Different governments use institutional advertising to pay for these favors

The secrecy that exists in Spain about political favors to the media

The media have a very important role in any democratic country, as inspectors of the work of political power.

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However, in some countries, including Spain, there is great secrecy about the favors that certain media receive from political power, favors that are financially reflected in direct aid, institutional advertising and institutional subscriptions to newspapers. Frequently, public administrations promote this secrecy by assigning institutional advertising to media agencies that distribute it, in turn, to each media outlet. And how do we know that it is an equitable distribution and there are no favors for anyone?

The governments of PSOE, PP and Podemos have been breaking a 2005 law

Since 2005, in Spain there is a Institutional Advertising and Communication Law whose Article 14 states the following:

"The Government will draw up an annual advertising and communication report that will include all the institutional campaigns provided for in this Law, their amount, the winners of the contracts entered into and, in the case of advertising campaigns, the corresponding media plans.

This report will be sent to the Cortes Generales in the first session of each year and will be made available to all professional organizations in the sector."

The annual reports published by each government can be consulted on the La Moncloa website. The last published report is the one corresponding to the year 2021. The list of reports includes, between 2011 and 2016, six reports on "Investment in communication tools" that indicate to which type of media that advertising was assigned.

However, in the reports published so far, both by the PSOE and PP governments and by the current PSOE-Podemos coalition government, the media receiving this publicity are not indicated. Only the agencies to which the distribution of these campaigns is assigned are indicated, which function as a screen for the government to hide their final recipients. The most scandalous thing is that these agencies are indeed obliged to deliver a "media plan" to the government to which media it assigns that advertising to, as can be seen in this technical specification sheet of one of those campaigns, in point 6.1. However, the government does not publish that information. Why?

The Sánchez government ignores a requirement of the Transparency Council

On April 17, the Transparency Council issued a requirement to the government (see PDF) relating to the final destination of its institutional advertising campaigns, after receiving a request last year to find out "which media have been the final recipients of the money invested in institutional campaigns". The Transparency Council recalled:

"Revealing the specific destination of spending on institutional advertising and official announcements made by an administration charged to its budgets is an inseparable part of the transparency obligations of institutions to enable citizens to can learn "how public funds are managed" and subject the actions of public officials to scrutiny."

The Transparency Council urged the presidency of the government to provide this information within 20 days. Almost two months have passed and this information has not yet been published. As can be seen in the website of the Transparency Council, most of its resolutions are answered with silence or denial, a display of opacity that violates the duties of a democratic government.

A situation that also exists in the autonomous governments

Of course, the same thing that I have just pointed out about the Spanish government is also applicable to the autonomous governments, since the vast majority of them do not indicate the final recipients of their institutional advertising campaigns, with exceptions such as the government of Castilla y León, who does realize it.

We must bear in mind that this institutional advertising often serves to materialize political favors for related media, thus corrupting the role of the media in a democracy, which goes from being overseers of political power to mere propagandists of the government that grants them those favors. We Spaniards have the right to know what our tax money is used for, especially when it is used for purposes that are clearly unrelated to the public interest and the common good.


Photo: Efe.

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