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Workshop for Committed Volunteer Journalists: Rada Kistnasamy on Funding of Mainstream Newspapers


Rada Kistnasamy gave 4 groups of three participants each at Saturday 1 June’s LALIT “Workshop for Committed Volunteer Journalists”, a spot of work to do. He gave a copy of L’Express Friday before Mothers’ Day and Friday after Mother’s Day to each of two groups, and Defi Plus Saturday before Mothers’ Day and Saturday after Mothers’ Day (the day of the workshop, 1 June) to the two other groups. Then he gave them the tariffs for advertisements from business enterprises printed in the newspapers and also for “inserts” (often on shiny paper), and asked them to tot up the totals roughly.

All the participants were shocked at the massive income from a few capitalist companies, who literally “sponsor” the news and opinions of the publication in exchange for imposing their text and visuals on readers. We, in order to read news or serious views, have to subject ourselves to being manipulated by these advertisements. We are talking about hundreds of thousands of Rupees per day, even well over a million Rupees per day. In the run-up to a commercialized festival (in this case Mothers’ day) there is over Rs200,000 more income for each newspaper for that day.

The approximate figures are:

Before Mother Day

L’Express 24 May: Advertisements in the newspaper:          Rs 1,517,000 for the day.

Defi Plus 25 May: Advertisements in the newspaper:           Rs 1,448,000 for the day.

After Mother Day                  

L’Express 31 May : Advertisements in the newspaper:          Rs 1,313,000 for the day.

Defi Plus 1 June: Advertisements in the newspaper:             Rs 1,224,000 for the day.

(Please see Documents Section for more details on above figures)

 In the above figures we must add income derived from the glossy flyers inserted for private profit-making companies, and can be estimated to be some Rs 200,000 each – just for getting the “joy-ride” into our homes with the newspaper. In one of the publications, there were three of these supplements inserted, so it means an additional Rs 600,000 advertising revenue from capitalists.

This is in sharp contrast to LALIT’s publications, which have no advertisements, Rada Kistnasamy said. People then chatted briefly on the influence that there can be on the political line of a publication when it is so dependent on the class that rules the economy. One participant said any journalist, who is not foolish, knows what cannot be submitted as text, given this reality, without actual spoken censorship being necessary. Others said how private radio stations and even the government MBC TV are heavily controlled by advertisement revenue as well. This is, if anything, even more of an imposition on subscribers.

The world becomes upside down, in discussion it turned out. Journalists work is, then, to fill the spaces in-between advertisements. The need to “make a profit” for the share-holders was also discussed. This demands both advertisements and the tendency to be sensationalist, to titillate readers, and to shock people into buying the newspapers. It also means the Board would have to select an Editor, and other senior staff, with this in mind. The control of the State over content was also discussed, especially, but not only, for MBC TV and Radio which is totally muzzled.

The discussion part of the workshop was very lively, and quite an eye-opener to all of us participating.