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U.S. Senators join effort for GAO study on Federal ad dollars going to minority-owned media
  
(November 29, 2016) U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) was joined by fellow Democratic Senators Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), and Cory Booker (D-N.J., pictured) in writing to the Comptroller General of the U.S. Government Accountability (GAO) office requesting the agency to update its 2007 report on federal advertising contracts and subcontracts with minority-owned publications, public relations firms, advertising agencies, and media companies.
 
"As one of the largest advertisers in the United States, the federal government should play an active role in ensuring that minority-owned media outlets have fair opportunities to compete for and be awarded federal advertising contracts," wrote the senators. "News outlets and media companies are responsible for the dissemination of information to the American people, and when minority groups lack representation in the media, their stories are often written by others or remain untold altogether.
 
The missive comes on the heels of a September 2016 GAO report which found the government spent an average of $1 billion annually between FY2006 through FY2015 on contracts for advertising. In their letter, the lawmakers ask for a follow-up report investigating how much of that federal money was invested in minority-owned businesses "whose audiences largely consist of groups that are underrepresented by major media outlets."
 
While federal agencies are required to take additional steps to ensure advertising related procurements are selected in a fair and competitive manner that doesnít exclude minority owned businesses, last time the GAO looked into overall federal contracting with minority-owned businesses it discovered they had only received 0.1% of the Department of Defenseís obligations, 0.6% of the Treasury Departmentís obligations and 4.6% of the Department of Interiorís obligations from FY2001 through FY2005.
 
Dr. Benjamin Chavis, the president and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), applauded the new letter by the senators. He noted the joint effort between NNPA and the National Association of Hispanic Publications (NAHP) in pushing for a new federal advertising study.
 
"The NNPA and NAHP thank Senators Booker, Schumer, Menendez, Hirono and Gillibrand for helping to push for this strategically important GAO inquiry," Chavis said. "2017 should be the year of greater economic equity and parity with respect to more inclusiveness in the billions of dollars spent annually by government departments and agencies on advertising."
 
Earlier this year, Democratic Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton and many of her colleagues in the House formally requested an investigation into how federal government agencies spend advertising dollars.
 
A copy of the letter can be found below:
  
 
The Honorable Gene Dodaro
Comptroller General
U.S. Government Accountability Office
441 G Street, NW, Room 7125
Washington, DC 20548
  
Dear Mr. Dodaro:
 
We write to you to request that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issue a report on federal advertising contracts and subcontracts with minority-owned publications, public relations firms, advertising agencies, and media companies.  News outlets and media companies owned or published by people of color are critical to ensuring that diverse viewpoints are presented to the American people.  As one of the largest advertisers in the United States, the federal government should play an active role in ensuring that minority-owned media outlets have fair opportunities to compete for and be awarded federal advertising contracts.
 
Executive Order 13170, signed October 2000, directs agencies to "take an aggressive role in ensuring substantial minority-owned entitiesí participation" in Federal advertising-related procurements. In 2007, GAO examined spending on advertising contracts with minority-owned business by five agenciesóthe Department of Defense (DOD), Department of the Treasury, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Department of the Interior, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).[1]  During this process, GAO discovered that from FY2001 through FY2005 only 5 percent of the $4.3 billion available for advertising campaigns went to Small Business Administrationís (SBA) 8(a) and small disadvantaged business (SDB) programs and minority-owned businesses.[2] The report showed that minority-owned businesses received just 0.1 percent of the DODís obligations, 0.6 of Treasuryís obligations and 4.6 percent of Interiorís obligations during that timeframe.
 
News outlets and media companies are responsible for the dissemination of information to the American people, and when minority groups lack representation in the media, their stories are often written by others or remain untold altogether. Federal contracts help minority-owned media companies continue their service of providing unique stories and a perspective that diverges from major media outlets. Additionally, federal advertisements in minority-owned publications help keep their readers informed about significant information and opportunities within the government.
 
On September 30, 2016, GAO published a report examining federal spending on contracts for advertising, finding that an average of $1 billion was spent annually on federal advertising and public relations contracts from FY2006 though FY2015. We ask that you follow this report by investigating how much federal money has been spent on publications, public relations firms, advertising agencies and other media companies that are owned by people of color, whose audiences largely consist of groups that are underrepresented by major media outlets.  Given the important need for fair representation of people of color in the media, this report would allow Congress to identify and eliminate potential barriers to equal opportunity of access to federal advertising contracts.  We thank you in advance for your attention to this request, and we look forward to your response.
 
Sincerely,
 
###
 
A copy of the September 2016 GAO report on Federal Advertising Expenditures can be seen here: http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d07877.pdf
 
 

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