Local media industry reels from lack of ad revenue, Covid-19 impact

Local media industry reels from lack of ad revenue, Covid-19 impact

News outlets squeezed as over half of annual advertising spending diverted to social media, notes comms minister

KOTA KINABALU – Communications and Digital Minister Fahmi Fadzil has expressed concern about the challenges faced by the media industry in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

He noted that many media practitioners have been laid off and have lost their jobs, primarily due to over half of the annual advertising spending of RM4.5 billion going to major social media platforms like Google, Meta, and TikTok in recent years.

This shift in advertising spending has made it challenging for traditional media outlets to offer journalists adequately, impacting the quality of journalism. He said that from his discussions with many media outlets over a year, some RM4.5 billion is spent on advertising.

“Unfortunately, in the past few years, between RM2 billion and RM2.5 billion of advertising spending has been diverted directly to three major social media platforms – Google, Meta, and TikTok.

“As a direct result, this has impacted not just Malaysian but also global media outlets, as they are unable to pay as well as they should, leading to a decline in the quality of journalism,” he explained.

Fahmi said this during the inauguration of the Kinabalu Press Awards 2023 here on Saturday.

Present were Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor, and Assistant State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Joniston Bangkuai, who is a trustee of Sabah Journalists Association (SJA) and its former president.

The current president of SJA, Datuk Muguntan Vanar, was also present.

Meanwhile, Hajiji emphasised the crucial role of media organisations in safeguarding the integrity of Sabah’s journalism industry by encouraging the younger generation to enter the field.

He expressed concern that many young individuals are not enthusiastic about pursuing journalism as a career due to unattractive salary packages.

“I understand that there are not many young people opting for a career in journalism,” he said.

“Perhaps it’s time for media organisations to offer competitive salaries and suitable incentives to attract more young talents in the future,” he said in his speech.

Covid-19’s impact on talent

Earlier, Muguntan expressed concern about the lack of fresh talent entering the media sector in Sabah following the pandemic. He highlighted the limited recruitment activities taking place within media organisations and the prevalence of part-time work, especially among national media outlets.

“The Covid-19 pandemic forced many media houses to downsize their workforce, implement pay cuts, and adopt cost-cutting measures. Even though the pandemic is behind us, the media industry continues to face difficulties.”

“Several national media organisations have closed their Sabah offices, leaving behind only a skeletal staff, with stringers or freelancers often filling the void. “Signs of local media owners hiring young reporters are also conspicuously absent,” Vanar said during his speech at the Kinabalu Press Awards.

Vanar also voiced the Sabah Journalists Association’s support for the establishment of a media council, emphasising that it would contribute to the development of a truly independent media, self-regulation, and fair reporting.

– The Vibes, October 29, 2023

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