Unicef's David Bull questions whether negative media coverage matters

The executive director of Unicef UK, speaking from the audience at the Bond conference, says it feels as though a lot of media coverage doesn't actually speak to his own charity's supporters

David Bull
David Bull

David Bull, executive director of Unicef UK, has questioned whether media criticism of charities over the past year has had any impact on charities’ supporters.

Bull, who will be retiring from Unicef in June, was speaking from the audience on the second day of the international development membership body Bond’s conference in London yesterday.

He said Unicef’s voluntary income had grown in the last year and the number of complaints received from its supporters had fallen.

"There’s been quite a debate in the charity world about whether the Daily Mail has any connection at all with the people who really matter – our supporters – and whether its criticisms have any effect or are irrelevant," he said. "The fundamental question I’m asking is: does it matter that we get all this negative coverage?

"It doesn’t feel as though a lot of the media coverage is actually talking to the people who support us. They seem by and large pretty happy with the relationship and how we’re talking to them and so on."

Bull said he had attended meetings with representatives of other charities who had said they did not care about the Daily Mail’s coverage of charities – which since last summer has included several negative front-page stories about charities’ fundraising practices – because they believed their supporters did not read the newspaper.

But he also pointed out that such coverage was still important because politicians had passed rules and regulations in reaction to it.

Bull said that, in reality, charities did care about the media because they needed it in order to raise awareness of their cause areas.

"We can do that through our own channels, but it doesn’t remotely have a sufficient impact to get the money flowing in that enables us to help the people affected," he said.

"Sometimes in the same newspaper on the same day there’s an attack and an appeal. It feels very weird, and it’s very hard to get your head round how best to respond to those sorts of situations."

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