Monitoring the monitors

A little funny thing happened on the blog today I thought I’d share because it’s another one of those things many people don’t know about government. They monitor media and not only do they monitor it, they rate it.

I often get incoming links from their daily rounds when a blog post or tweet has caught their attention but when you click on that link it always takes you back to a log-in page so you can’t actually see their list for whatever ministries list you are on.

Today though, something different happened. I clicked back on their incoming link and it took me directly to that page which shows the lists of things they monitored, including a tweet  where I linked to the recent Port Mann bridge story from Integrity BC. This is the link, soon to be dead I’m sure:  http://tno.gov.bc.ca/tno/wapservlet/tno.otis.wapservlet?command=showonbb&key=MTU4MDEyNTc0LnRubw%3D%3Dtno

Since they clearly don’t like the story, I’ll give you the link again ! https://lailayuile.com/2016/05/07/port-mann-bridge-becomes-the-new-fast-ferries-debacle/

You can click on each image for a larger view.

mediamonitoring

But wait, what are all those red squares? I think it is safe to say they are negative ratings. Gary Mason and I both received -1 red ratings. Clearly, we

negative 1 rating

A story on the success of a breakfast program for needy hungry children in Vancouver, also rated a -1,likely because it spotlights the extent of child poverty,an ongoing failure for this government.

breakfast program

A story on government inaction on foreign investment earned a -2. And so on.foreigninvestment.jpg

This is not a new department nor is this news to bloggers and or the media.  It used to be called the Public Affairs Bureau and we bloggers referred to the workers there as PAB-bots 😉  And if the NDP were to form government I can bet that it would continue. It’s how governments stay on top of public reaction to stories involving or impacting government reputation or operations,  and helps them come up with communications strategies to counter bad news or bolster good stories.

Not unlike Clarks announcement of a raise in minimum wage,which I believe was a strategic move to attempt and deflect public attention from the growing outrage over the MCFD review and the news that government has completely botched compliance and enforcement in the mining industry.

They monitor columnists and critics- note all the green squares here, grey appear to be neutral stories:

categories 1.jpg

On a daily basis for every ministry, they do this. And take screen shots of the front pages of newspapers:

frontpage.jpg

In 2o13, Bob Mackin reported that the government had 225 positions within this ministry with 18 fully dedicated to media monitoring: http://thetyee.ca/Blogs/TheHook/2013/06/18/PRDepartmentGrowing/  ( John Paul Fraser is Deputy Minister http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/governments/organizational-structure/cabinet/deputy-ministers )

One wonders, with a new scandal every week and more revelations to come, how many people are working in that department right now? And is that the best use of government funds? With technology today, you don’t need 18 people…how many social workers could those wages cover instead?

I’m wondering if they are worried about this story as well,where more is to come:

“So, what does the Sea-to-Sky Highway Improvement Project have in common with Site C?

First, you need to go back to 2005, when Partnerships BC reached an agreement with S2S Transportation Group for the Sea-to-Sky project. S2S was made up of six companies, including Peter Kiewit Sons and the Macquarie Group.

At the time, Frank Margitan was the vice-president of Peter Kiewit Sons and is identified in legal documents as the “Project Manager” for Sea-to-Sky.

In those same documents, Gary Webster is identified as the Province’s Representative, a position that can include approving invoices for payment. Webster was a senior vice-president at CH2M Hill.

While these payments will not be exclusive to Sea-to-Sky – from 2005 to 2011 – CH2M Hill billed the BC government $95,081,983.

Frank went on to retire, albeit he still does some consultancy work from time-to-time and Gary went on to KPMG.

And there it might all have ended, except for one funny little coincidence.

From an October 20, 2014 letter to BC Hydro: “As part of its due diligence process and to support its final investment decision, BC Hydro asked me to engage a panel of industry experts, to undertake an independent review of the direct cost estimate, and provide an opinion regarding its completeness, sufficiency and accuracy.”

Who signed that letter? Frank Margitan.

But you can never be too sure. Never hurts to get a second opinion on the independent panel’s review, the one headed-up by Frank. So off to KPMG.

Here’s part of what KPMG wrote in its December 4, 2014 letter: “The expert panel of construction estimators that independently reviewed the major components of the estimate was again a level of diligence that increases the confidence of the estimate compared with other capital projects…The level of detail of this panel review was comprehensive and was performed by reviewing backup information and interviewing the estimating team.”

High praise indeed. And who signed KPMG’s letter? Gary Webster. Small world, huh?

While these payments will not be exclusive to the Site C project – from 2009 to 2015 – KPMG billed BC Hydro $11,569,692. KPMG is BC Hydro’s independent auditor.

Webster also noted in his letter that: “KPMG worked with Partnerships BC to ensure that the approach in assessing and valuing risks on the Site C project was consistent with the standard approach developed and implemented on other Government projects.”

Those would be the projects that consistently come in over budget and behind schedule. Think Evergreen Line.

Webster added: “Based on input from the project team and our experience with other projects adopting a management reserve of at least 5% of the direct costs would be a reasonable practice.”

