Papers with ‘rubbish’ news to lose ads

Published on Jan 27 2010 // Media Monitor
By Sonam Pelden

Private newspapers say that a circulation audit will see them losing out to old players in the market in terms of government ads

Soon, newspapers with more contents of gross national happiness (GNH) and other national priorities may land up getting more government advertisements than those who run posters of Hollywood actors and give “rubbish” news.

The secretary of the Ministry of Information and Communication (MOIC), Dasho Kinley Dorji, made the statement with a question: “Why would the government be obligated to serve papers with rubbish news?”

He made the statement in the wake of the government trying to come up with an advertisement policy which would provide a guideline for government agencies to give their ads to the appropriate media.

The ad policy will largely be based on the findings of a circulation audit that will be conducted for all local media organizations by the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) based in Mumbai, India. While the audit is on, ABC will also be training Bhutanese on the field.

Dasho Kinley Dorji said the circulation audit would encourage advertisers to focus on quality and the content of the paper, which would be the most important part in giving out the advertisement to the media.

The audit will reveal the circulation figures and the reach of the six newspapers, four radio stations and one television station in the country. It will also study the print run, distribution figures and the actual sale of newspapers. All these information can then be used by advertisers to direct their ads to the media that reache the target audience. “Advertisers should know which media reaches the targeted audience and the circulation audit will help them find that out,” said Dasho Kinley Dorji.

He added that government cannot continue distributing ads to all media houses equally as it entails a huge cost on the government budget. He had said earlier that ads cannot be given as “kidu” to media houses.

Ads are the main source of revenue for the media and 80% of the ads in the market today come from the government. With media organizations complaining about sustainability in the past, the government had issued a circular to distribute all government ads equally to all the media.

Because of the circular, there were instances where government agencies ran out of their ad budget before the end of the year. Dasho Kinley Dorji said such a practice cannot continue and deserving media houses should be getting the ads.

Dasho Kinley Dorji said all media organizations, whether old or new, have to compete with each other for ads which will be determined by the circulation audit.

It has however drawn scepticism that the circulation audit will in advertently favour old players in the market, like Kuensel in terms of newspapers which was established by the government in 1967 under full subsidy.

The opposition leader, Tshering Tobgay, in his blog said, “I’m concerned that the ‘circulation audit’ will be used to formulate an ‘advertisement policy’ that would excessively favour government advertisements for media agencies having a bigger reach.” He also said that the government “should also consider the amount of subsidies that have already been given to Kuensel and BBS.”

The editor of Bhutan Observer, Needrup Zangpo, said the concern is valid. He agreed that among newspapers, Kuensel will have the biggest circulation and thus the biggest reach and the audit will only authenticate it. “The private newspapers will lose out to Kuensel and that is why the original proposal for an ad policy came from Kuensel.” However, he agreed that the circulation audit is the only way to move ahead as it is necessary.

The executive chairman and editorial advisor of Bhutan Times, Wangcha Sangay agreed that Kuensel will always have an upper hand if such an audit is conducted. He added that if the circulation and the reach of a media house govern the outflow of government ads then the print media may lose out as the reach of radio and television is greater than that of newspapers.

The editor of Kuensel, Phuntsho Wangdi, said “It won’t make much difference, as the media scene in our country is changing rapidly.”

About the concern, Dasho Kinley Dorji said the circulation audit is not to benefit any particular media organizations and added that it will be a service to the society to ensure that the right media carry the right information to the people. He added that the circulation audit is not a new trend and is conducted all over the world.

After the ad policy is in force, Dasho Kinley Dorji said government agencies will have to budget out their ads according to the number of ads they have in a year.
(Business Bhutan, January 23, 2010)