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The U.S. government and the ad agencies that work for it are being accused of short-changing African-American and Hispanic newspapers-even as the government grows into one of the nation's top advertisers.

The National Newspaper Publishers Association, representing 212 black newspapers, and the National Association of Hispanic Publications, representing 100 papers and magazines, said they have not been getting a fair share of the increased spending.

The groups, which have formed the Coalition of Minority-Owned Publications, will ask the Federal Trade Commission to probe ad agencies for restraint of trade.


"The U.S. government spends a tremendous amount of money for various services, and we are being ignored," said Dorothy Leavell, president of the National Newspaper Publishers Association and editor-publisher of the Crusader in Chicago and Gary, Ind.

"We are not getting our fair share of advertising from the federal government," said Andres Tobar, executive director of the Hispanic group. "By coming together, we can bring it to the attention of the president."

The U.S. government spent $670.3 million on advertising in 1996, up 64% from the previous year, according to Advertising Age figures. The jump propelled the government into a position as the nation's 20th-largest ad spender last year, up from No. 39 in 1995.

While much of the spending increase was in TV for the U.S. Postal Service, other government agencies also boosted spending.

U.S. government ad spending in newspapers and magazines rose 16% to $117.5 million last year, though the only portion of newspaper spending that rose was for national newspapers.

The spending will soon increase substantially as new anti-drug, census and the predicted anti-smoking advertising start.

"We serve a large group and realistically ought to get 15% of the budget. We are now not even getting 1%," Ms. Leavell said.


She said ad agencies are being targeted because attempts to get government officials to act have run into roadblocks at ad agencies.

Agencies handling major government contracts include DDB Needham Worldwide, Y&R Advertising and Foote, Cone & Belding, all New York. However, a number of government agencies also hire minority shops.

Mr. Tobar said ad agencies are being targeted because they "are placing the ads . . . there is a whole lot of money we are not getting from them and from corporations. If we start with the federal government, it is a good beginning."

O. Burtch Drake, president of the American Association of Advertising Agencies, questioned the attack on ad agencies, noting that a number of government agencies use minority shops.

"I am not aware of a whole bunch of newspaper advertising for government

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