The Argentine government spent 1.225 billion Pesos (307.8 million dollars) in 2010 on public advertising campaigns, noting an increase of 25 times since 2003, according to a recent study (*) released by Poder Ciudadano, the Argentine national chapter of Transparency International.
For the same year, the government of the city of Buenos Aires spent 154.7 million pesos (38.7 million dollars) on similar advertising campaigns, which suggests a seven-fold increase over the same period of analysis (based on local currency figures).
The study suggests that public advertising campaigns, while technically non-party affiliated and focused on public service announcements, are effectively causing the minutes granted to their respective political parties to significantly exceed the legal limit.
Argentina does have a national government decree that guarantees a balanced allotment of advertising time to all political parties competing.
In the run-up to the 2011 elections (May–October), the Argentine government had nearly 14,000 advertisements. This amount was more than double what the governments of the city and province of Buenos Aires spent. In terms of minutes, the national government bought more than five times both governments.
The results also show that these spots were often placed on radio and television channels that had connections with the political parties in control of the city of Buenos Aires, the province of Buenos Aires and the national government.
“As we have seen in other countries, the high level of spending by a particular government can serve to distort democratic competition and the ability of the local press to stay non-political”, said Daniel Arroyo, Board President of Poder Ciudadano.
For 2010, spending by the national government represented a 9% share of the total advertising market in Argentina. The city of Buenos Aires took a 1% slice. Unilever and Procter & Gamble, the second and third largest players in the local advertising market, had estimated 5% and 4% share. In Canada, whose population is similar in size to Argentina, public advertisements in 2010 accounted for a 1.4% market share.
The report also shows that government outlays on public advertising rose notably in the run-up to the 2011 elections. That year was marked by government primaries (14 August) as well as the presidential election (24 October).
(*) The study forms part of a broader initiative carried by Poder Ciudadano to track political party spending. The concept of government advertising campaigns is understood as “the paid announcements placed in papers, radio or television, software material and videos produced or sponsored by the government, flyer campaigns, published material on the Internet, expositions, etc.” All exchange rate conversions are based on values as of 31 December 2010.