India’s G20 presidency: Government incurs expenses of Rs 50.6 crore on outdoor ads

Contracts were given to 100 outdoor advertising companies, including one linked to a BJP member.

WrittenBy:Shivnarayan Rajpurohit
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Rs 50,64,84,996. 

This is the amount the central government has incurred on outdoor advertisements related to India’s G20 presidency from December 2022 to April 2023. The data is part of a May 29 response from the ministry of information and broadcasting’s Central Bureau of Communication to Newslaundry’s RTI application.

Though the RTI response does not clarify which ministry will pay this amount, a senior CBC official said the money will be paid by the ministry of external affairs through the CBC.

India formally took over the G20 presidency on December 1, 2022 from Indonesia. Prime minister Narendra Modi called it an “opportunity to showcase India’s capability to the world”. About 200 events and meetings will take place in India until the 18th G20 Heads of State and Government Summit in New Delhi in September.

Since the announcement, government buildings and metro pillars in the capital have been festooned with billboards carrying slogans like “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam”. Hoardings at major traffic junctions laud India as the “mother of democracy” – echoing Modi’s words when India assumed the G20 presidency.

Newslaundry learned that the CBC – which buys digital, newspaper, television and outdoor space for central government ads – has roped in over 100 out-of-home advertising companies for publicity at prominent landmarks, stations and airports, as well as inside trains and buses. Most of these companies are headquartered in metro cities. 

In its RTI response, the CBC shared a list of 297 invoices owed to these companies. The “commitment amount”, implying it hasn’t been paid yet, is Rs 40.35 crore. One of the top companies is Times Innovative Media Ltd, owned by the Times Group, which is owed Rs 6.37 crore. TIM Delhi Airport Advertising Private Ltd – a joint venture between the Delhi international airport and Times Innovative Media – is owed Rs 3.78 crore. 

Other companies include Armour Display Systems Private Ltd (Rs 3.08 crore), Pioneer Publicity Corporation Private Ltd (Rs 2.48 crore), and PK Advertising Services Private Ltd (Rs 2 crore).

Top 10 firms billed for outdoor ads (Dec 2022-April 2023).

A 'BJP company' too

The seventh-highest amount owed by the central government is Rs 1.28 crore to a Mumbai-based company called Signpost India Private Ltd. It’s owed over seven bills, the highest of which is Rs 54.60 lakh. 

Signpost is linked to a man named Devang Dave, former national social media head of the BJP’s youth wing, Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha. The founder of websites and social media accounts called “I Support Namo”, he’s now a member of the BJP’s campaign committee in Maharashtra. He also started a Facebook page and Twitter account under the name of “The Fearless Indian” which publishes pro-government and xenophobic content.

What links Dave to Signpost is the common address – 202 Pressman House, 70 Nehru Road, Vile Parle East, Mumbai. This is the address on Signpost’s website, and it’s also the address for Dave on the now-defunct as of July 23, 2020. 

Newslaundry asked Dave about Signpost. He said, “The contract was given to Signpost. I had no role in it...Moreover, I am after all a professional who is free to provide his inputs to anyone.” 

When asked about the same address, he said it was a “clerical error”.

Signpost did not respond to Newslaundry’s query sent through the company’s website.

No data on print yet, Rs 1.1 crore for radio

In the RTI application on May 5, Newslaundry asked the CBC to share information on ““expenditure incurred or value of advertisements on G20 in print, TV, digital and radio media, and outdoor or any other medium”.

The government’s response said it had incurred Rs 1.10 crore on radio advertisements on the G20 presidency until April. It placed “no ads” in TV and digital media, and has not responded yet on print ads.

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