A new report indicates that Gupta-owned paper The New Age (TNA) benefitted "disproportionately" from ad spend in 2016, amaBhungane revealed on Thursday in a report published by Daily Maverick.
The report quoted a report by global market research firm Nielsen shows that TNA benefitted from R46-million's worth of ad spend by government and public institutions in the year ending October 2016, with the North West and Free State contributing the most.
The North West reportedly spent 45 percent of its total print advertising budget on TNA ad space, while the Free State spent almost 50 percent of its budget on the ads. The Northern Cape and Mpumalanga spent 19 percent and 7.8 percent of their advertising budgets on TNA, respectively.
Other provinces' ad spends were minimal in comparison, ranging from 0-5 percent.
According to amaBhungane, the ad spend spending patterns reflect increased numbers by provinces thought to be closely aligned to President Jacob Zuma and by extension, the Gupta family.
The North West government reportedly denied that its ad spend was related to links to the Guptas, while the Free State did not respond to amaBhungane's written questions. The Free State reportedly has especially strong links with the Guptas, having allegedly supported Gupta-linked projects in the past.
The North West government told amaBhungane that the province had spent 20 percent of its total print advertising budget on TNA.
But amaBhungane reported that this was unusual for a paper with a small footprint. TNA refuses to be audited by the Auditing Bureau of Circulations. Marketing experts told amaBhungane that advertisers tend to "steer clear" of TNA because of a lack of clarity about its real sales and readership figures.