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Nikola Gruevski's government last year continued spending millions of euros on commissioning advertisements, a practice that media watchdogs and opposition parties say distorts the media market in the government's favour.
Macedonian government building | Photo by: Balkan Insight
Recent incomplete data from the Public Procurement Bureau shows that the VMRO DPMNE-led government spent almost €6 million on commercials in 2011.
The government’s General Secretariat spent most money on advertising, €3,4 million, to finance promotions of various government reforms in the agriculture, health, tourism and construction sectors.
ELEM, the state company that runs power production in the country, spent almost €900,000 on advertising itself. The state-run Agency for Electronic Communications spent €900,000, mostly in a campaign to promote customers' rights.
So far, an ongoing government campaign encouraging people to apply for mortgages for houses and flats has cost €305,000. The Interior Ministry’s campaign for improving traffic safety has cost €190,000.
The Bureau has not yet published the cost of several other big government campaigns launched last year.
It is still not clear though how much the government spent on advertising last year’s deal for a minimum wage reached with unions and employers.
Contracts for the campaign “Read more”, aimed at encouraging reading, or “Dare and make the first step”, encouraging entrepreneurship, were also not revealed.
The issue of adverts and promotions became a hot topic in 2009 when state auditors revealed that the government had spent over 10 million euros on campaigns and commercials in the previous year, 2008.
A number of international media watchdogs and political opponents of the government have since complained about the government's use of advertising to gain more influence over the media.
“Disproportionate advertising by the Macedonian government – estimated to be the second largest source of advertising revenue in the country – unfairly distorts the media market and serves to disadvantage media outlets critical of the government,” the International Partnership Group of freedom of expression organizations noted after visiting Macedonia last year.
The OSCE Special Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatovic has echoed those concerns.
For its part, the government insists that the advertisements are in public interest.
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