The war of words between communications minister Faith Muthambi and Democratic Alliance MP Gavin Davis continued over the weekend over allegations by Davis that government is directing a disportionate amount of advertising spend to the Gupta-owned New Age newspaper.
On Sunday morning, Muthambi accused Davis of peddling a “recycled myth” that government favours “state-friendly media” in its adspend.
The minister accused Davis of having a “shallow understanding of advertising communications” and being “disingenuous in his attempt to shoe-horn his obvious prejudice against the black-owned media into a false argument to further his own agenda”.
Davis hit back, saying Muthambi’s defence of government adspend is “laughable”.
Last week, the DA MP accused the communications department of directing fully 11,2% of government adspend to The New Age. He said this spending was “skewed”, especially in light of the title’s low readership relative to other newspapers.
“The government spent R2,3m more on advertising in The New Age than the Daily Sun, even though the readership of the Daily Sun — at 5,3m, according to Amps figures — is 35 times more than The New Age’s readership of 153 000,” Davis said.
But Muthambi hit back, saying Davis lacks a “passing knowledge of newspaper distribution footprints, reader demographics and editorial content”.
“The New Age is much closer to Business Day in its editorial balance based on tonality of coverage,” the minister said.
Muthambi said that the communications department in-house media buying teams directs government media buying using Telmar Media’s “suite of worldwide leading advertising software and services used for reach, frequency and optimisation”.
“The New Age, a newspaper with a national distribution footprint, is being incorrectly compared to metropolitan newspapers [such as] The Herald (Nelson Mandela Bay), The Mercury (Durban), Pretoria News (Pretoria) competing in defined regional markets. If we followed Davis’s argument, government would need to advertise in a greater number of metropolitan newspapers in all provinces to match the footprint of The New Age, at a greater cost than that of advertising in The New Age.”
She added: “For the record, The New Age is distributed in all nine provinces, with six regional editions. Each daily edition has a dedicated provincial focus page highlighting local news in addition to its coverage of national and global news.”
She said The New Age also brings an audience through its TNA Briefings series.
But Davis hit back, saying Muthambi’s defence of government’s spending on The New Age is “laughable”.
“The minister cited The New Age’s ‘footprint’ as the reason that disproportionately more was spent on it than other newspapers. She must be joking. The New Age has a mere 153 000 readers. The reason that so few commercial advertisers choose The New Age for their campaigns is because it reaches so few people compared to other publications.”
Davis added: “Does the minister really expect us to believe that the decision to channel millions into The New Age had nothing to with the fact that the president’s close friends, the Guptas, own it? The people of South Africa know a scam when they see one.” — (c) 2015 NewsCentral Media