Sea-to-Sky went over its initial estimate by 29 per cent. We’ve included a table in the IntegrityBC thread comparing initial estimates against actual costs on 18 infrastructure projects.

Oh, and who was on the board of directors of Partnerships BC at the time? Frank Blasetti of Fast Ferries and Port Mann Bridge fame. Really small world.

Now, go click on the link to Integrity BC’s post, read what he has posted in the comments sections there too and think about  that for a bit.They do excellent work,non-stop.

This is why we appreciate readers support so much – we do make a difference. And this proves it. But are  you fine with government spending so much on advertising and media monitoring /communications staff?  In a day and age where an app can do the same thing? And what kind of government rates stories and people like myself who are not technically media?

Maybe if they were more worried about doing the right thing and  creating good policy in the first place, they wouldn’t have to spend so much time and money monitoring…

Me, I’m off to see if I can earn a lower rating than just -1. 😉

39 thoughts on “Monitoring the monitors

  1. thanks Laila for a glimpse into how their monitoring system woks. bet they were very crabby about MAsons article about recent polling results about Clarks receiving her car allowance.And when you have Andrew Coyne tweeting unbelievable
    When he heard Frazers report she can expect to hear more of the same.Disappointed To hear Weaver believes she isn’t paid enough but he is ignoring the issue of access to her.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Laila Yuile

      It’s a bit much. You cannot tell me that government must have 18 staffers monitoring media. Bob Mackin posted a list on facebook for me, its still 18 so those particular staff have not increased.

      And the tone of the story and rating? That isn’t for anything other than to know what kind of coverage is out there. And technically, I’m not media since I quit 24 Hrs Vancouver but clearly they monitor my tweets along with Integrity BC’s and more than likely Norm Farrells and Merv Adey and RossK

      Like

  2. Niovi

    Wow love being reminded if this and will take it up with the NDP. No tax $$$ should be going towards this kind of thing. This is a democracy last time I checked but sure feels like a dictatorship ?

    Like

    1. Laila Yuile

      The opposition use TNO as well Niovi. Not sure if they get to use the same colour coding system specific for their uses or not, or just a quick list of stories without the colour coding. I’ve confirmed BC Housing gets a list of stories every day but they don’t get the colour coding this shows.

      Like

  3. Kehr Wren

    I have just preserved a copy of that document. It works out to 120 pages if printed.

    I think it is proved by this demonstration of the misplaced priorities and totalitarian ways of the BC Liberal government and their bureaucrats that they are all dangerous psychopaths.

    They are frightening and repulsive.

    Like

    1. Laila Yuile

      I have had incoming links on Site C stories as well as many others including the Sea to sky retaining walls and pretty much any contract story. Other bloggers get them as well. This is the first time I have seen my tweets monitored though.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Laila Yuile

      Haha-no worries and no apologies needed. Felt the same on one of my devices with a very touch sensitive pad- yikes! It gets better 🙂 Thank you for sharing and caring- this is truly a team effort on all our parts.

      Like

  4. I, personally, had no idea they did this. Thanks for the education. Too bad the reverse ain’t true…they don’t seem to learn. They just to continue to be bad and the only purpose that department serves is in aiding their lying and spinning. Too bad; it could have been a good feedback loop. What I did find interesting is that you only merit -1. My guess is that the scale has to go to at least 5 and most likely ten (on my scale of them, they top out at 100). I wanna read some of those!

    Like

    1. Laila Yuile

      No kidding… see my new comment.Govt supporter trying to negate this one on twitter because the opposition can access TNO too. Still doesn’t negate the ridiculous nature of govt paying staffers to monitor all this, including specific strategies asked for,that shows the colour coded tone of stories.

      But nice to know it concerns them enough to warrant a mention and rating 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Laila Yuile

    I know – So many ministries cut to the bone and this is what tax $$ are spent on? I can’t help but wonder if someone left that link back open intentionally.

    In all the years I’ve been monitored its always linked back to the main tno access log in page.

    Bob Mackin confirmed to me on Facebook the current staff dedicated to media monitoring is still 18 . And that is 18 too many in this day and age. They’ll be using them for campaign purposes I’m sure too, to negate the spin.

    This is what drives the news releases that deflect bad press. It’s not that govt had a change of heart or saw the light,

    What they saw was too much bad press and they quickly cooked up something to change the channel, a reactionary move, not driven by altruism but by self preservation.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Bottom line of the same data in html

    Terms of Use – This summary is a service provided by Government Communications and Public Engagement and is only intended for original addressee. All content is the copyrighted property of a third party creator of the material. Copying, retransmitting, redistributing, selling, licensing, or emailing the material to any third party or any employee of the Province who is not authorized to access the material is prohibited.

    Is this data triple deleted? Is it accessible to the public daily, via FOI? How much is this costing the public?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Laila Yuile

    From an anonymous pro BC liberal twitter account trying to negate the entire media monitoring issue by saying TNO is available to all of government. Yes it is, and it provides different services to different people. Among those services?

