTH!

Brilliant! It really doesn’t surprise me that Peterborough City Council’s employees love the DM, to be honest. Facebook is blocked at my office yet at a glance you can always spot at least a couple of people browsing the Mail’s website, sadly.

The use of the Internet at work for personal reasons is an interesting problem. Some employers issue a blanket ban on personal use and certain sites reasoning that it wastes time and company resources and employees cannot be trusted to use it in a responsible way. Others adopt an attitude that a reasonable amount of surfing in lunch breaks is acceptable but not in work hours. Yet others reckon that as long as the work gets done then what is the problem – if they have time to surf, they can be given more work to do!

The first two rely on close monitoring of web use to enforce the policy. Systems exist that can see who accessed which site, for how long, indeed they can tell how long a user was active for or was a page just open in the browser. Sites can be blocked using various criteria; Type (porn, gambling, drugs, sex), time of day (say 9 til 12 and 2 til 5), domain (facebook.com, liberalconspiracy.com etc), groups of employees or any combination thereof.

An employer I know of blocked all use of facebook on the corporate network but found that their phone bill went up 35%. They discovered that people, unable to arrange their personal lives online were resorting to calling their friends which then resulted in a 20 minute conversation which costed time and money instead of a 2 minute post on facebook which has a marginal cost of zero (the bandwidth is already paid for at a fixed cost). The company reanalysed the web browsing figures and found that facebook was the top site because 75% of their employees were using it for about 10 mins per day on average, mostly at lunchtime, whereas work related sites were used less frequently by fewer employees as different sections of the business accessed different sites.

The upshot was that they re-enabled facebook access but blocked it outside lunchtimes. Their phone bill dropped back to normal

As to blocking the Daily Mail site, you would then have to block all newspaper websites. The Daily Mail has just as much right to exist and put its point of view across as the Sun or the Independent or anyone else for that matter. You may not like what they have to say, but banning is never the answer to political discourse. You might as well ban Socialist Worker or The New Statesman of any of the left wing rags peddling their evil tripe. I, personally, would not ban those publications, not because I agree with them but because in a free society you cannot do that. I say let them publish and be damned. If you don’t like what they say, argue against them, show their position to be false. If you seek to ban them, you are tacitly admitting that they have something valid to say and that you have no way to combat them with debate.

“As to blocking the Daily Mail site, you would then have to block all newspaper websites. The Daily Mail has just as much right to exist blah blah blah blah blah blah blah etc…”

Oh for pity’s sake, lighten up. It was a joke.

BAN MR TYKE!

“It was a joke.”

Awww!

There’s an argument for blocking newspaper sites that don’t meet any standards of accuracy. If a public employee is reading the Mail, they’re almost certainly Wasting Taxpayers Money whereas if they’re reading something a bit more worthy, it’s probably because they have to in order to keep up with their job.

Just fired off a few FOI requests to a few local councils via http://www.whatdotheyknow.com

I don’t know if I’ve used accurate enough language or not but the wording was:

Could you please let me know the following information:

– What are the top 10 websites visited by *A Council* staff during the months of June, July and August 2009.

– How many many minutes were spent on each site during the above months.

– How many people does the *A Council* employ.

– How many times the Daily Mail website (any URL beginning http://dailymail.co.uk) was accessed in the above months if not in the top ten.

Bang goes any semblance of anonymity I thought I had if they get a proper response.

That should raise public spending by several notches. I expect the Pound will depreciate a bit more tomorrow.

@5

Agreed, this is something I’d love to know too. I’m sure, obviously, that the Mail would using all-“British” staff at all levels…right? 😉

So, how do we go about finding out?

I’m with Sim-O.

Poor old Mr Tyke he has no sense of humour.
Too busy fighting evil Christian democrats and their socialist agenda’s.
You never see Chavez and Merkel in the same room. I wonder why ?

lol! and I thought it was lefties who has no sense of humour 😉

What you mean, Paul Evans et al, is that the Daily Mail doesn’t report the facts as you see them or the “truth” as you believe it to be. That’s pretty arrogant don’t you think? Maybe, and I ask this in a devil’s advocate sort of way, they have a point and are actually right and it is you who have it wrong? I don’t personally read the paper as it is a tad reactionary and full of stories I have no interest in.

Incidentally, there is a game played on Facebook, the object of which is to create Daily Mail headlines by each player supplying one word at a time. http://www.facebook.com/groups.php?ref=sb#/topic.php?uid=2205128322&topic=3238

Hmmm Chavez and Merkle? Which one is Livingston’s buddy?

I guess that I must be a bit arrogant to just leap to the elitist conclusion that the Daily Mail isn’t directly comparable to, say, the BBC or the FT for accuracy.

Sorry to disappoint you.

Which local councils have you folks written to?

