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lawmakers grill U.S. Census Bureau over ad spending in black media
By Pharoh Martin
NNPA News Service (March 11, 2010) During the recent Congressional hearing to discuss
what many contends is an insufficiently funded Black advertising
campaign of Census 2010; the U. S. Census Bureau's media-buying agencies
were blistered by a charge that they allegedly played unfair politics
with Black newspaper publishers. These charges have resulted in an
ongoing probe into why the Census allocated so little to count
In a reflective interview following the hearing, during which NNPA
Chairman Danny Bakewell testified, Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman
Rep. Barbara Lee (D- Calif.) said the hearing was a positive step toward
ensuring equality in the distribution of media ad dollars, but there is
still a long way to go.
''I don't think it's where we need to be,'' Lee told NNPA in a phone
interview. ''One of things that we need to do is make sure that the
Department of Commerce and all of the agencies responsible for insuring
media buys for the 2010 Census are distributing fairly and go into the
area that are hard-to-count. This is a very important issue for
everyone. I think it's extremely important to have the fairness in the
media buys and I think that's what we are trying to achieve and I don't
think that we are there yet.''
The bottom line is that Black legislators and publishers say that
advertising budgets proposed for African-American media are insufficient
to effectively reach a ''hard-to-count'' Black population.
Chaired by Rep. Lacy Clay (D-Mo.), the Information Policy, Census and
National Archives Subcommittee, which held the congressional hearing,
was moving offices on the week following the hearing and was unable to
send updates on resolutions.
But, the intense dialogue during the hearing indicated that change might
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) grilled executives of Census 2010's media
buying agencies about a charge from Black publishers that the agencies
were unfairly demanding that Black newspapers provide free content,
which they called ''added value'' in exchange for ad dollars.
Jeff Tarakajian, vice president of advertising agency DRAFTFCB, never
directly answered the question; only replying that the ''request for
added value was standard''. He couldn't testify under oath as to how the
''added value'' was requested but could confirm that it was, in fact,
''We seek them, we encourage them but we do not make the requirement
that somebody provide added value to literally qualify for a media
buy,'' Tarakajian said.
Hundreds of Black newspapers are supposed to divide a $2.5 million
advertising budget that is supposed to reach an estimated 40 million
Black people that were undercounted by two percent in 2000, according to
statistics cited during the hearing.
''We need more money,'' Bakewell said. ''The Black Press of America
needs at least $10 million dollars to have a consistent message in 200
Black newspapers throughout America. There is no reason to cherry
The hearing's final panel included heads of ethnic media organizations
such as James Winston, executive director of the National Association of
Black Owned Broadcasters, Sandy Close, executive director of New America
Media and Danny Bakewell, chairman of the National Newspaper Publishers
Census Director Robert Groves defended the amounts used to purchase
media ads saying they were were based on statistical and historic data.
''I can honestly say that the program was set up in an objective manner
guided by data on what audiences needed given their historical
behavior,'' Groves said in response to the perceived unfairness in media
buys with ethnic media outlets.
The Census director said that the Black media buy plan was developed by
Global Hue. The total media buy for 2010 is $23 million, an increase of
35 percent over the 2000 Census budget amount.
According to their research, their media plan for Census 2010 is
estimated to effectively reach more than 95 percent of Blacks in every
market in the country.
''The budget allocations that we're made have consistently placed
greater emphasis on reaching and motivating hard-to-count audiences,''
Tarakajian said. ''The budget allocations are disproportionately greater
to hard-to-count audiences relative to their population size. And more
emphasis is being put on hard-to-count audiences than in the 2000
Census…We don't know of any campaign that has made this kind of outreach
in the history of our business,'' Tarakajian said.
When asked if other Black media outlets expressed concerns similar to
what Black newspaper publishers voiced, Lee said that she's heard quite
a few complaints and issues.
''We've heard points raised like the one's Danny [Bakewell] has raised,
which caused us to look at all of this,'' Lee said. ''I've heard the
complaints but I cannot verify all of the information on that. But I
think that this is media wide.''
Annual Edition 'Buying Power of Black America' report
breaks down billions in expenditures (January
19, 2010) Black consumers are responding to tighter economic
condition by focusing more of their spending on items and services
that improve their homes and lifestyle. That's one of the trends
revealed in the 15th annual report, "The Buying Power of Black
America," published by Target Market News. The report analyzes
spending for black households in 2008 and finds that