The official advertising is an essential mechanism for communication between citizens and governments, and, in countries like Colombia, it represents almost the 50% of the resources for media subsistence. However, which once was a legitimate element, has been twisted to the point of becoming a palpable indirect censorship instrument.
The lack of transparency in local and national authorities, makes it difficult to know how much the official advertising resources affect the media companies. In that context, is where the Project Pauta Visible emerge. Nevertheless, the genesis of the Project is attached with the origins of the Foundation for Press Freedom, an organization that since 1996 has been watching for the rights of journalist and media in a country with high levels of censorship behaviors. Therefore, the Foundation always has been interested in the relationship between official advertising and the development of the media agenda, that is how it started a process that has had different phases.
The recent phase conceived three years ago with the creation of the web page that shares the name of the project, www.pautavisible.org . This new phase has had two different stages, the first one consisted in sending more than 90 requests asking for information to national entities in order to gather information about their official advertising contracts, their contracting methods, and the criteria used to contract the different means of communications. In other words, it consisted in a compilation of contracts from 72 different public entities, like mayoralties, departmental governments, secretariats, etc. Whereby has been registered 1.851 contracts, which represents a value of $494.223.457.211 of Colombian pesos, an equivalent of 164 million dollars, for 2016-2017 period. The contracts registered at the web page, can be consulted by anyone, who can visualize different maps of networks between the State and the media organizations.
At the second stage, which started at the beginning of 2018, mainly concentrated in a more detailed analysis about the contracting process of official advertising from some public entities. The chosen entities were the mayoralties of Bogotá, Medellín and Barranquilla, and the departmental governments of San Andrés and Atlántico.
The work consisted on consulting each one of the contracts that were sent by the entities at the first moment, and after that, checking information in the State webpage of public contracting called SECOP. As result from this analysis a set of journalism products emerged, like videos and longform reads, denouncing the failures in public contracting on official advertising. Each product had a high impact at the public opinion nationwide. As much as the first and second phase contributed to a major analysis of the problem in the use of official advertising, both allowed the project to arrive to a deeply analysis of how official advertising affects the freedom of press and that can evolve to censorship.
What makes this project innovative?
What was the impact of your project? How did you measure it?
The project has published until now a total of five journalist products. Each one have a video and a longterm read. In these orde of ideas the 3 videos that have reached more visualizations, have achieve together more than 121.000 reproductions on Youtube and Twitter. That is a big number of visualizations taking into account that is a problem that has been hidden in the country.
Equally, with the launch of each vídeo or longread investigation, the project has constructed alliances with different alternative media, such as La Silla Vacía or the League Against Silence, an alliance lead by the Foundation of Press Freedom, of different media to publish investigations that has no place in mass media.
This publications has created a debate round the problem, and some civil organisations have established formal denounces at the control institutions for the open of disciplinary process. Also the project has talked with different public entities, and discussed with them possible recommendations in the correct use of the official advertising.
Likewise, this proposal have helped the project reach new national and international alliances with other institutions that are interest in this subject, such as the Misión de Observación Electoral (Mission of Electoral Observation) and Open Contracting Partnership.
Other big impact has been the collection of a significant number of official advertising contracts, as well as their schematization on the official website of the project. The more than 1.851 contracts, the methods of contracting, as well as the criteria, and their evidence in each of the entities at the national level are a perfect tool for consulting and learning about this problematic situation. Pauta Visible is a growing project that seeks impact at the investigative, journalistic and regulatory level.