Journalists always speak about the ‘independence’ of media houses, brushing off any insinuations of bias and compromise. In other words, it is all well with the media houses. Till it comes to doing business!
Most, if not all media houses in sub-Saharan Africa survive on advertising and in Uganda, over the past 20 years the biggest private sector advertiser has been Sudhir Ruparelia and his business empire comprising of among others subsidiaries like Crane Bank, Meera Investments, Speke group and Goldstar Insurance.
Indeed, some of the major private media houses that have since their inception benefitted immensely from the tycoon’s advertising generosity include The Red Pepper Publications, The Monitor Publications and The Independent Publications of journalist-cum-businessman Andrew Mujuni Mwenda.
Similarly, smaller publications like Teddy Sseezi Cheeye’s Uganda Confidential and The Sunrise also benefitted from the Sudhir empire advertising, including online news websites.
Be that as it may and given the ‘tough times’, there has emerged a ‘new kind of media’; a ‘yellow or gutter press’ that deals in disseminating ‘fake news’ for commercial benefit.
According to a source close to big advertisers in the private sector, mostly individuals like Sudhir Ruparelia, there is a growing trend in some media houses to malign the said individuals after they decline to either give or renew existing advertising contracts.
“Over the past several years Sudhir has been the biggest advertiser because he owns big businesses which need such type of services (advertising); in fact for business to grow there is this need for a symbiotic relationship with the media,” the source said.
He added: “But such a relationship is entirely based on a ‘value-for-money’ engagement because individual businessmen have a right to choose who to advertise with depending on the expected outcomes; it is not charity because even government doesn’t do it that way.”
According to the source, people in some media houses have misconstrued the relationship to the extent that they solicit for assistance for personal benefit.
“They even send SMS requesting to be assisted, and any negative response may elicit negative publicity for the individual businessmen,” the source said.
However most of these unprofessional publishers have been proven wrong leading to their own boomerang as both advertisers and end user continue to shun them.