Uttar Pradesh Government's advertisement budget this year is close to Rs 500 Crore

While Delhi Government has spent Rs 997 Crore on advertisements in seven years, UP Government plans to spend almost half that amount this year alone. Media outlets cannot do without this pot of gold

Hoardings in Uttar Pradesh
Hoardings in Uttar Pradesh

Shalini Sahay

Uttar Pradesh under Yogi Adityanath has been splurging on advertisements and publicity. Advertisements have picked up in print, TV as well as in outdoor hoardings. While it is doubtful how many readers follow the advertorials in print, a recent issue of an English weekly had around 20 pages of advertisement supplement released by the state government.

Bureaucrats from the state justify the expenditure, which they point out, is a fraction of the state budget. The largest state also has an annual budget this year of 5 lakh 50 thousand crore. By way of comparison, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar has an annual budget of Rs 2 lakh 34 thousand crore and 2 lakh 18 thousand crore respectively.

UP’s Information Department, these bureaucrats point out, has a ‘paltry’ allocation of Rs 555.47 crore out of which Rs 410.08 crore are earmarked for advertisements and publicity. An additional Rs 100 crore have been added in the supplementary budget.

Another comparison is that while Delhi Government has spent Rs 997 crore in seven years on advertising and publicity, UP plans to spend almost half that amount in a single year.

This pot of gold, say critics, explains why the UP chief minister and the state government continue to get ‘good Press’. Criticism of the chief minister or the state government are not taken too kindly and the threat of cutting off advertisements is used as a routine weapon to force the media to fall in line.

In a recent RTI reply to Lucknow-based journalist Umashankar Dubey, the state government confirmed that between April 2020 and March 2021, Rs 160.31 crore were paid to TV news channels alone for advertisements.

The reply gave the break up too. National TV news channels were paid Rs 88.68 crore, while the regional TV news channels received Rs 71.63 crore during this period. The Network18 Group was the biggest beneficiary, receiving Rs 28.82 crore with Zee Media Group close behind with Rs 23.48 crore and ABP Group Rs 18.19 crore. India Today Group received Rs 10.64 crore during this period. So, no prizes for guessing why viewers and readers get to watch or read mostly favourable reports.

Sources within the state’s Information and Publicity Department confirm, on condition of anonymity, that advertisement expenditure under the Yogi government has gone up by almost 50 percent. Radio, they say, is also a major medium for advertising by the state government. ‘Naya Bharat Ka Naya Uttar Pradesh’ is the latest campaign which the state government has launched and the campaign is picking up, they said.

As per TAM AdEx data, advertisements by the government of Uttar Pradesh witnessed a 27% growth in print medium between January 2021 and March 2021. The indexed ad volume growth on TV and radio were 3% and 8% in the same period over the previous three months that covered the festive season between October and December, 2020.

The insiders explain the rationale of advertising in the South by saying that it is important to win over public opinion where the BJP is relatively weak. What they don’t say is that this could be a way to fund party mouthpieces and sympathetic outlets.

“This is done with an aim to build Brand Yogi. The RSS wants to project Yogi as a performer, someone who has transformed Uttar Pradesh,” said an official over the phone, justifying the front page jackets and advertisements spread across several pages of newspapers.

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