New Internationalist

The Facts

April 1985

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Making up our minds
Managers depend on predicable behaviour. To get it they
use various means to make us conform. For them the neatly
packaged human brain is safe and profitable.

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Corporations are now spending large amounts of money on carefully crafted public images. Highly skilled PR firms work to shape what the public thinks of their corporate clients.

. In 1983 the Public Relations (PR) industry in the UK earned £32 million ($35m). Of the top 50 companies in the country 90% used PR consultants to sell their image.

. In Canada there are 400 PR firms employing between 5 and 6 thousand people.

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Each one of us is bombarded daily with hundreds of advertising messages. It’s no secret that advertising is big business. But who pays the price of companies selling their wares?.

. In the UK advertising is a four billion pound business. 1.96% of each pound spent is passed on to the consumer in advertising costs. On average everyone in the UK paid an extra £66 ($72) a year to pay for advertising.

. In Australia advertising is a $3 billion business

. Newspapers earn 75% of their revenue through the advertising that takes up 65% of their column space.

. The average child in the US has seen 350,000 commercials by the time they are 17.

. In the US the advertising industry grossed 60 billion dollars costing each household an average $691 (1980)

. Each year cigarette companies in the US spend $4 per person on advertising. The government spends 1/4 cent per person to show the health hazards of smoking.

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Govemment is becoming increasingly involved in the surveillance of its own citizens. The reasons vary from the collecting of taxes to law enforcement and outright political monitoring and spying.

. Each US citizen appears on the average in 1 8 different federal computer data bases

. The Canadian government admits holding security files on 700,000 citizens: about one in 35 Canadians.

. Between 1955 and 1975 the US Central Intelligence Agency stopped 28 million letters and opened 215,000.

. Between 1 958 and 1 979 there was a 300% increase in the number of officially acknowledged phone taps by the government of the UK.

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Private companies too keep track of people to establish credit ratings, detect fraud or track our spending habits.

. The US Telephone company listened in on 1 .8 million conversations in order to detect fraud over a five year period.

. In Australia there are 26,000 people employed by private security companies.

. One credit-reporting company, TRW, sells 35 million credit reports (including arrest records, sources of income, bankruptcies) to 24,000 subscribers.

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When normal management fails, the state and employers rely on the police or a large private security industry to make sure rules are obeyed.

Military and police per 100,000 people



Private Security

. In Canada employment in the private security industry has grown by 33 1/3% over a ten year period.

. In the US it has become a $21 .8 billion business employing 1.1 million people.

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There has been a dramatic growth of those professions whose primary task is to manage the behaviour of others.

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More than half our waking hours are today dominated by orders or messages that come from others. The average Australian for example spends 4 times as long watching TV as doing physical exercise.

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This feature was published in the April 1985 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

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This article was originally published in issue 146

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– Emma Thompson –

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