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What Do Journalists Have Yo Do with Advertising?!

18 January 2017
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Ion Bunduchi, media expert
... When I am asked why I am preoccupied with advertising, I remember a poor policeman from Taraclia, who was asking journalists from the local television: “Who allowed you to write about this?!” (i.e. about a corruption case), as well a poor councilor from the Parliament, who addressed us a question/accusation when they learned about a draft law we elaborated: “Who allowed you to make laws?!”. It is not that we don’t have an answer. Often, we do not have to whom to answer to.

Let’s return to advertising so that we reduce the bewilderment, generated, as a matter of fact, by a workshop dedicated to advertising, which took place during the 2016 Media Forum. Let’s explain, partly academically, what are the benefits of media being preoccupied with advertising.

Media is an industry, however a specific one. It pursues not only obtaining profit, but also satisfying the information needs of citizens.

On the commodities market, media is offering content, i.e. information, opinions and entertainment, while on the services market – access of advertising suppliers to the audience it created. Mass-media content is offered in the form of newspapers, magazines, books, radio and TV shows, cable TV channels, video products, online media products etc. Content as a commodity is directed to the audience, which also represents the media consumers. The pluralism and diversity of media institutions pledges double benefits: information sources for consumers, as well as advertising. It is the market of content; thus, content competes. The presence of media on the commodities market is measured statistically, the statistical data serving as reference indicators, based on that advertising suppliers decide the position of advertisement placing.

On the services market, media is offering access to advertising suppliers to its audience. Advertising represents the main financing source for the media industry, even if media institutions, as advertising carriers, have different characteristics.

As an industry, media requires a complex approach, considering its social and economic functions. Economists consider that media directed to mass audience is an indispensable mechanism of the market economy, which influences sales and consumption. Political experts consider that media represents the key institution that forms the ideological and conceptual positions about the world for the contemporary individual.

The Mass-Media Forum could not ignore these and other aspects. It put these in discussion at the thematic workshop.

The debate revealed other issues, critical and very critical, including:

  • many media institutions do not perceive their activity as business;
  • many media institutions do not know the size/smallness of its audience, in order “to sell it” later at an adequate price, since measuring the audience is costly and moreover, it is not credible;
  • not every media institution respects the advertising legislation, either out of ignorance, knowingly, or due to the flaw of the law;
  • there is no exact data regarding the advertising market;
  • it is not clear why prices for advertising at 2 televisions with comparable ratings are incomparable;
  • it is not clear why, with a Competition Law, with a Competition Council (CC), we do not have fair competition and we do not know the extent of dominant positions on the market;
  • and many other whys, turned on all sides.

The workshop concluded with a series of recommendations for policy makers, aimed, speaking in key comments, to grant meaning to the good economic theory, when speaking about media and advertising, including:

  • to elaborate and adopt a new Law on Advertising;
  • to elaborate and adopt modifications and additions to the Competition Law that would limit the access of media, especially the audiovisual, to the advertising market; to prevent the emergence of dominant abusive positions on the market; to ensure an adequate development of the advertising market, as not to affect the media pluralism;
  • that CC adopts detailed regulations on the concentration of ownership in media;
  • that CC annually evaluates, by default, the advertising market and the concentration of ownership in media, and that this data is included in the annual report of the CC;
  • that CCA, in its annual activity report, evaluates the ownership of radio broadcasters and the market of audiovisual advertising;
  • that the „advertising” and „social advertising” notions and definitions of notions from the national legislation are revised;
  • that a national authority is established, which would have an expert role in the correctness of the advertising messages.

The article was published within the Advocacy Campaigns Aimed at Improving Transparency of Media Ownership, Access to Information and promotion of EU values  and integration project, implemented by the IJC, which is, in its turn, part of the Moldova Partnerships for Sustainable Civil Society project, implemented by FHI 360.

This article is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The content are the responsibility of author and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.