Black Experience

Norton’s Bill Ensures U.S. Government Includes Black and Women-Owned Media in Advertising Contracts

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) formally introduced a bill Wednesday that she and others hope will help to stop federal agencies from overlooking Black-, minority- and women-owned businesses when establishing advertising contracts.

The bill requires all federal agencies to include in their annual budget justifications for the amount spent on advertising contracts with Small Disadvantaged Businesses (SDBs) and businesses owned by Blacks, women and other minorities in the previous fiscal year.

The legislation, which is co-sponsored by California Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee and Wisconsin Democratic Rep. Gwen Moore, also requires that each agency provide projections of their spending for the upcoming fiscal year.

“The National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) applauds and salutes the outstanding leadership of Congresswoman Norton for introducing one of the most important congressional bills to potentially benefit the Black Press of America,” said NNPA President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr.

“For too long, millions of annual federal advertising dollars have not been spent with Black-, other minority- and women-owned newspapers and media businesses,” Chavis said.

Chavis also thanked Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) for co-sponsoring “this game-changing legislation.”

“We further thank Congressional Black Caucus chair, Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-Calif.), and all the members of the CBC for their resolute support of the Black Press of America,” he said.

Norton and Lee also sent letters to all 12 House appropriations subcommittees requesting that they direct each agency under their jurisdiction to include the pertinent information in their fiscal year 2021 budget justifications.

An accompanying House fiscal year 2020 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill – the first fiscal year 2020 report released thus far and the second largest appropriations bill – further directs the agencies to include data in their fiscal year 2021 budget justifications.

“As the largest advertiser in the United States, the federal government has an obligation to ensure fair access for minority and women-owned media companies,” said Norton, who earlier this month was ranked as the most effective House Democrat by the Center for Effective Lawmaking.

Led by professors at the University of Virginia and Vanderbilt University, the Center for Effective Lawmaking defines legislative effectiveness as the “proven ability to advance a member’s agenda items through the legislative process and into law.”

It’s that reason that Norton and the nation’s Black-, other minority- and women-owned media companies are optimistic that her proposed legislation will aid their businesses, which have long played a vital role in local communities.

“My bill would ensure that federal agencies are striving to reach minorities and women, who often get their news from outlets that serve more specific communities,” Norton said.

Lee added that it’s important that federal agencies comply.

She said that African-American-, women-, and other minority-owned businesses should always have a seat at the table when it comes to government advertising and contracts.

In 2016, Norton led members of Congress in requesting a GAO report on their advertising contracts.

Released in July 2018, the GAO report showed that, in fiscal year 2017, only 16 percent of the federal government’s advertising contract obligations went to businesses owned by minorities and women.

“In 2017, the GAO examined spending on advertising contracts with minority-owned businesses by five agencies – the Department of Defense, the Department of the Treasury, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of the Interior, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration – and found that only five percent of the $4.3 billion available for advertising contracts went to minority businesses,” Norton said.

“In light of these concerning figures, we, and several Members, sent a letter to the GAO in April 2016 requesting updated information on the amount of federal advertising dollars spent with SDBs and businesses owned by minorities and women,” she said.

“The GAO’s findings make it clear that there is still much progress to be made,” Norton said.

Further, she said the regular collection of information on federal advertising contracts with SDBs and businesses owned by women and minorities is essential to bridging the divide between current statistics and a more inclusive advertising landscape.

“Collection would also promote transparency and encourage federal agencies to strive to reach minorities, who often receive their daily news from smaller media outlets that serve communities of color,” Norton said.

“Collection of this information would also demonstrate that the promotion of equity in advertising, and in all areas of government, should be a continuous effort that is central to the mission of every agency,” she said.

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