Just so we don’t duplicate this… we need people to take about 5 councils each from a list, and send off requests.. and then let us know when it’s done.

to Paul @ 29

What is elitist about that? I am not leaping to any conclusions. All the papers and TV news shows should be compared against each other for accuracy. My point is that you do not like the conclusions that the Daily Mail comes to or the editorial line that it takes. I don’t much either and I do not read it for that reason, but it is a publication subject to the same laws on libel as any other. If they make a material error in their reporting they have to deal with that. If they draw a conclusion you disagree with, you have to deal with that.

I’ve done the local ones I can remember:

Vale of White Horse

Oxfordshire County council

Oxford City council

Abingdon Town Council.

See this post. Nothing juicy in it, I’m afraid.

I only asked two questions:

1) How many times was Mail Online website (all urls beginning http://www.dailymail.co.uk) accessed by council staff during the months of June, July and August 2009?

2) What length of time did council staff spend accessing the Mail Online website during the months of June, July and August 2009?

And I’ve sent requests to:

Westminster City Council
Hampshire County Council
Hackney Borough Council
Essex County Council
Portsmouth City Council
Birmingham City Council

I’ve just asked the following councils:

LB Tower Hamlets
City of London
LB Merton
LB Newham
LB Wandsworth

I make it 23 seconds a day, assuming the employees work an average of 20 days a month. I don’t see where the 11 second figure comes from.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Paul Evans

    Following the Daily Mail’s crusade against council employees using Facebook, Sunny, here, (in the comments ( http://tinyurl.com/ydbubak )…

  2. John Porter

    RT: @boudledidge: RT @libcon Liberal Conspiracy » Why councils must ban the Daily Mail! http://bit.ly/GutBd

  3. irene rukerebuka

    Please!!! RT @libcon Liberal Conspiracy » Why councils must ban the Daily Mail! http://bit.ly/GutBd

  4. Conor Moody

    Good stuff http://bit.ly/cMbdB

  5. mailwatch

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  6. mailwatch

    Liberal Conspiracy: Why councils must ban the Daily Mail http://is.gd/3DGAc

  7. mailwatch

    Liberal Conspiracy: Why councils must ban the Daily Mail http://is.gd/3DGAc

  8. Dave Chapman

    RT @mailwatch Liberal Conspiracy: Why councils must ban the Daily Mail http://is.gd/3DGAc

  9. Justin

    Why councils must ban the Daily Mail: http://bit.ly/jCNOV. Comment #11 = win. Courtesy of @Jocorrigan.

  10. Tweets that mention Liberal Conspiracy » Why councils must ban the Daily Mail! -- Topsy.com

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Liberal Conspiracy. Liberal Conspiracy said: Article:: Why councils must ban the Daily Mail! http://bit.ly/cMbdB […]

  11. Paul Evans

    Following the Daily Mail’s crusade against council employees using Facebook, Sunny, here, (in the comments ( http://tinyurl.com/ydbubak )…

  12. An idea | Local Democracy

    […] the Daily Mail’s crusade against council employees using Facebook, Sunny, here, (in the comments) thinks it’s time for everyone to write to their local authority to find out how long council […]

  13. John Porter

    RT: @boudledidge: RT @libcon Liberal Conspiracy » Why councils must ban the Daily Mail! http://bit.ly/GutBd

  14. irene rukerebuka

    Please!!! RT @libcon Liberal Conspiracy » Why councils must ban the Daily Mail! http://bit.ly/GutBd

  15. Conor Moody

    Good stuff http://bit.ly/cMbdB

  16. mailwatch

    Liberal Conspiracy: Why councils must ban the Daily Mail http://is.gd/3DGAc

  17. Dave Chapman

    RT @mailwatch Liberal Conspiracy: Why councils must ban the Daily Mail http://is.gd/3DGAc

  18. Justin

    Why councils must ban the Daily Mail: http://bit.ly/jCNOV. Comment #11 = win. Courtesy of @Jocorrigan.

  19. Alex Beaumont

    Ban the Daily Mail from council offices! http://tinyurl.com/ydbubak

  20. Alex Beaumont

    Ban the Daily Mail from council offices! http://tinyurl.com/ydbubak

  21. Resources and Links 25/09/09 « Framing the Dot

    […] tangled web of Facebook, local government and the Daily […]

  22. sunny hundal

    Plan being hatched to find how much time ppl are wasting reading Daily Mail website. See: http://is.gd/3FJjF – want to join in?

  23. Sim-O

    RT @pickledpolitics: Plan being hatched to find how much time ppl are wasting on Daily Mail website: http://is.gd/3FJjF – want to join in?

  24. No Facebook in the Dinosaurs’ Den | ToUChstone blog: A public policy blog from the TUC

    […] 25 Sep: Clifford Singer has the logical follow-up to this story – ban the Daily Mail at work now! Related posts (automatically generated):Flexibilising inflexible bossesFlexible working […]

  25. Daily Mail/ Councils FOI requests | Sim-O

    […] of an idea in the comments of this post on Liberal Conspiracy, I fired a few FOI requests to […]

  26. sunny hundal

    Plan being hatched to find how much time ppl are wasting reading Daily Mail website. See: http://is.gd/3FJjF – want to join in?





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