Media boom or bust

Posted: August 10, 2010 in No- nonsense

Absolutely contradictory, isn’t it?  One hand offers endless expanse of opportunities and the other takes it all. It’s a wily move, juxtaposing two that will not go together very well. It’s an art (of war) policy makers are perfecting these days.

Media industry is on the roll. And it’s gathering the moss, every which way. Newspapers, magazines, and FM radio channels have sprouted like spring flowers. In abundance within a short span of time. The latest entrant – a sports magazine called Tak. Thanks to the post-democracy liberalized media policies of the government. Thanks to the overwhelming emphasis laid on the fourth estate. Thanks to the advent of democracy itself.

The government’s two advertisement policies may however pose significant problems for the media. Up till now media had a reliable source of ads in government institutions. Each one had a bite of the pie, small and big, nonetheless. What the new policies could possibly do now is make the small bite even smaller.

The private media is at the receiving end. They barely started few years ago. And even as these policies are out, some more media organizations may join the bandwagon. The market will only grow smaller with time. Some media will have to close shop. Hail the fourth estate!

There are enormous possibilities of government interference. Actually, it already did. Advertisements will be given to media houses that promote the values of Gross National Happiness. This is not a choice, it’s an ultimatum. The policy sets conditions. Should all media house start reporting on GNH? Let’s call it the GNH media. All good!

What the media will write or not write is for itself to decide. News has a value and according to its weight, it gets the space. ‘Monitoring the tone and coverage’ of Bhutanese media sounds coming down hard, and the bait is advertisement.  Take it or leave it?

Let the market force decide it all. Circulation and readership will decide who gets what and how much. Each media house will have to beef up its distribution system, reach and readership. They will have to improve their content quality, if ads must come.

The advertisement policy sounds like a political gambit, a subtle way to bring the media to task, while at the same time promoting the façade that media is given due importance. There is no level playing field. The new media houses, most of them, are struggling to barely meet the monthly expenses. Notwithstanding the daily trials and tribulations, the media is trying hard. To minimize errors, to upgrade quality, to avoid sounding menacingly overbearing.

Both in terms of infrastructure and human resource, they are lagging behind. They are small and struggling. The government’s decision of this kind will have far reaching implications on them. In the end, media is not just a business. It is the messenger of truth.

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