Let It Be Known: FEMA and the Ad Council

"The Black Press will be looking more closely at those who come to us in the name of equity with empty hands."

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Dr. John E. Warren, Publisher, The San Diego Voice & Viewpoint.

By Dr. John E. Warren, Publisher, The San Diego Voice & Viewpoint

Recently the Deputy Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA), spoke to students at Howard University as a part of a new “Ready Campaign” aimed at African American communities to encourage advanced preparedness for storms and all natural disasters The Deputy Administrator told the students that FEMA was there to reaffirm its commitment to equity and to say loud and clear that every community deserves to be protected from hazards. After all, September is Disaster Preparedness month.

Mr. Erik Hooks, the Deputy Administrator speaking to the students said, “Blacks are the communities that are on the frontlines of climate change and related extreme weather events.” Hooks also referenced an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report that said socially vulnerable populations, including Black and African American communities may be more exposed to the highest impacts of climate change. With the full knowledge of how serious this matter is to the Black and African American communities in particular, one must ask why would FEMA and the Ad Council be addressing this issue with an ad campaign based on Public Service Announcements (PSAs) and college speeches with no dollars to ensure the targeted populations are reached?

How can there be “equity” with no dollars when, in America, issues of public policy – without dollars – are meaningless? FEMA as an agency of the federal government has a budget for everything it does. If the Black Press, including Black Media, is the “Trusted Messenger” of our communities for more than 195 years, where are the dollars to support the campaign?

Let’s look at what FEMA is calling a ‘Readiness Campaign’ based on PSAs running nationwide in Spanish and English. The Ads for this campaign have been developed and provided by the Ad Council. The ads are both print and electronic. White Media can afford to run them for free and give the appearance of community service. But let’s take a look at the Ad Council itself. It was established as a nonprofit in1942; changed its name during World War II and raised monies for the War effort. It reverted to the name Ad Council as a nonprofit after the War, and today receives more than 1.8 billion dollars from Media among its 385 donors. The White Press writes off its donations to the Ad Council, which, in the past and perhaps still does today, provide print ads to small community newspapers which historically ran them for free when they had no paid ads to run.

One of the large contract donors and participants with the Ad Council on various campaigns is the federal government. The same federal government that, according to a General Accounting Office report, in recent years spent less dollars with the Black Press than its contracts with the Ad Council. Now FEMA, on behalf of the federal government, is calling for “equity” without spending “equitable” dollars with the Black Press. We should “Let It Be Known” that mentioning the word “equity” does not in and of itself produce equitable participation in the programs and policies around us. We applaud the disaster relief efforts of FEMA, the agency’s efforts and its continued impact in making the difference between life and death for so many everyday.

With 1.8 billion dollars in Media contributions, the Ad Council could have provided dollars by itself for a paid media campaign for the local and community newspapers like the Black Press. Let us not forget the multi-billion dollar advertising agencies who also contribute to the Ad Council with write offs while too often controlling the trickle down dollars reaching smaller media like the Black Press.

Let It Be Known that the Black Press will be looking more closely at those who come to us in the name of equity with empty hands.

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