City gov't advertising budget shows allies
Clarín, La Nación appears to be main benefactors from Mayor Macri’s largesse
The Clarín Group, the country’s largest media conglomerate, was the single biggest recipient of public advertising doled out by Buenos Aires City in the first half of 2013 according to official figures, with its newspapers receiving more than five out of ten pesos spent on dailies by Mauricio Macri’s adminstration. Within the City newspaper market, La Nación ranks as the second-highest recipient as it got around half of the total amount awarded to all of the newspapers that are in the Clarín Group — marking a large contrast with other print outlets.
According to the data, the total expenditure on public advertising was more than 144 million pesos in the first six months of 2013, with a heavy bias toward media outlets based in Buenos Aires and those that are more sympathetic to Macri’s government, a practice that echoes a practice of many administrations across the country.
For the first half of 2012, advertising totalled a hair over 105 million pesos, and as such advertising expenditure increased by about 37 percent this year, when compared to the same period last year. The figures released do not include the months running up to the October 2013 midterm elections, when government advertising usually increases.
In March 2014 the Herald reported the City’s advertising budget in all of 2013 as 534.6 million pesos, suggesting a massive increase in the second half of 2013.
The Clarín multimedia group is the biggest recipient of funds by virtue of the fact that it has multiple print, radio and TV holdings, all of which receive advertising from the City. The cumulative amount that the group received reached approximately 24 million pesos, roughly 17 percent of the total funds spent by the City in the first six months of 2013 on advertising. The broadcast television channel Telefé received about seven million pesos and the Vila-Manzano group was the recipient of four million pesos in public funds. The Vila-Manzano group is the second-largest in the country after the Clarín Group.
The general trends seen in the data suggest that the City distributes valuable advertising funds in a manner similar to that of the national government, which is to say in greater proportion to media perceived to be more sympathetic to the government and less to outlets that have a more critical stance. In this case, the recipients of the greatest share of City public advertising are the inverse of those spent by the national government.
By way of example, Página/12 received 563,335.31 pesos from the City, compared to 5,315,361.68 pesos for La Nación and 517,163.51 pesos for the La Nación website. A more remarkable difference surges when contrasting figures for both free dailies Clarín’s La Razón and Szpolski-Garfunkel’s El Argentino.
The national government has carried out similar practices, most notably with regards to Perfil, which obtained a Supreme Court decision which obliged the state to issue advertising in its pages. After initially resisting to implement the ruling, Perfil has seen the amount of money spent by the national government on advertising in its pages increase recently.
The data helps to confirm a trend identified by media expert Martín Becerra in which public advertising funds are not allocated exclusively on the basis of circulation, pluralism or geographical distribution but also on the basis of editorial affinity. Naturally, the recipients of such favours differ between the two as a reflection of their sympathies.
The data released by the City is disaggregated for radio, websites, neighbourhood newsletters, TV stations (both cable and broadcast channels), print and street advertising, allowing for an in-depth look at the way that the city distributes valuable funds for broadcasters.
Featuring on the list of recipients for City funds are radio and tv stations that sell airtime to journalists to host their own shows such as Metro (television) and FM Cultura. From January to July of 2013, Metro received 1,073,782.50 pesos for running Buenos Aires City spots and FM Cultura received 300,119.23 pesos. The implication would be that the financing of these kinds of outlets is a way for the City to direct public funds to specific journalists so that they can recuperate the cost of the airtime.
Personal websites and blogs run by well-known journalists also received funding. A website operated on behalf of “Pepe” Eliaschev, a well-known critic of the national government and a host in Clarín’s Radio Mitre, received a total of 29,040 pesos over four months from the City. For his part, a website which publishes interviews and articles by Gustavo Sylvestre, received 48,400 pesos.
Spanish daily El Mundo also received public funds, coming at 1,848,728.21 pesos as well as Montevideo’s El País, for a total of 486,760.60 pesos.
The report, produced by the Buenos Aires Data intiative, compares favourably with its counterpart produced by the national government in terms of ease of access to the information.
National government reports in the past have made it difficult for journalists to compare between 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, reports published by the Cabinet Chief’s office have been issued in PDF format, making it difficult to sort and compare information.