Dept of Communications spends R10m on New Age advertising - Gavin Davis

DA MP says sum spent on that newspaper similar to that spent on the Sowetan, a newspaper with far greater readership

Minister Muthambi must explain millions spent on The New Age

A reply to a parliamentary question reveals that the Department of Communications spent more than R 10 million on advertising in The New Age newspaper in the last financial year.

This accounts for 11.2% of government adspend across 248 publications.

A comparison with the biggest newspapers shows just how skewed government adspend is towards the Gupta-owned newspaper, despite its low readership:


No. of readers (AMPS)

Govt. adspend 2013-2014

The New Age

153 000

R 10 199 988


1 674 000

R 10 434 476

Daily Sun

5 351 000

R 7 888 753


1 176 000

R 1 246 257

The total amount spent on The New Age (R 10,2 million) was similar to the total amount spent on the Sowetan (R 10,4 million). The difference is that the Sowetan has a readership of 1,6 million people compared to The New Age's readership of 153 000.

The government spent R 2,3 million more on advertising in The New Age than the Daily Sun, even though the readership of the Daily Sun - at 5,3 million - is 35 times more than The New Age's readership of 153 000.

A comparison with publications of a similar-sized readership to The New Age underscores just how much of an ‘outlier' the newspaper is in terms of government adspend:


No. of readers (AMPS)

Govt. adspend 2013-2014

The Herald

196 000

R 534 306

The Mercury

180 000

R 509 298

The New Age

153 000

R 10 199 988

Pretoria News

125 000

R 868 994

There can be no rational explanation for government spending R10,2 million on advertisements in a newspaper with 153,000 readers, but just half a million rand on a newspaper with 180 000 readers.

The only explanation for the disproportionate adspend on The New Age is that it is owned by the politically-connected Gupta family, and because its editorial stance is unashamedly pro-Zuma.

This is an abuse of public funds that Minister Faith Muthambi must answer for in Parliament. Specifically, I will be asking her to explain:

1. Why R 10 million was spent on advertising in The New Age newspaper when far less was spent on newspapers with a much bigger readership;

2. Whether or not there is a specific directive to spend disproportionately more on The New Age than other publications;

3. The criteria used to decide how much the government spends on advertising per newspaper; and

4. Whether the Department of Communications makes use of an independent media-buying agency to give it strategic advice on where to advertise.

When The New Age was launched, many feared that President Zuma and those close to him would use it as a propaganda tool. Since then, the President has set up his own Ministry of Propaganda headed by his loyalist Faith Muthambi.

If Minister Muthambi wants to shake off the propaganda tag, she will come out strongly against this abuse of public money to prop up a pro-Zuma newspaper.

Statement issued by Gavin Davis MP, DAShadow Minister of Communications, January 29 2015

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