One year ago, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) stood on Capitol Hill with members of the National Association of Hispanic Publications (NAHP) and the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) urging the GAO to issue a new report detailing how much money federal agencies spend on advertising in Black- and Hispanic-owned newspapers and media companies. Now, the GAO said it that will launch a formal investigation.
The GAO is an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for Congress and investigates how the federal government spends taxpayer dollars, according to the group’s website.
Norton has been at the forefront of the call for the report, noting that the federal government spends billions of dollars on advertising services each year, but spends very little with minority-owned publications and media companies.
In March 2016, Norton sent a letter to Gene Dodaro, the comptroller general at the GAO, asking for a new investigation and a long overdue follow up to a 2007 GAO report that revealed the lack of advertising by federal agencies in minority-owned media companies.
Norton’s letter was signed by several members of Congress including: former Congressional Black Caucus Chairman G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.); Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.); Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.), Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio); Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.); Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.).
In December, Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) joined Norton’s efforts, each sending their own letters to the GAO.
“Yes, we have accepted the request,” said Chuck Young, the managing director of public affairs for the GAO.
Through a spokesman, Norton said she was pleased that GAO is moving forward. No start date is set yet.
Norton said that the federal government is the largest advertiser in the United States and it’s important that news outlets and media companies owned or published by people of color with a primary mission to serve communities of color have the same opportunities as other media outlets, especially as the Black and Hispanic populations continue to grow in our country.
In 2007, the GAO investigated 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 Administration (NASA) – and found that just five percent of the $4.3 billion available for advertising campaigns went to minority-owned businesses.
The NAHP and NNPA enjoy an estimated reach of 43 million readers each week across the United States, representing 33 percent of the total population.
Additionally, the buying power of the African-American and Hispanic communities, currently at more than $2.3 trillion combined, continues to outpace the national average. Due to their positions of trust in the community, minority-owned media companies remain the most practical advertising and outreach partners for all federal and private agencies.
“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,” said Rep. Menendez. “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.”
By Stacy M. Brown
NNPA Newswire Contributor