A vibrant and independent media is a media that is financially independent. Thus the media here cannot boast of any vibrancy and true independence when it is faced with series of challenges major amongst them financial! If you keep the media poor, you control its independence.
Many people here, including NGOs blamed the poverty in the media on poor management skills demonstrated by media heads and executives. However, while it is true that some of the media institutions here are poorly manage, there are some, such as the New Dawn with a good management team and accounting system in place.
So, the overly exaggerated and much trumpeted notion that the poverty in the media can be traced to poor management is not entirely true. The sustainability of any institution depends on its financial viability and of course good management and we totally agree.
We also truly share the view that if a business firm is to continue its operations, it must be able to first of all breakeven and thereby maximize profit. If said firm is unable to maximize profit or least of all breakeven, it soon fold-up from the scene and become a failed enterprise. Such is the story of many media institutions here. They are unable to breakeven, least we say maximize profit.
There are arguments though that the poverty in the media can also be traced to the proliferations of media houses (newspapers and radio stations) chasing after few advertisements. But we should also agree that there are some with good business plans and very serious ones that are here to stay.
The bitter truth about this is that nobody here wants to see a vibrant and financially sound media that will be independent. It may sound hash but that’s the truth. You may say prove it and the proofs are all over the place.
The government as we said in the previous edition will have you believe that it believes in a vibrant and independent media but the truth of the matter is it doesn’t. It has continued to strangulate it and has succeeded in many instances.
For example how can you owe a media institution for more than a year as in the case of the Gender Ministry which was mentioned in the previous edition? How do you expect the institution to pay its bill or creditors as well as staff?
People complain about yellow journalism or blackmailing by media practitioners here. But what they failed to realize is that when people advertised and don’t pay it is impossible for employees to be paid. And these employees have wives and families; they also have bills to pay.
This is why many of the practitioners find it impossible to resist the handouts from public officials because they must survive and this is how the government wants it to be!
We agreed that the Executive branch of government is no doubt a major advertiser but is very delinquent in paying for its advertisement spots. How can you advertise before you start looking for allotment? What happens to the media line item in the budget of various ministries and agencies?
Take for example the National Oil Company of Liberia or NOCAL with its oil money is indebted to this paper to the tune of US2, 750.00 since November 2011. There is so far no effort as far as we are concern to settle this amount. Authorities at NOCAL continue to inform our business office that payment is not ready.
The Liberia Teacher Training Program or LTTP a donor funded organization is indebted to this paper in the amount of over US5000 since September 2011 to December 2011. Others are the Liberia Maritime Authority US600 since 2010.
The LMA has since stop transacting with this paper but is yet to settle its indebtedness. The Environmental Protection Agency US 600 incurred since 2010 plus current bills. The Sister Mary Laurene Committee which was set up in November 2011 by President Sirleaf to investigate the November 7 riot is indebted to this paper in tune of US600.
The Committee has folded up and efforts to get payment have become impossible. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs since December 2011 is yet to pay US900 and the list goes on.
To be continued.