Mayors Spend Millions on Awareness Campaigns
The influence of the state on the media, as it seems, is not limited to the millions given by ministries to promote all kinds of operational programmes of the EU. In the distribution of money one must also count with the impact of municipalities. Mayors usually spend much smaller amounts in comparison with the ministers, but their goals are much more modest - though the campaigns are most often at the local level and promote a specific project, such as repair of school or street as. On the other hand, there are hundreds of towns and cities and each one has several projects to promote, so no wonder if ultimately local governments pour more resources into public relations agencies and the media than the government itself .
In the EU programmes a small part of the funding for each project (about 0.2%) must be spent on "Information and publicity." This is how European leaders have suggested that the population should learn about their goodwill and solidarity, but have in fact failed to realize that in the Bulgarian reality to these grants of money can achieve also other purposes. Quietly, almost secretly, rulers of large and small settlements successfully negotiate with the fourth power their media comfort. It is true that in this scheme there is absolutely nothing criminal, but who will take money from authorities and then criticize them? Moreover, many of the costs can never be publicly accounted for because they come in small amounts - less than 66,000 levs that are distributed without procedures on the Public Procurement Act.
In this game, the "largest" pockets are of course of the capital city. Sofia absorbs most funds from operational programmes and therefore can afford the most advertising. The register of the Public Procurement Agency contains information about dozens of new contracts and procedures.
The most attractive auctions is the promotion of the project "Integrated Metropolitan Public Transport." Documents for participation in it may be submitted up until 22 May, and the estimated budget is over 140,000 levs. Slightly more than half of that money will go for slots or materials in local print media. There are a total of 24 such publications. There will be a total of 36 reports also on the central and local radio stations. At stake is also the organizing and conducting an information campaign on the Internet, including at least two posts and as many banners plus the development of a thematic project page. The campaign also includes three events - initial press conference announcing the project, a mid-term one - on the changes in public transport and a final conference to summarize the results. Further 5,000 information brochures will report on project results. There will be also stickers, banners, billboards, etc. Only on the direct broadcasts during the various stages of the project implementation and development of reports on the topics plus capturing a short film will be able to count on a budget of 62,000 levs.
The famous project for restoration and renovation of the park area of the National Palace of Culture will also pay for media coverage. The development of a television reporting material and 20 advertisements in national and local print media in the size of half a page sets aside 24,000 levs.
Dozens of tenders will be devoted to activities for information and publicity for the project "Improving the skills of staff and development of the administrative capacity of the municipal administration." Real effect may hardly be anyone noticeable at the meetings with local officials, but after spending a lot of money, and printing thousands of leaflets and numerous articles in the electronic and print media, one may think there are other contracts that have been concluded.
In Plovdiv, the country's second biggest city, there are also quite generous from the advertising costs. Although the city does not excel in the absorption of EU funds, mayor Ivan Totev has earmarked more than 400,000 levs for the printing of various promotional materials over the next 24 months. Additional 230,000 levs will go to "measures to effectively inform the public" for the integrated water project. There are reports in the media, events, development of printed and promotional materials such as brochures, promotional calendars, paper bags, folders, pens, notebooks, USB sticks and more. Again in the same way, but with significantly fewer resources will be advertised also the "Municipal District Administration - Improved Management Skills and Efficiency," "Education - Equal Start", "Building a youth center in Plovdiv" etc.
Speaking Burgas can not help but note that City Hall is "pulled" another 400,000 levs for posting ads, messages and other texts in national and regional newspapers and online media. Varna seaside city has prepared a staggering 994,000 levs on promotion of the local urban transport projects. Which one will take them we can learn as soon as the tender evaluation committee consideres candidates. Authorities in the seaside city are yet to sign a contract and tourism advertising in the media, funded by the Operational programmeRegional Development which will be worth 259,000 levs.
The Dobrich region has announced orders for various promotional activities for more than 110,000 levs. The otherwise little Sredets Municipality is planning to allocate over 97,000 levs to promote "Deultum - Gateway to the Mysterious Strandja". To highlight its achievements in the integration of minorities, the local government Vidin has 130,000 levs. Nearly 48,000 levs are preparing to be distributed in Gabrovo publicity on the project "Integrated project to build an attractive, affordable and green urban environment." And all these are only a fraction of the open procedures now. Many more have been made over the past few years.