Government spending on newspaper advertising in The New Age accounts for 11.2% of government ad spend across 248 publications, the Democratic Alliance says. The communications department spent over R10-million on the Gupta-owned title. Glenda Nevill reports.
Communications spokesman, Gavin Davis, said the numbers he quotes in a statement are based on a response by communications minister, Faith Muthambi, to a parliamentary question posed by the party.
“The total amount spent on The New Age (R10.2 million) was similar to the total amount spent on the Sowetan (R10.4 million). The difference is that the Sowetan has a readership of 1.6 million people compared to The New Age’s readership of 153 000,” Davis said.
“The government spent R2.3 million more on advertising in The New Age than the Daily Sun, even though the readership of the Daily Sun – at 5.3 million – is 35 times more than The New Age’s readership of 153 000,” he added.
Davis told The Media Online he’d used the latest AMPS figures on readership published on the South African Audience Research Foundation (Saarf) website.”
The newspaper isn’t a member of the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC), the usual method used by media agencies when planning media buying.
“I prefer to use AMPS because it gives you a better idea of actual readership (one copy of The Daily Sun, for example, tends to be read by more people than one copy of the Business Day),” Davis said.
“Also, you can artificially boost circulation by printing more copies and giving them away free, or, as The New Age does, pressurise government entities across the land to take out a subscription,” he said.
Davis said there was “no rational explanation” for government spending R10.2 million on advertisements in a newspaper with 153 000 readers, but just half a million rand on a newspaper with 180 000 readers.
“The only explanation for the disproportionate ad spend on The New Age is that it is owned by the politically-connected Gupta family, and because its editorial stance is unashamedly pro-Zuma.,” he said.
The New Age recently came in for flak when it was revealed that the cash-strapped Eskom was sponsoring the newspaper’s business breakfasts to the tune of R43-million over a three-year period.
CEO Nazeem Howa defended the deal, saying the newspaper that exposed the story, the Mail & Guardian, had in fact received more advertising ad spend from Eskom than the Sunday Times, which had a substantially larger readership.
“I had negotiated the Eskom contract in good faith with senior executives at Eskom who clearly saw the value in the The New Age Business Briefings,” Howa said in a story in The New Age.
In her response to Davis, Muthambi said department of communications (DOC) does not account for the total advertising budget of government. In her explanation, the minister said the DOC receives transfers of funds from individual departments and institutions who use the media buying services of the DOC.
“Therefore the DOC can only account for the budget which was transferred to it for advertising services by individual departments and institutions. The total budget that the DOC managed on behalf of other departments for advertising for each month between January 2013 and July 2014 is R380 961 416.13,” she said in her reply.
She said the DOC spent a total of R227 115 153.10 on behalf of other departments and institutions, broken down per advertising platform in the 2013/14 financial year:
Print – R90 731 346.96
Radio – R54 962 252.09
Television – R34 435 177.76
Online – R3 063 231.50
Outdoor – R41 055 660.47
Breakdown of government advertising expernditure per title: RNW1031-141127 (Annexure) – Publications advertised in copy
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