President defends GINA ads sharing

-says went back to old policy

President Bharrat Jagdeo yesterday defended government’s policy on the placement of state advertisements in the daily newspapers and suggested that the administration has returned to the policy of placing ads based on the “seriousness” and the “content” of the newspapers.

During a press conference held at the Guyana Inter-national Conference Centre, Jagdeo was asked by this newspaper if he would comment on the issue of ad placement especially since the Guyana Times is receiving about 19 percent of the state ads even though it has been in business for just over a year.  The President said that he did not have a comment to make on the issue.

However, the Head of State later commented on the issue when pressed again by reporters. He was questioned about the fact that Guyana Times, which is believed to have a low circulation, has been attracting more state ads than the Kaieteur News which had originally been favoured when the government withdrew ads from Stabroek News for 17 months in November 2007.  He was also quizzed about the fact that the practice seemed to contradict a previous statement he made that the government was seeking value for money as it related to the placement of ads.

After asking about the circulation of the various newspapers, Jagdeo suggested that the issue demonstrated double standards of persons who had previously criticized the government for the way it dealt with the ads issue where it concerned the withdrawal of ads from the Stabroek News in 2007.

“What I find very funny, the same people who were arguing that it is not so much the circulation but the seriousness, the content of the paper….that’s why Stabroek News should benefit from part of the ads because government shouldn’t give it all to the entity that had the full support. They argued that, and yes, the government decided that we’re going to go back to that arrangement”, Jagdeo said.

He said that although it took the government seventeen months to do this, the decision was taken to give Stabroek News half of the ads allocated to the private media.

“The same people are arguing that circulation matters again…maybe if they are arguing that circulation is the thing then maybe everything should go and Stabroek shouldn’t get anything again” Jagdeo said.

Kaieteur News editor Adam Harris, who was present at the news conference, said that that newspaper was not “complaining” about the ads. “We’re not quarrelling about the ads, we’re not worried about that”, Harris emphasized after the President made his remarks.

Kaieteur News, however, recently published several articles in which they have outlined their concern about the distribution of ads.

Stabroek News has analysed the distribution of Government Information Agency (GINA) advertisements between April and September this year. In April when no GINA ads were going to GT, the apportioning of ads among the three daily newspapers, the Guyana Chronicle, SN and Kaieteur News was as follows: 37%, 34% and 29.3% respectively. In May this year, when Guyana Times started receiving ads, after being in business only since last year June, the distribution for the daily newspapers and the PPP-aligned weekly Mirror was as follows: Guyana Chronicle (GC) 34.7%, Stabroek News (SN) 21.3%, Kaieteur News (KN) 21.8%, Guyana Times (GT) 16.6% and the Mirror 5.4%.For September, the figures were GC 30.86%, SN 24.24%, KN 18.07%, GT 19.55% and the Mirror 7.26%

Over the period surveyed, the Guyana Chronicle averaged the highest figure of 32.7%, SN averaged 25.32%, KN 21.7% and GT 17.35%. Significantly GT moved from 16.6% in May to 19.55 % in September, while KN slid from 29.3% in April to 18.07% in September.

In a comment on               the President’s statement, Stabroek News Editor-in-Chief Anand Persaud said that President Jagdeo continues to evade the real issue which is what yardstick was used to determine that the Guyana Times, just over a year-old, was entitled to nearly 20% of state advertising. Persaud said he was unaware of any study of content or circulation strength which would have justified the awarding of that volume of advertisements to the Guyana Times. He said President Jagdeo should spell out clearly what method was used to decide the various ratios as taxpayers’ money must be expended in a manner that accords with prudence and transparency and not trifled with.

Further, Persaud said the President was for the first time acknowledging that a decision had been taken by the government to revert to the policy that existed prior to the cut-off of SN’s ads in 2007.

The Editor-in-Chief said that governance norms would have required the government to make a full disclosure on this about-turn and to explain its reasoning to taxpayers. Persaud said more and more it appears that the real policy was to advertise in the Guyana Times no matter what and this was the reason why advertising was resumed in SN. In an environment where there is increasing pressure on the government for transparency on various fronts, Persaud said the administration was in dire need of a more credible explanation for the distribution of ads.

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