Gupta newspapers still drawing a fortune from government

 ·19 May 2016

The SABC is now spending more than three times what it used to on The New Age, the Gupta family-run newspaper.

According to Parliamentary reply on the matter, communications minister Faith Muthambi revealed that the public broadcaster has spent R700,000 on the paper since May 2014.

This was up from R238,000 in 2014.

The SABC is not the only state owned company supporting the paper. In late 2015, it was revealed that SAA had spent R9.4 million buying 6 million copies of the paper, while passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) had a subscription worth R3.3 million in 2013.

The New Age has been a recurring point of contention when it comes to the subject of government spending, particularly due to its ties to the Gupta family, and their close relationship with President Jacob Zuma.

The publication’s “Business Briefing” is seen by many – particularly opposition MPs – as blatant filtering of state funds into the Guptas’ hands, as many ministers who speak at the meetings pay hundreds of thousands of rand to attend.

Opposition parties have also been critical of state advertising.

The department of communications, alone, has spent R10.2 million on advertising with the newspaper, while companies such as Telkom reportedly spent as much as R34 million for ads in the paper in 2011 and 2012.

The total amount spent by state groups such as the Government Communication Information System (GCIS), NPA and other departments, was pegged at R8.4 million between 2011 and 2014.

According to DA MP Phumzile van Damme, it is “useless for government to be buying The New Age”, saying that the communications department was acting like a department of propaganda, and using its resources to support the Gupta family.

It should be noted that government doesn’t exclusively advertise in The News Age – the DA noted in 2015 that R10.4 million was spent on adverting in the Sowetan in the 2014 financial year as well.

However, the party pointed out that the Sowetan had a readership of 1.6 million people – while The New Age – which does not publish circulation figures – had a readership of just over 150,000 people, making the similar ad spend questionable.

More on The New Age

Why SAA spent R9.4 million on the New Age

Govt pumps millions into New Age business breakfasts

Muthambi defends The New Age adspend

Government spends R10 million on The New Age advertising

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