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Tuesday, 16 April, 2002, 14:58 GMT 15:58 UK
Row over 1m quiz show sponsorship
Chris Tarrant on the set of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?
The 1m could be spent on other things, say teachers.
The decision to spend 1m of taxpayers' cash on sponsoring the TV hit Who Wants To Be a Millionaire? has been attacked by Tories and teachers' unions.

The Education Department's online service learndirect will be advertised around the game show, which is hosted by Chris Tarrant.

It is supposed to do serious things, but marketing like this is little more than gimmickry

Damian Green
Conservative MP

The 1m sponsorship deal will mean viewers will see learndirect commercials during breaks in the programme and at its beginning and end for three months during the autumn.

Learndirect is part of the University for Industry (UfI), the government's flagship for lifelong learning which was created in 1998.

But Damian Green, Tory education spokesman, insisted: "This is a colossal waste of a significant slice of learndirect's budget."

Expensive idea

He said: "It is supposed to do serious things, but marketing like this is little more than gimmickry.

"This can't be an effective use of their money.

Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? seems to be making millions on its own

Eammon O'Kane

"The department already spends far too much on ineffective advertising and this is another example of the department clearly having more money than sense.

"If learndirect wants to advertise on TV, it should go for day time rather than during peak time which is the most expensive place to spend sponsorship money."


David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, told the Daily Mail: "This is an unbelievable decision which raises questions about how government money is being misapplied at a time when schools are crying out for decent resources just to deliver a mainstream education."

The opportunity to sponsor Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? could not have come at a better time

Phil Wade
Ufi Ltd

Eammon O'Kane, general secretary of the NASUWT, said: "The use of public money in this way has got to be seriously questioned at a time when pressure is on to finance very significant changes in the education world - not least a new contract for teachers.

"Clearly learndirect has commendable aims, but this is a highly questionable use of public funds.

"Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? seems to be making millions on its own."

Knowledge is power

But Phil Wade, marketing director of UfI, argued: "The opportunity to sponsor Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? could not have come at a better time as we continue our successful development of learndirect into a household name for learning for adults.

"The show regularly demonstrates to more than eight million viewers across the country the link between knowledge and the potential for wealth.

"The government aims to improve the skills of the nation, so that Britain can compete effectively in the global economy and the better-skilled also benefit personally in increased earning capacity.

Damian Green, Tory education spokesman
Green: A 'colossal waste' of learndirect's budget

"For example, people with two A-levels earn, on average, 600 a month more than people who are less well qualified."

David Prosser, Carlton's director of sponsorship, said: "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? is still producing strong audiences and therefore provides an excellent sponsorship vehicle for producing critically high coverage and frequency adult viewing figures.

"learndirect is a great fit with the innate content of Millionaire and should prove to be an ideal show for this excellent service."

The Department for Education has granted UfI 76m this year.

UfI's website says it aims to drive up demand for learning, help adults improve their employability by acquiring new knowledge and skills and help businesses become more competitive.

learndirect is the largest publicly-funded online learning service in the UK.

Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, which returns to ITV1 in the autumn for its 12th series, has paid out a total of 30,931,000.

See also:

07 Mar 02 | Business
TV's Millionaire misses the jackpot
20 Nov 00 | Entertainment
Who wants to see a millionaire?
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