The Liberian media has been challenged to partner with the business community as a viable option to enhance the financial viability of both. This was raised during the 6th session of the Media Market Forum for Liberia held at a resort in Sinkor yesterday.
The forum is a working group which includes implementers, media owners, advertisers, academics and advertising agencies. The February session of the forum attracted 55 participants, including Mr Jacob Jallah, Assistant Minister of Information Cultural Affairs and Tourism (MICAT), representatives from the
Ministry of Commerce and Industry, the Governance Commission, various business associations, business people and a handful of journalists from the various media houses.
The objective of the meeting is to enhance the understanding of audience research and its importance in making informed decisions, which would enable media outlets to flourish by better satisfying their audiences and stakeholders, generating income and enhancing financial sustainability.
The event organizer, Tawedzegwa Musitini, who is also the Business Strategy Advisor for Internews Liberia Media Development Program, presented the latest GeoPoll media ratings for Liberia.
His presentation focused on helping the various media outlets know their audience sizes and preferences and said if used properly, the information will help media outlets to improve their programs and ultimately enhance their financial sustainability.
Musitini’s presentation summarized radio listenership and television viewership across different geographical locations in Liberia, broken down by the age and gender of the audience. The data and accompanying analysis equipped stakeholders with an improved understanding of media audiences and market trends.
Speaking on the theme “The Need for Financially Sustainable Media in Liberia,” the President of the Press Union of Liberia, Charles Cuffey, said Liberian journalists and media owners are among the poorest in the world. He said the media’s financial position in Liberia is so bad that even traditionally non-commercial outlets such as the state sponsored Liberia Broadcasting System (LBS) and UNIMIL radio are not spared, as they also struggle to raise money other than their mainstream funding.
The financial position of the media in Liberia is worsened by the fact that too many media outlets are trying to share a very small cake, he said. One of the options suggested by the PUL President is the merger of media institutions. Cuffey was particularly concerned about the reliability of several radio stations established by politicians.
Mr Edward C. Belleh Sr., Director, Bureau for Small Business Administration responsible for access to finance in the Ministry of Commerce & Industry, clarified the critical role of media in the development of SMEs in Liberia. Although SMEs face many challenges, including access to finance, managerial deficiencies, among others, Belleh pointed out that poor information dissemination is one of the factors hindering the competitiveness and growth of SMEs in Liberia.
In many cases people make important decisions either with insufficient information or wrong information, he said, and gave an example of the recently enacted Small Business Act, which sets aside at least 25 percent of all government procurement for Liberian businesses as one of the opportunities which many Liberian businesses, particularly SMEs, can take advantage of, but are not aware of.
He urged the media to consider not only getting advertising income from businesses but also to pass out business information relevant to the private sector.
The event was also attended by internationally recognised broadcasting and media specialist Steve Ahern, who spoke about the global future of media with emphasis on Liberia, and shared several strategies which the media and business communities in Liberia can use to increase their income. As a world expert on radio and new trends in broadcasting, Ahern shared his world experience gained from a forty-year career in media in different countries.