The federal government is one of the nation’s largest buyers of advertising, and the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters is asking why more of the hundreds of millions in public dollars aren’t going to African-American owned broadcasting outlets. The group is targeting federal agencies that approve the allocation of ad budgets to change this disparity.
A 2012 Congressional Research Service (CRS) report, “Advertising by the Federal Government: An Overview,” estimated that the federal government spent $750.4 million on commercial advertising services in fiscal year 2011. The breakdown of the top five departments was as follows:
- Department of Defense: $473.6 million
- Department of Health and Human Services: $87.6 million
- Department of Treasury: $50.6 million
- Department of Transportation: $36.7 million
- Department of Homeland Security: $34.7 million
“Of these expenditures, Black owned broadcast stations and networks receive a very small share,” said NABOB Executive Director, Jim Winston (pictured). “Many Black owned broadcast stations receive no federal ad dollars.”
Because there is no obligation on the part of the federal government departments or their separate divisions and offices to publicly report where or when the advertising expenditures will be placed, either before the expenditure or after, Black owned stations frequently learn about advertising placements by the departments, divisions and offices only after hearing them on competing media outlets — after the advertising expenditures have been made.
“The federal government has an obligation to inform and educate all of its citizens with its advertising expenditures,” says Winston. “If the federal government fails to utilize the advertising vehicles that reach the African American public, it is virtually impossible for the federal government to achieve its informational and educational goals in our communities.”
In addition, in an age of government austerity, the government is overlooking a comparatively inexpensive means of reaching our communities, says NABOB. Because of ongoing undervaluation of the African American consumer by major advertisers, Black owned stations and networks must charge lower rates than other stations and networks reaching the same size audiences. Therefore, when using Black owned media, the federal government can reach a critical segment of the American public in a fiscally responsible manner.
Black-owned radio and television stations are the voices of their communities. In recent years, due to the recession, many of those voices have been silenced by bankruptcies and foreclosures. For the African-American owned stations that remain, obtaining a fair share of federal advertising expenditures could mean the difference between survival and failure.
NABOB has taken on the issue of getting a fair share of federal advertising dollars, and says the initiative has the potential to “benefit every Black owned station in America.” It’s asking its members to contact their members of Congress.
NABOB will focus on the federal advertising issue at its 37th Annual Fall Broadcast Management Conference and the 13th Annual Power of Urban Radio Forum set for October 2-4, 2013, at the Westin City Center Hotel in Washington, DC.