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Norton, Chavis Vow to Seek Legislation After GAO Report

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Contributor

In a blistering response to the new Government Accountability Office report that revealed federal agencies spend very little advertising dollars with minority-owned businesses, National Newspaper Publishers Association President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis said he will demand legislation to fix the inherent discrepancies.

Ben Chavis 2
Dr. Ben Chavis

Now, D.C. Democratic Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton has strongly hinted she’d likely back Chavis and called on her colleagues to take action.

“As the nation’s largest advertiser, the federal government has an obligation to provide advertising opportunities to news outlets and media companies owned or published by people of color,” said Norton, who in 2016 led the call for the GAO to issue the new report.

The 41-page report issued on Wednesday, July 18, revealed that over the past five fiscal years, federal government agencies spent $5 billion in advertising but just $327 million of that went to minority-owned businesses.

Further, only $51 million, or $10 million each year, went to Black-owned businesses including African-American-owned news-papers and media companies.

“I requested this GAO report to get answers to the disparity and contracts, and it showed, as we expected, that the federal government has a long way to go to ensure equal opportunities for minority-owned news outlets,” Norton said.

The longtime D.C. delegate who has served nearly 30 years in the House of Representatives, said she will use the GAO report to work with the NNPA and the National Association of Hispanic Publications “to press my colleagues in Congress to demand greater spending on minority-owned outlets, whose primary mission is to serve communities of color and reach minority audiences that most traditional outlets do not.”

The NNPA has called on Congressman Cedric Richmond, the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, and members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, to “forcefully raise their voices of discontent and reaffirmation of the demands for equity, for justice, for fairness and put an end to this kind of systemic refusal to treat African American-owned and Latino-owned businesses along with others in a just, fair and equitable manner,” Chavis said.

“It’s time for all of us to respond and to act. There should be legislation introduced in Congress immediately to rectify this gross systemic inequity,” Chavis said.

NNPA National Chairman Dorothy Leavell called the results of the report shameful.

She said she too would call for legislation and, in the meantime, would attempt to schedule a meeting with members of Congress to further explore the matter.

Overall, the report revealed that 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 $10 million per year over the five years covered in the new report that was prepared over a nine-month period beginning last October.

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, according to the report.

Ethnicities classified as “other” received $3 million.

The departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and Health and Human Service 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 these obligations.

Chavis said, “On behalf of the [Black Press], this factual report exposes the gross racial discrimination and refusal of the federal government agencies cited in the report to be serious about diversity and inclusion with respect to annual federal spending on advertising.”

“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,” Chavis said.

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