Who to carry forward PM’s advice?

Zahid Newaz Khan
Zahid Newaz Khan, Photo: Barta24.com

Zahid Newaz Khan, Photo: Barta24.com

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A state of media was exposed in front of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in her post-Brunei visit press conference at Gano Bhaban in Dhaka on April 26.

A senior television journalist, taking the opportunity of placing questions, raised the issue of television industry. A supplementary question on print media situation was raised by another journalist.

In reply, the Prime Minister advised the media to welcome and be habituated with online with changes in media industry in this digital era. “It’s the influence of time or technology. Such changes will be taking place either by the influence of technology or by modernism,” she said replying to the questioner who said that the print media industry is facing financial problem.

The PM did not keep her statement only to making advice, but also elaborated about the global print media industry.

“Many famous and prestigious newspapers faced closure due to development of technology. Some closed their operation totally, some shifted to only online operation. Many globally famous newspapers stopped their print edition, many operate online edition only. They don’t use papers at all,” she said.

The Prime Minister told the journalists that changes will be taking place due to technology. “Technology open up news window of scopes. It has some negatives aspects, too. But, if we can exploit it properly, there is nothing to be worried.”

The 72-year-old PM’s statement on one side indicates how much the top level of the government is keen to lead the country parallel to the pace of technology and modernism, and on the other side it shows how much our media industry is still lacking in exploiting the full benefits of digital operations in the present world.

If you talk about digital, some people will come up with the complaints of mushrooming of online news sites. It is true that such sites have mushroomed and the number is increasing every day. As internet gives you the scope to run a site even single handedly, the number of sites will increasingly rise. But, it all depends on quality of contents and again the basic of journalism-- ethical practice. If your content is reliable, has timeliness, different from others, even a one-man show can be a top specialised site. A former AOL content developer from Berlin runs a site on jogging and profits by advertisements from companies like Ray Ban, Reebok and Adidas.

Obviously, your contents have to be that standard to have audiences and attract revenues.

A study shows that the global print media lost its advertisement share from 22.4 percent in 2009 to 10.1 percent in 2019. On the other hand, digital platforms at present have a share of 38.9 percent of global advertisement revenue which was 17.2 percent in 2009. Although the global TV industry is not that affected in terms of revenues (38.3% share in 2009 and 35.9% share in 2019), it is being affected otherwise--people are watching live from smart phones and TV sets are being used to watch contents from other sources like YouTube and Netflix.

Added to that, Bangladesh’s TV industry has more headache. One thing is that they do not get any revenue from the audience and another is that major companies shifted their 30 percent advertisements from TV and newspapers to digital platforms.

Bangladesh’s TV industry perhaps will be able to maintain a standard revenue earnings by having fees from clients if they are able to operate digitally as well as from earnings from digital platforms-- be it their own apps or social media. We are watching that television channels are trying their best. But, what’s about the print media? Yes, they are also focusing more and more on digital operations.

So, mushrooming of news sites is not a problem. Here we can take the number of newspapers right at this moment in Bangladesh. The Prime Minister herself mentioned that the figure is 700. If you do not know names of more than 50, there is no problem if the number of sites is 7,000. At the end of the day, audience is the ultimate judge. They will decide who will exist and who won't.

Here we want to draw attention about a major challenge the online media is going to face in near future. That is skilled manpower. Our journalism departments in different universities have to comprehensively contemplate about developing capable human resources to carry forward journalism in the new era.

Our Prime Minister, who in that press conference on a number of occasions reminded that she is the oldest one in politics, rightly advised the media about the future. But, our universities are not in that line. It is not a matter of obliging, it is a matter of necessity and adaptation to the changes that has been shaping the global news scenario as per the demand of readers and audiences who are consuming news in diverse platforms.

Zahid Newaz Khan is Chief News Editor (CNE) of Channel i and Editor of Channel i Online.