Federal advertising with Black firms must be increased

Stacy M. Brown NNPA Newswire Contributor | 7/26/2018, midnight

Over the past five fiscal years from 2013 to 2017, federal government agencies have spent approximately $5 billion in advertising, but a minute share—$327 million—went to minority-owned businesses, according to a long-awaited report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The federal government serves as the largest advertiser in the country.

While non-minority-owned businesses continue to rake in billions of dollars in federal advertising money, Hispanic-owned businesses received just $192 million over five years—or about $38.4 million per year.

Black-owned businesses netted just $51 million—or roughly $10 million per year over the five years covered in the new report, which was prepared over a nine-month period beginning last October. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) requested the report.

Native American-owned businesses were the recipients of $50 million in advertising spending over the past five fiscal years while Asian American-owned enterprises received $31 million over the same period, according to the report.

Ethnicities classified as “other” received $3 million.

“Today, the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) and the National Association of Hispanic Publications (NAHP) received the long-awaited report from the United States GAO, a study that was triggered by the NNPA and NAHP, working with Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton’s office, members of the Congressional Black Caucus, and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus,” said NNPA president and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. “This factual report exposes gross, racial discrimination and the refusal of the federal agencies cited in the report to be serious about diversity and inclusion with respect to annual federal spending on advertising.”

Chavis continued: “For the government to admit, today, on the record, that in the last five fiscal years, nearly $5 billion was spent on advertising and yet only a total of $327 million was actually spent on minority-owned businesses…this report is not surprising nor is it shocking, but it does reveal the consequences of systemic racial discrimination in both Republican and Democratic administrations when it comes to federal advertising spending.”

NNPA Chairman Dorothy Leavell wasn’t surprised by the GAO report, but she still expressed disappointment in the federal government.

Leavell, who is also the publisher of the Crusader newspapers in Chicago and Gary, Ind., called the federal government’s current level of advertising with Black-owned firms “atrocious.”

“We have the Census coming up, HHS with Open Enrollment, and what they’ve spent with us on a scale of 1 to 10 is less than 1,” Leavell said. “How do you get this government to be responsive to its citizens; to give them information; to work with our businesses, and to do all of the other things that federal agencies should be doing?”

The Department of Defense (DOD), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) were responsible for 73 percent of federal advertising contract obligations that went to specified businesses over fiscal years 2013 through 2017.

Thirty-four other agencies were responsible for the remaining 27 percent of such obligations.

“Some agencies directed all or nearly all of their advertising contract obligations to specified businesses, but because these agencies’ advertising contract obligations were relatively low, the amounts they directed to these businesses were also relatively low,” Kris Nguyen, the acting director of Strategic Issues at GAO, wrote.