Shouldn't we have a fair share?

Kaieteur News

June 20, 2004

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Recently, when we celebrated our 10th anniversary as a newspaper, many took notice of the important role we have played in extending the frontier of press freedom in Guyana by providing varied, balanced and objective news, views and opinions.

President Bharrat Jagdeo was fulsome in his praise of our Managing Editor/Publisher Mr. Glenn Lall, for his perseverance and for making the enterprise of newspaper publication a success story.

Over these ten years, we have made determined efforts to give our readers what they want to read. We might not have provided the best there is to offer, but we responded to the public’s need and necessity with responsibility. In the end, we have been rewarded with the best boon any newspaper would wish for – increased circulation.

Today, we are the single largest newspaper in circulation in Guyana, and the only Guyana-based newspaper in circulation in North America!

For a newspaper such as ours to flourish we need a press, paper and ink. We need highly skilled, competent and dedicated editorial personnel and press floor employees. We need an efficient distribution network and wide circulation.

A newspaper is worthless without readers, like a pipe would be without tobacco. But sales form only a marginal fraction of a newspaper’s revenues. The lion’s share of revenues comes from advertisement.

Advertisement is key to our continued success and expansion. It is our life-blood.

Usually, a prospective advertiser would decide on ads placement, size of ads and frequency of appearance, on the circulation of this or that newspaper. This is part of the prudent norms that are applicable to personal, private sector or government business. They all insist on getting their money’s worth in the broadest dissemination of their message.

We have noted that the state, government and para-state agencies book out ads directly and through public relations agencies on almost a daily basis. The volume of ads that is controlled by this sector is indeed large.

Like the private business, government must insist that it gets worth for money and should therefore book out ads with newspapers such as ours on the basis of circulation and reach.

We do not need a forensic audit to determine which newspaper in Guyana has the largest circulation. But if this is needed, then let it be done.

We feel that we do not get the slice of the government’s ads pie that we deserve. Indeed, a forensic audit of how ads are booked out and distributed might reveal a shocking story of disproportionate and discriminatory allocation of state and state-related ads.

If this is so, then corrective measures should be taken. After all, the money being paid for advertisements is the taxpayer’s money, and the taxpayer wants not only accountability for expenditure, but wants to see a fair spread of such spending.

In this regard the spread of advertisement must not be based on patronage of rewarding sections of the media for loyalty or docility; or punishing others for dissent. It must not be allocated on the basis of political opportunism of being “nice” to critics. Advertisement must be distributed on the basis of a bottom-line: the papers with the biggest circulation get preferential consideration.

We do not agree that spending on advertisements should be used as a social bribe, but we dare say that even if the powers that be are tempted to place such spending on the “gravy train”, that train should also run on the broad and reliable track established by Kaieteur News.

We have noted the formation of a Parliamentary Committee dealing with the Social Sectors. We must include monitoring of the media and the allocation of advertisement on the menu of issues to be examined and reviewed by this Committee, and we are prepared to make submissions before it.

But for now, we hope that we have made out a case for a review of advertisement practices and ask that consideration be given to us for a fair share of these ads.