T&T PM denies withholding state ads from media

(Trinidad Express) Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said yesterday that there was no Government policy to reward or withhold State advertising to media houses.

She was questioned on the matter yesterday at a news conference at the Office of the Prime Minister, St Clair.

Persad-Bissessar explained that there would be budgetary concerns, as this country’s media industry was large and growing.

“When you consider the number of media houses sometimes you come to a question of cost, we have 30- something radio stations, can the Government afford to advertise on 30-something-plus radio stations, so many TV stations, so many newspapers and so on and so decisions will be made within Ministries as to what is most appropriate given budgetary constraints,” she said.

Attorney General Anand Ramlogan, speaking on the issue with the media following the news conference elaborated further, saying that the choice of media house would depend on certain factors such as cost, quality and customer service.

“What would you go by to make that choice, what criteria would you employ as a customer? You would employ firstly, the price, secondly— the quality, thirdly­—the standard of the ad itself, many times you place an ad and the colour for the ad is outside of the frame in certain newspapers,” he said.

“You simply cannot advertise with every single media house otherwise you are going to bankrupt the Government,” he said, noting that the former PNM administration had engaged in “an avalanche” of State advertisements during its tenure.

The People’s Partnership Government, he said, has decreased the amounts spent on advertising.

Media houses, he said, need to “step up” their game in terms of quality.Asked whether circulations and ratings would not be key determining factors, Ramlogan said, “It certainly would be one of the factors but it would not be the only factor, the fact that you may have a station being rated number one, whilst that may be a very important consideration, it depends on the customer service, for example, you may be rated number one by viewership but if your customer service as in your ads department is poor then you are not going to inspire public confidence in the customer who has to place the ad.”

“I’ve personally experienced that when you placing an ad that the customer service you get sometimes, the feedback I get from my communications unit, the customer service varies greatly amongst the media houses,” he said.

Ramlogan said that there were no hidden agendas by any media house or by the Government.

Commenting on the issue during the news conference, president of the Trinidad and Tobago Publishers and Broadcasters Association (TTPBA) Kiran Maharaj said there was no evidence to show that State advertisements were deliberately being withheld, but she confirmed that there were informal talks of this which the TTPBA would address.

“I want to state that has always existed for every Government throughout the history of Trinidad and Tobago and there is no conclusive evidence to prove that while we have heard it, it is a matter that we have not taken to formally address to any Minister which we will do because yes you are right, we have had media houses express that but we have had no clear evidence of that,” she said.

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