    “Twitter monitoring of key media players ”
    “Morning e-mails of top print stories with colour coding to indicate tone ” ( I’m red, Gary Mason red, us negative nellies..)

    http://docs.openinfo.gov.bc.ca/D11590012A_Response_Package_GCP-2012-00042.PDF

    Oh must love the priorities of government no?

    Like

  8. erik

    This is great reading so thanks Laila. The beauty of all this government monitoring has a to be that they know that we know the wheels have and are coming off the LNG fiction and all the other fictions. Yesterday, another overseas LNG investor backed away.
    Even the most bullish Howe Street promoter type in the cabinet must be discovering the LNG rah-rah is becoming a big liability. Perhaps that explains their silence these days.

    Like

  9. GCPE used to be PAB, however the name calling has gone back to PAB, how else to explain the Human Resource Dept for BC Public Service requirements:

    Communications Generalists (Public Affairs Officers)
    https://search.employment.gov.bc.ca/cgi-bin/a/highlightjob.cgi?jobid=23336

    Government Communications and Public Engagement (GCPE) is currently looking for experienced communications generalists for both regular and short-term opportunities.

    Like

      1. Hawgwash

        Salary? Anywhere else it would be called hush money and I bet the unspecified perks and “car allowance” come close to equalling that.

        The cost of, or financial loss, makes blowing whistles too risky.

        You copy, Hall Monitor?

        Like

  10. nonconfidencevote

    Laila .
    You may not be “media” because you’re getting a larger following…. 🙂

    Keep tryin for a -5 rating! It may take nude photos of Rich Coleman with Bill Bennett but what the hell………..its newsworthy!
    I’m cheering for ya

    Like

    1. Laila Yuile

      Thank you nonconfidencevote 🙂 I appreciate it. Aiming for a -5 or lower… but please. Please. Do not, I beg you, mention nude, Bill Bennett or Rich Coleman in the same sentence again…ever.

      Like

      1. nonconfidencevote

        It reminds me of when BC Transit “became” Translink….. a reporter shoved a camera and mic at a bus driver waiting for passengers to load and asked'” So? What do you think of the new company logo?”
        The drivers reply,”It looks expensive”.

        And here we are many years later awaiting the voting outcome of another inevitable Transit strike……………..

        Like

  11. Robert

    So did BC Hydro have to borrow money to change their logo? All of their trucks have new signage so I’m guessing its all new branding. A decent rate increase should cover it.

    Like

    1. Laila Yuile

      You are kidding right? Like everytime a ministry changes its name even slightly,everything has to be redone. Cards, stationary,door signs etc….

      Good grief.Seriously?

      Like

      1. From an October 2013 BBC Post: http://blogborgcollective.blogspot.ca/2013/10/just-ask-bc-hydro-apprentices-how-many.html

        …… As a Vehicle Tradesperson (Truck & Transport Mechanic) at BC Hydro, you maintain, inspect, diagnose, repair, modify and outfit BC Hydro vehicles.

        The BC Hydro fleet consists of 2,500 vehicles including passenger vehicles (e.g. cars, SUVs, passenger vans), light vehicles (e.g. pick-up trucks, commercial vans, flat deck trucks), heavy vehicles e.g. man lifts, digger derricks, crane trucks), mobile machines (e.g. fork lifts, self-propelled man lifts) and trailers (e.g. pole trailers, reel trailers, utility trailers).

        Why does BC Hydro spend so much money on transforming a white car into a moving billboard? Who’s their competition? One dent and the whole vehicle needs to be repainted.

        http://throughtheluminarylens.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/power-smart-bc-hydro-car-2_thumb.jpg?w=1161&h=741

        Like

  12. Jay Jones

    I really hope it never happens as I believe it’s worth infinite trillions to BC and Canada, but it sure does look to me like BC is very close to losing her world-class standing : (

    Or maybe it was lost long ago and I just missed the headline. If so… : (

    Like

  13. e.a.f.

    Holy Shit. No money for doctors, nurses, teachers, new schools, adequate funding for those living below the poverty line, but they have over 200 salaried workers “monitoring” you and the rest of the media?

    You must be a very dangerous lot.

    Thank you for the information. Now some of us can write letters to Christy and ask why this is all going on? I do mean she is so concerned about a balanced budget, you’d think she might get rid of some of the monitors and hire a few nurses or doctors. Lets see what is more important to us: 200 nurses; 200 doctors; 200 teachers; or 200 media monitors?

    Like

      1. Hawgwash

        I keep asking where Mr. Horgan is.
        I hope he is off in some garage stencilling signs, each with a stat like Park Rangers and nurses vs Media Monitors. “Debt Free” vs debt ballooning.

        Or a new NDP slogan “Lets continue to ignore her.”

        You and the other bloggers are on fire.
        Keep it up.

        Like

    1. Good Grief eaf! Are you suggesting we could get 200 each nurses, doctors and teachers in exchange for 200 media monsters? Heck, I’d be happy for a ten to one exchange – ten medians for one doctor. Although with a Chrispy wage top-up a media monitor is probably the same cost as a doctor.

      Like

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