October 3, 2023

Gap in Advertising Dollars To Black-owned Media


The distinction between “Black Owned” media (i.e., businesses that are over 51% owned and controlled by people of African-American and/or African ancestry – “Black”) and other businesses that are not Black-owned yet target Black viewers (i.e., NOT owned and operated by Black people) is becoming a real issue in the wake of efforts for economic justice and equity in America.  

It has been a long-standing process for many private-sector corporations and their advertising agencies to discriminate against Black-owned media. The history of discrimination is well documented and studied by organizations and trade associations, including the ANA and 4As. The issue is also problematic in the public sector as well. As part of such efforts to address fairness in government, The Congressional Black Caucus has recently called out the gap in the government’s advertising dollars spent on Black-owned media vs. white-owned companies, targeting Black audiences. The Biden administration has been criticized for its disproportionately low spending on media advertisements targeting the Black community. According to recent reports, white-owned media companies targeting Black audiences receive federal dollars at a much higher rate than Black-owned media. An example is the national media advertisement campaign focused on COVID-19 public education and awareness at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

A letter in response to a letter sent to President Joe Biden by Democratic U.S. Congressman Hank Johnson of Georgia obtained by The Source reveals that $45,000,000 was spent on Black-targeted media (e.g., BET, The Breakfast Club, Fox Soul, and The Oprah Winfrey Network (majority-owned by Discovery ) – that is, media that has extensive Black audience reach but they are NOT Black-owned or operated, compared to $20 million spent with Black-owned media as part of the COVID-19 advertising program.

This advertising discrepancy in spending is reflective of the more significant issue of how Black-owned businesses are disproportionately left out of opportunities for growth and investment. The issue is not new – In 2016, Congress requested the Government Accountability Office to study how much Black-owned media was receiving in federal advertising. The GAO found that, over five years, the federal government spent more than $5 billion on advertising, and Black-owned businesses received only 1.02% of that amount. The lack of investment has a significant impact on the Black community.

Black-owned media companies are an essential part of our communities and should receive a fair share of advertising dollars to help inform and educate our communities. The lack of sufficient advertising effectively limits these Black-owned businesses from operating and serving the communities relying on its news, content, and information. The Source Magazine (a wholly Black owned media organization) and other Black owned media have organized together to raise awareness and seek economic justice and fairness to allow our businesses to receive advertising dollars fairly and equitably.  

More to come… 

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