Money paid to media outlets: FOI release

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

Information requested

  1. The total amount of monies paid from the Scottish Government budget annually to media outlets.
  2. Specifically the total amount of money paid to STV per annum.
  3. What the media outlets and specifically STV are expected to provide for the monies they receive.
  4. How the media outlets and STV are monitored to ensure they deliver value for money.
  5. Is STV restricted from reporting on any person or issue if they reflect negatively on the Scottish Government?
  6. Is the press in Scotland free to report on any issue provided it is in the interest of the people of Scotland or is it restricted due to the funding it receives?


1. The information you have requested is available from Marketing spend - Under section 25(1) of FOISA, we do not have to give you information which is already reasonably accessible to you. If, however, you do not have internet access to obtain this information from the website listed, then please contact me again and I will send you a paper copy.

2. Our aim is to provide information whenever possible, however in this instance we are unable to provide the information requested because an exemption under section 33 of FOISA applies. This is because disclosure of the information would (or would be likely to) substantially prejudice the commercial interests of the organisation (section 33(1)(b)). All Scottish Government media buying and planning is undertaken via agencies appointed through the Media Planning, Buying and Associated Services 2019 to 2023 framework, and never directly with media owners or channels. Using standard media buying software, common to the sector, media buying agencies can access data showing the volume of media purchased by their competitors. Providing the costs alongside this available data would therefore enable competitors to determine the buying rates (price) for individual media companies. This information is commercially sensitive within the sector and disclosure would materially disadvantage the Scottish Government and its contractor.

The Scottish Government provide funding to Screen Scotland, the dedicated public sector partnership for the film and television industry in Scotland which is part of Creative Scotland, but not directly to STV. However, you may wish to contact Screen Scotland/Creative Scotland’s Government Relations Officer on who may be able to advise further. You may also wish to contact STV directly for further information regarding sources of funding.

3. Each media outlet has their own basis that they use to sell advertising space. For example, a newspaper sells space based on size of advert and position in the paper, a website or social media platforms will sell in various ways (number of advert impressions generated; number of clicks on the advert; completed video views), radio on the number of advertising spots and time of broadcast. Television media owners, such as STV, are selling airtime for advertisers during programmes. The more people watching a particular programme the more expensive the airtime will be. Scottish Government campaigns using television are planned on delivering a target number of Television Ratings (TVRs). Each programme will have a forecasted number of TVRs which it will deliver for an advertiser that is based on the audience size for the programme. The actual number of TVRs achieved is not known until the programme and advert is broadcast.

4. The Scottish Government undertakes post-campaign tracking to assess the impact. Part of this process involves asking representative sample of the target audience about their recall of advertising on a particular topic and which media channels they recall seeing/hearing the advertising on. This enables the Scottish Government to identify which media channels are having the most impact in delivering campaign messages.

For TV advertising, the number of TVRs delivered by each advertising spot is measured using information provides by the Broadcasters’ Advertising Research Board. This provides the Scottish Government’s appointed media buying agency with independent  information on the audience reached by each advertising spot.

The media purchased by the Scottish Government’s appointed media buying agency is audited on an annual basis by an independent media auditor.

5. No.

6. There is no restriction placed on editorial reporting based on advertising expenditure with media owners.

About FOI

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Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road

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