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Gov’t advertising increases 45.24 percent

By Federico Poore
Herald Staff

Uneven distribution seen between TV channels and newspapers, official report reveals

Government advertising soared 45.24 percent in the first half of 2013, compared to the same period of the previous year, as the President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner administration allocated more cash to official ads at a time when it was getting ready for critical midterm elections, the Chief-of-Staff’s office revealed yesterday.

The report was released following a freedom for information request filed by NGO Poder Ciudadano.

The increase in state spending on official advertising benefited almost all television channels and newspapers, regardless of their ideological views.

From January to June 2013, the national administration allocated 610.45 million pesos in official advertising, compared to 420.29 million pesos during the same period of 2012.

The increase in the national government’s spending on advertising is much higher than the inflation rate, regardless of the way it is measured. Private consultancies estimated last year’s inflation clocked in at 27 percent.

“There have been significant increases in government advertising for opposition media, but those hikes only modify a ridiculously low amount previously,” media expert Martín Becerra said yesterday. “In absolute terms, they are still being ‘punished’ by the government.”

The report was released the same day the Supreme Court ordered the La Plata City government to restore government advertising to a local radio (See below) and a month after the country’s highest court ruled that the Fernández de Kirchner administration should allocate government advertising on Clarín Group’s Channel 13, following a lawsuit by the country’s largest media conglomerate.

An unwilling response

Even though the latest report brought in a flood of data, the government made it difficult for journalists to compare both years, as companies listed in the latest report of government spending on advertising were sorted by their “registration code” rather than in alphabetical order.

Moreover, the report published on the Chief-of-Staff Office’s website yesterday afternoon was in PDF format, which made it difficult to reorder numbers.

As in previous releases, the national administration classified the companies according to the medium — whether the government advertised in cinemas, radio stations, print media, broadcast or cable TV channels, or the street.

Tensions have grown recently between the national government and the Supreme Court over the allocation of government advertising and the lack of clear rules on the matter.

In 2011, the top court ruled in favour of Perfil with the same arguments it had used four years earlier with Río Negro’s most important newspaper in a case against the provincial government of Neuquén.

On that occasion, the tribunal argued that while there is no right to receive a certain amount of government advertising, there is, in fact, protection against using state money arbitrarily.

The Supreme Court is well aware that the government has “cheated” after previous decisions and is repeatedly backing rulings of lower courts ordering the national administration “to prepare and present a distribution scheme for state advertising.”

“Failure to comply with a judicial ruling means a failure to recognize the separation of powers, which leads to a serious deterioration of a constitutional, democratic state,” the justices wrote in a 6-1 decision last February.

@fedebillie

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