publishers push for long awaited report on federal ad spending
Stacy M. Brown
(July 24, 2017) The Government Accountability Office (GAO) is set to
begin work on a report detailing advertising spending by federal
agencies -- particularly as it pertains to Black and Latino media
"After several senators joined our request, including Senate Democratic
Leader Chuck Shumer, GAO sent us an update in February saying that the
request would take about six months of work," said Benjamin Fritsch, a
spokesman for Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), who first
called for the report during a press conference with National Newspaper
Publishers Association (NNPA) members and representatives of the
National Association of Hispanic Publications (NAHP).
The GAO is a government agency that provides auditing, evaluation, and
investigative services for Congress.
Charles Young, the managing director of public affairs for the GAO
acknowledged that the request for a new report was formally received in
"Staffing was not expected to be freed up from existing work for several
months and we now expect to begin the work in August or September,"
In March 2016, Norton called on the office to issue a report on federal
advertising contracts and subcontracts with minority-owned newspapers
and media companies.
Norton said that the federal government serves as the largest advertiser
in the country, and it's important that news outlets and media companies
owned or published by individuals of color with a primary mission to
serve communities of color have the same opportunities as other media
outlets, especially as African-Americans and Hispanic Americans continue
to grow in number in the United States.
"We believe that this request is particularly timely, because GAO will
be conducting an audit of spending by federal agencies on public
relations and advertising," Norton said.
One month after publicly making the request, Norton circulated a letter
to members of Congress to support her call to GAO to issue a new report.
In 2007, the GAO, which acts as the authoritative audit unit for the
federal government, probed the spending on advertising contracts with
minority-owned businesses by five agencies -- the Department of Defense,
Department of the Treasury, the Department of Health and Human Services,
the Department of the Interior, and the National Aeronautics and Space
The agency found that just five percent of the $4.3 billion available
for advertising campaigns went to minority-owned businesses. Thirty-one
of Norton's colleagues in Congress signed the letter, including CBC
Chair Cedric Richmond (D-La.) and legendary congressmen John Lewis (D-Ga.),
Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), and former CBC Chair G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.).
Seven months later in November, a group of Senators, including Charles
Schumer (D-N.Y.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii),
and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) also signed a letter and joined the call for
accountability in the federal government's advertising practices -- or
lack thereof when it comes to minority-owned news outlets.
Several aides to the lawmakers did note that journalists, who work for
Black- and Hispanic-owned media outlets must do a better job of keeping
the issue on the pages of their newspapers.
Dorothy Leavell, the new chairwoman of the National Newspaper Publishers
Association (NNPA) has vowed to do just that and she said she's grateful
"We are extremely appreciative of Congresswoman Norton for taking the
initiative on this," said Leavell, who is also the publisher of the
Crusader Newspaper Group. Leavell added that the wait for the GAO report
has been long enough. "Anymore delay will not be tolerated."
Leavell also said that it was unacceptable that federal agencies have
largely excluded Black-owned media companies from delivering messages
from the U.S. government to the Black community.
"I urge the officials at GAO to start today in their investigation and
conclude it immediately," said Leavell.
However, Young said it typically takes months before a request to the
GAO is acted upon.
Also, the change in administration had nothing to do with the length of
time this process has taken since Norton's call about 15 months ago, he
"The change in administration does not have an impact, just the various
other GAO reviews already underway," Young said, noting that the GAO did
not receive a formal request until February.
Headquartered in D.C. and with offices in several cities including
Atlanta and Los Angeles, the GAO was founded in 1921. In a Fiscal Year
2016 report, the agency noted that it had provided nearly 2,100
recommendations to improve government operations.
Approximately 73 percent of the recommendations GAO made four years
earlier in Fiscal Year 2012, have already been implemented, thus making
any suggestion on advertising with minority-owned media an important
step in the quest for Black and Hispanic-owned papers to receive
"The NNPA anticipates that the new GAO report will once again
substantiate what we already know and that is Black American-owned
newspapers and media companies are not afforded equality and equity for
annual federal advertising spending," said NNPA President and CEO Dr.
Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. "This is a serious problem that urgently needs
to be rectified by the government of the United States."
Click here for
more recent news stories and our news archive
ORDER TODAY AND SAVE!
The 19th Annual Edition
The Buying Power of
A dollar-by-dollar breakdown
of the Trillion-Dollar Black Economy
Target Market News
Click here to learn more and order the
print and digital copy today!
Pressure Makes Diamonds:
Becoming the Woman I
Pretended to Be
By Valerie Graves
Valerie Graves, whom Advertising Age magazine
named one of the "100 Best and Brightest" in the entire ad industry, is a
nationally recognized creative director of such Fortune 500 accounts as
Ford, General Motors, AT&T, Burger King, General Foods and Pepsi.
Paperback: 288 pages
(November 1, 2016)
Available now on