Saturday, December 17, 2005

MY OPINION on Advertising, Money and the Media

It is seen by many as making a pact with the devil- information media financing itself by selling advertising space to businesseses big and small and in turn only encoding their messages to the seemingly gullible public which contain nothing bad about those who advertise with them.

This seems all well and good until the trust is broken by the media company and they don't report on the illegal or harmful practices of a business who sponsors them. I remember when I took over as editor Activate, one of my executive staff who is an ardent "activist" against the corporate power structure in the world today voiced strong concerns over the fact that we are expanding the paper in order to increase advertising space and thus hopefully our print run. What she quickly came to understand is that we need advertisers to buy space in our newspaper, otherwise we go under and can't print none of our messages would get out.

What many people don't realise though is that advertising in newspapers has been around for a long long time. Newspapers used to be sold to cover expenses way back in th 17 and 1800s. They were not in the so-called objective guise they are today, newspapers back then were run with an express purpose of encoding messages to promote the cause of particular groups in society, some would argue that nothing has changed. It turned out that the lower classes were starting newspapers in order to make their plight known and to bring about liberal changes in the countries they lived in. To the landed gentry this would not do at all so they decided to move the goal posts and started their own newspapers which they used to sell advertising to the emerging middle class of merchants and professionals. This increased revenue allowed them to not only print more newspapers than their lower-class rivals but also to fix the prices of their publications at one much lower than the local preassure group "rag".

This forced many newspapers to go out of business or adapt in order to survive. But those which adpated had to change their target markets because the money was in the middle-class and not in the lower classes- the newspaper's previous target market. Thus this saw the death of a newspaper for the poor masses turning them essentially back into bumpkins of the highest order, like the serfs of old, too busy toiling for their survival to notice what was going higher up in the political and macro-economic spheres. This tragedy was soon seen when the introduction of modern Democracy was brought about, people simply could not vote for the correct candidate...because they didnt know any better.

I endevour to use South Africa as an example if I may. The newspapers with the biggest circulations behave in the abovementioned manner- they target the upper and middle classes because that is where the money is. The Sowetan, the hallowed black daily newspaper in South Africa, has the largest daily circulation while newspapers like the Sunday Times have the largest circulation for weekly newspapers. The ANC government continues blunder its way through running this country, in my opinion at least, yet they win almost every time in all the elections, by-elections, municipal elections and any other election you care to name. It can thus be said that the majority of people in South Africa are kind to the ANC and are giving them lots of chances to redeem themselves, NOT TRUE! I sincerely believe that if democracy truly worked in South Africa, the ANC would be on its ear before you could say Jacob Zuma or Petrol Shortage. The majority of South Africans are voting ANC because they dont know any better and need to be educated and it is up to the media to do that- it is the news media's duty in society to do that...but often, due to financial constraints, it cant because that isnt where the money is.

One can only shrug and sigh when a corrupt mayor sits behind a barricade, while the citizens he was appointed by riot in his streets and throw petrol bombs and call for his resignation, and says "The ANC will win the municipal election...again" and they do because those rioting dont see the bigger picture because they cant. The scenes in many small dorpies especially in Mpumalanga and the Northwest look like they did in Apartheid- no go areas with barricades and downed powerlines, burning tires and angry residents who actually hold the power for change in their votes.

Heck, if I ran a newspaper which catered for the poor, I would'nt even have to lie about what the ANC has done and what it has failed to do. I could still be highly objective and report on the "good" things which the ANC has done although I am willing to bet my last Kruger Rand that it would be a struggle to find them.

But now I see the lower classes have a newspaper, its called Die Son and is gurenteed to ensure that they do not get any wiser about the political situation in the country and how they can change it, its just sex, scandal and sport to steal the pay-off line on a Cape Town tabloid which shall remain nameless. The lower classes need meaningful news dealing with meaningful ways of making a difference...not who has raped who or how much money someone stole from some BEE deal.