Stabroek News was affected by its own action to blockade government advertisements

September 30, 2019

The Department of Public Information takes note of an article appearing in the Sunday Stabroek of September 29th headlined “DPI cuts state ads in Stabroek News”.

DPI rejects this article as wholly erroneous, misleading and mischievous. DPI presents the unvarnished facts and leaves the public to draw their own conclusions.

FACT ONE

NEWSPAPER ADVERTISING PLACEMENTS FOR 2019

DPI has paid a total of $177,114,612 in newspaper advertisements payments to the four daily newspapers for the period January 1 to September 19, 2019. Of this amount Stabroek News received $51,780,354 and the state owned Guyana Chronicle received $43,753,162. Stabroek News received a 29 per cent of the payments made for newspaper advertising for 2019.

For 2019, Stabroek News received $8,027,192 more than Guyana Chronicle in payments.

FACT TWO

NEWSPAPER ADVERTISING PLACEMENTS – JUNE 2015 TO SEPT 2019

For the period June 1, 2015 to September 19, 2019, GINA/DPI paid a total of $816,380,884 in newspaper advertising to the four daily newspapers. Of this amount, Stabroek News received payments of $196,121,278, representing 24 per cent.

Attached graphs illustrate all payments made.

FACT THREE

WHOPPING INCREASE IN GOVT ADVERTISEMENTS FOR SN

Under the Coalition Government GINA/DPI advertising payments to Stabroek News moved from $8million in 2015 to a whopping $57.3million in 2018.

Stabroek News was on course to an even higher figure for 2019 until it interrupted the flow of government advertising by imposing a blockade starting June 1, 2019. Stabroek News impaired its own ability to receive government advertising. At no time did DPI advise Stabroek News in any manner of any intention to reduce or cease booking of advertising with the newspaper. It was the newspaper which refused to take government advertising.

FACT FOUR

STABROEK NEWS IMPOSED BLOCKADE OF GOVERNMENT ADVERTISEMENTS

DPI was conducting business as usual with Stabroek News without any issue. However on May 22, 2019 Stabroek News wrote to DPI advising that as of June 1, 2019 it will “cease all ad placements” (see letter attached).

This was unprecedented and effectively resulted in Stabroek News, by its own action, and of its own free will and volition blocking government advertisements from its newspaper.

DPI did not complain at the time, complied with the Stabroek News blockade and advised all government advertisers of Stabroek News’ position.

SPURIOUS REASON FOR SN BLOCKADE OF GOVERNMENT ADVERTISEMENTS

DPI viewed this action by Stabroek News as high-handed, irresponsible and malicious. It is now enormously strange that Stabroek News seeks to make the case that it is the government which has miniaturised advertising in the newspaper. It was the newspaper itself which stopped and blocked government from advertising in it.

The reason provided by Stabroek News for blockade against government advertisements is spurious. The newspaper claimed that it was blocking government advertisements because of outstanding payments. This is ludicrous as the newspaper’s account at the time ($22,118,485) was not unusual and other newspapers have routinely had larger outstanding amounts. No newspaper has ever imposed a blockade on government advertising as a result.

The action taken by Stabroek News was unnecessary, arrogant, unilateral, punitive and high-handed. Payments are expeditiously made to the newspapers for advertisements as monies are received from the various government ministries that use DPI to book advertisements. The bulk of the advertising placed by DPI is on behalf of these ministries and not from DPI’s budget. DPI served merely as a booking agent.

There is a cyclical flow of payments and the accounts from time to time build up as a result of cash flow and other factors. These backlogs are cleared once funds are available and there is hardly ever a lengthy backlog of payments.

In addition Stabroek News receives large volumes of advertising from some government ministries, agencies and departments which do not book advertising through DPI. This means Stabroek News’ income from government advertisements is even higher that the figures quoted above and as illustrated in the attached charts.

SN BLOCKADE RESULTED IN GOVERNMENT SEEKING ALTERNATIVE SOURCES TO ADVERTISE

Once the payments were cleared during the normal cyclical flow, Stabroek News then wrote DPI to advise that it will resume receiving orders for government advertising (letter attached). DPI did not receive requests for placement of advertisements for Stabroek News on as regular a basis as before the blockade or for prominent placement in Stabroek News.

This is directly as a result of Stabroek News’ own action, not DPI’s or the government’s. Stabroek News triggered a series of events which exposed its own lack of reach among the Guyanese citizenry and it is now crying foul.

Secondly, DPI specifically and government generally begun to explore other avenues of reaching the public. Digital media and radio advertising in particular came into focus. To compensate for advertising which Stabroek News blocked, DPI began advising ministries to place and increase advertising placements with various radio stations and digital media outlets along with television stations. DPI believes that given the vast reach of both digital media and radio government is receiving greater value on these platforms.

Stabroek News, in its typically arrogant manner, seems to believe that once it indicated that it had lifted its blockade that advertisements must resume immediately in full flow as if it alone is entitled to government advertising. No consideration was given to the fact that during the period of the blockade DPI and government would seek alternative means of advertising in the ever enlarging media world. In any event it will take some time following the lifting of the blockade for the normal flow of advertising to resume.

Nevertheless, several advertisements from DPI itself; the ministries of Public Infrastructure, Legal Affairs and Public Security; Central Housing and Planning Authority, Maritime Administration and River Defence Department have been placed with Stabroek News via DPI during the period July to September post-blockade.

Further as part of the process triggered by Stabroek News’ high-handed blockade, DPI has reviewed the placement of newspaper advertising and has been advising ministries that based on all the available information, advertising in all four daily newspapers is not a mandatory or legal requirement. The requirement favours advertisements in only two print media.

DPI has advised ministries that advertisements would be placed in two newspapers – Guyana Chronicle (as the state owned newspaper) and on a rotational basis with one of the other newspapers along with television, radio and digital media. There is a diversification of government advertising to include all media, not just newspapers. This system has commenced and as the newspaper with the widest daily circulation Kaieteur News has received the bulk of the rotation thus far. Stabroek News is included in the rotation and has been receiving advertising as outlined above.

Given the evolving nature of media and the rapid expansion of access to information by the public on digital media platforms, it is incumbent on all advertisers, including government, to adjust and modify the manner in which advertising is placed (i) for maximum benefit and (ii) to ensure that all media share in the government advertising pie and not mainly newspapers only.

HEIGHTENING OF SN CAMPAIGN AGAINST GOVERNMENT

DPI views the Stabroek News article as a heightening of the newspaper’s campaign against the government. Its regular attacks against the administration is known, and DPI has confirmed that Stabroek News has previously refused to accept advertisements from the Ministry of the Presidency unless the newspaper was paid upfront (which is a highly unusual practice). Additionally, DPI has also confirmed that the newspaper had advised the Ministry of the Presidency that it is not the policy of the newspaper to publish press releases from MOTP, even though the newspaper is known to routinely publish press releases from other entities and sometimes do so unedited and in full.

NO REMOVAL OF ADVERTISING

DPI assures the public that there is no removal of government advertising from any newspaper. There is no evidence whatsoever to support the false allegation that the government was stifling the free press. Any claims to that effect are erroneous, malicious and self-serving.

Finally, upon receipt of the letter from Stabroek News Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo who holds the portfolio for Public Information, requested a detailed explanation from DPI. The explanation, as above, was being prepared and is now provided publicly.

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