Democratic Alliance (Cape Town)

1 February 2013

South Africa: The Presidency Is Dodging the Truth On New Age Advertising

press release

Photo: http://www.da.org.za
The Democratic Alliance's leader Helen Zille

The numbers produced by the Presidency yesterday on New Age advertising expenditure is a disingenuous attempt to spin the facts. The New Age is almost exclusively funded by government - more than 77% of The New Age's advertising revenue is from government. The Presidency's statement narrowly focuses on GCIS advertising, excluding all of the other departments and entities which buy advertising space in The New Age.

In yesterday's statement, the Presidency produced figures that exclude expenditure by SOEs, provinces, municipalities and direct advertising by the government departments.

We know from parliamentary replies, that the full amount spent by government departments and their sub-entities on New Age advertising amounts to at least R27 million. This is information provided to us by government departments themselves. This is considerably higher than the R15 million figure produced by the Presidency for the same period.

The Presidency further misrepresents the facts by comparing advertising expenditure in The New Age, to advertising in groups of other newspapers. For example, the Presidency compares expenditure in The New Age to all expenditure in media24 newspapers. This is not a fair comparison since media24 includes City Press, Rapport, Beeld, Die Burger, Volksblad, Daily Sun, The Witness, Die Son, Sonday Son, Sunday Sun and a large number of community newspapers.

The Presidency also ignores the fact that The New Age has never certified its circulation figures. So it is comparing advertising expenditure on one newspaper, with an uncertified number of readers, to whole groups of newspapers with millions of confirmed readers. It is like comparing apples and oranges.

The Presidency also ignores the R37 million in government "sponsorships" The New Age received for its business breakfasts.

So here are the facts that we know of, none of which have been disputed by the Presidency:

The New Age received at least R27 million in advertising revenue from national government departments and their sub-entities since its inception.

The New Age received at least R37 million in sponsorships for its business breakfasts.

Government and government-run entities have subscribed to buy large numbers of The New Age.

The SABC provides free airtime to The New Age.

But there is still more to be uncovered. We still do not know the full extent of government expenditure on advertising in The New Age given that we do not have figures for provincial governments or municipalities. The full extent of sponsorships for The New Age business breakfasts are also still not yet known given that some entities dodged our parliamentary questions on the matter.

That is why we need a judicial commission of inquiry - to get to the bottom of this, and to deal with the matter comprehensively. We therefore reiterate our call for a judicial commission of inquiry into government transfers to The New Age.

Mmusi Maimane, DA National Spokesperson

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