Are there too many Newspapers
How many newspapers are there in Bangladesh?
Frankly, nobody really knows. There is of course the official figure.
That is based on those who have taken government's permission. But
how many of them are actually being published regularly, how many
irregularly, and how many are just in name and are seldom, if ever,
published are not really known. It will be a wonder if the government
knows the whole story. If we go for the weeklies and monthlies the
picture is even more blurred.
Personally I think it's a very good
thing that we have so many newspapers. We can actually take pride
that so many newspapers and weeklies are coming out in our country.
In terms of daily newspapers published from any particular city
Dhaka could easily top the world. Compared to the US where one or
two newspapers per city is the norm ours look heavenly in terms
of the varieties of views that we are open to. After the fall of
Marcos Manila boasted of having more than 100 dailies regularly
coming out from the city. After that I know of no other city that
can match the journalistic scene of Dhaka.
So what is the secret? Why are there
so many newspapers here? Equally surprising thing is that it is
not stopping. Almost every few months there is one additional daily
to look forward, and there are talks of some more in the offing.
Former finance minister S.A.M.S. Kibria, talking to representatives
of newspapers owners who had gone to him asking for an enhancement
of government advertisement rates wondered aloud “the newspaper
industry must be among the most profitable otherwise why should
so many people invest in this sector.” On the face of it his logic
was impeccable and one, to which, I am still to find an answer.
Except for the cases of a few, the industry is not a money spinner.
Yet there are so many players in it.
“Let thousand flowers bloom” is how
we feel about the rising number of newspapers. I think it is a sign
of our growing sense of freedom and also an indication of how we
love to express our views. The more newspapers, more the different
voices and more is the possibility that from our differences some
common wisdom will emerge. This is what I think and would like to
But diversity of views is not the only
question associated with a newspaper. If journalists are to be paid
the wage board salary and given a reasonable working conditions
then every newspaper must earn a minimum profit or at least earn
as much as its spends. For that to happen, every newspaper must
be as strong in management as it is in its journalistic work. We
think it can be said without much fear of contradiction that compared
to the growth of our newspapers we haven't had a commensurate growth
of newspaper management. In fact most of the newspapers have no
proper management structure and are definitely far removed from
the entire modern concepts and practices that exist elsewhere.
Part of the reason for this is that
most of our newspapers continue to be small with limited circulation
and limited profitability, if any at all. Those few papers that
have become big did not bring about the necessary modern management
structures that are necessary for their further growth. In fact
their archaic management could be said to be the reason as to why
they haven't grown further. The message here is that newspaper owners
must modernise their management structure if they want their newspapers
More important than growth in the numbers
of newspapers is the growth in their the quality. We are afraid
that quality of most of our newspapers leaves much to be desired.
Because there has been a proliferation of newspapers many people
have entered this profession without the necessary qualifications.
Here some of the employers are also guilty of not paying sufficient
salary to attract the best talents from the market. It is true that
newspapers cannot compete with the corporate world in attracting
the recruits but if we are not ready to pay even the wage board
salary then how can we expect to attract and keep talented and honest
journalists in the profession. The whole thing therefore revolves
around better management, better earning and higher pay and facilities
for journalists. On the side of journalists they must become better
qualified and far more meticulous in their job than at present.
We conclude with a word of caution.
We think because there are so many newspapers and because not all
of them are as rigorous about quality and ethics as the profession
calls for, readers are beginning to question the overall situation
and in some select cases, losing confidence in the media's positive
role. We must remember that public confidence is our biggest and
the only resource. If some of us lose it then indirectly it reflects
on all of us. Yes, readers will no doubt distinguish between the
good and the bad yet a smear on any one newspaper does rub off on
all others. We see no harm in having so many newspapers. In fact
we see it as a blessing, but only if we adhere to professionalism
and ethics. Otherwise it may turn out to be a curse.