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Should the entertainment industry panic about the Home Office's shock entry into DVD production? Probably not, if figures revealed this week by Home Secretary Charles Clarke are anything to go on. In answer to a parliamentary question from Tory Home Affairs spokesman David Davis, Clarke said that so far a whopping 250 copies of his ID card propaganda film Passport to Perdition* had been produced at a total cost of £71,892.96, inc VAT.

In fairness we should point out (as Clarke himself seemed keen to do) that the bangs per buck situation has been improving. He told Davis that the initial production run of 50 (N.B. not a typo, 50) cost £70,482.38, while the second run of 200 only cost £1,410.59 more. Clarke volunteered the information that this resulted in a unit cost of £7.05, which you will agree it would have done if the Home Office had only paid £1,400 in total and hadn't already blown £70.5k in production costs. Round here, £71,892.96 divided by 250 seems to come to £287.57; if Clarke has any money left in the kitty perhaps he might consider giving it to KPMG and getting them to check his methodology and key cost assumptions. Never mind, if the Home Office carries on ramping production it will have got the actual unit cost down to £7.05 once it's shipped around 10,000 of the things, possibly by around 2010.

The justification of the exercise is possibly weirder than the costings. Clarke told Davis: "Ongoing engagement with stakeholders and research conducted with the general public showed an awareness of the Identity Cards Scheme, but a degree of misunderstanding about the details of the scheme and how Identity Cards would be used. It was decided to fund a DVD to help the Identity Cards Programme Team communicate the basic features of the scheme in a clear and concise way." Here Clarke appears to be conceding that (as ID scheme critics have been pointing out for some considerable time now) that although the bulk of the population has heard of ID cards, they labour under serious misconceptions about what the scheme entails and how it is supposed to work.

The Home Office has done little or nothing to correct these misconceptions since the ID scheme was first hatched; in fact, as a fair bit of its published research plays to these misconceptions (the idea being to hone the sales pitch by finding out what people think ID cards would be good for), you could say it's done more to reinforce them. But a sinner saved, as they say, so perhaps we should welcome all 250 of these wonderful corrective DVDs, and beg the Home Office to make them available to wider segments of the population. In the interim, pass it on when you've finished with it, will you?

N.B., those who can't wait can view an exciting excerpt here, where it has languished since June. Internet baron Clarke tells us that the page has "recorded 4,273 hits" to 22nd August 2005, but doesn't specify whether this vast number consists of downloads or just passing tyre-kickers. We couldn't help noticing that the opening screen tells us the video illustrates how the ID scheme "might" work - which we'd have said was a tad optimistic.

* OK, we admit we don't really know what it's called... ®

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