Vol. 5 Num 286 Thu. March 17, 2005  

Govt Advertisement Policy
'Bring transparency to distribution system'
The government must bring transparency to the advertisement distribution system and take steps to check corruption at the Department of Films and Publications (DFP), which distributes government ads among the newspapers, said senior media persons and academics at a dialogue yesterday.

A corrupt group, both in and outside the DFP, eats up crores of public money by issuing the bulk of the government advertisements to a set of hardly known newspapers, they said.

The Mass-line Media Centre and the weekly Shaptahik 2000 organised the dialogue on the 'government advertisement policy' at the National Press Club.

"Out of 178 dailies published from Dhaka, 150 are rarely seen," said Golam Mortoza, executive editor of Shaptahik 2000, in his keynote paper. People do not even know their names and the circulation figure of such paper does not cross one-hundred mark, he added.

But these papers get government advertisements worth Tk 16.84 crore a year while 20 frontline national dailies earn only Tk 10.90 crore in this purpose, he said.

According to the advertisement policy of the information ministry, Mortoza said, a Dhaka-based daily having a circulation figure of less than 6,000 will not be entitled to enjoy government advertisements.

"But a hardly known newspaper gets 30-inch government advertisements a day," he said.

Such papers include Bangajanani, Ajker Protyasha, Ajker Jibon, Gonomukti, Ittesal, Amal, Kishan, Ghoshana, Janatar Mancha, Nobo Abhijan, Noya Jamana, Satyachar, Nawroz, Bhorer Kontha, Khola Kagoj, Ajker Padma, Dhakar Dak, Sonar Alo, Satyer Alo, Sabuj Nishan, Jonopad, Ajana, Ishtekhlal, Swadhin Bangla, Bhorer Akash and Bangladesh Protidin, said Mortiza.

And more than 80 such papers are published from one multi-storey building located in the city's Purana Paltan area, he pointed out.

Though unknown to common people, the Ajker Protyasha and the Ajker Jibon received 5759 inches and 4828 inches of advertisements respectively in December and January last, he said.

Mortoza said two groups backed by the ruling party stalwarts are active in the DFP who dominate the distribution process.

The corruption at the DFP not only facilitates channelling a huge amount of public money through providing government advertisements to such hardly known papers, but also hampers the country's overall development activities, said Mahfuz Anam, editor of The Daily Star.

The important government tenders published in these papers do not come to the notice of the public, virtually undermining the country's development issue, he said.

"Corruption in development programmes begins with the issuance of advertisements to such papers," said Monzurul Ahsan Bulbul, executive editor of the daily Sangbad.

He suggested formulating clearly drawn broader guidelines for government advertisements and that the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) should be constituted with representatives from government, editors, publishers and the journalist community.

The corruption at DFP is just a glimpse of the widespread corruption in every sphere of society, said Prof Serajul Islam Chowdhury, who chaired the dialogue.

He said that mobilisation of public opinion against the government malpractice and transparency and self-scrutiny of the frontline media organisations are equally crucial for an overall fair practice in the industry.

Journalist Gias Kamal Chowdhury demanded formation of a press commission, a parliamentary debate on the old commission reports and formation of a small newspapers' association and advertisement allocation for specialised publications.

Journalist Khondakar Ali Ashraf, AP bureau chief Farid Hossain, Dr Asif Nazrul and Shamim Reza also spoke at the dialogue, moderated by MMC Executive Director Kamrul Hasan Monju.

Prof Serajul Islam Chowdhury speaks at a dialogue on 'Government Advertisement Policy' at the National Press Club in the city yesterday. PHOTO: STAR