PB Suspends All Government Advertising: Media Companies Fear Deadly Blow And Consider “Retaliation”

November 25, 2020

The government seems to have opened up a new battlefront with media with Secretary to the President Dr. P.B. Jayasundara ordering all state institutions and SOEs to immediately suspend their ongoing advertising campaigns.

It is still not clear whether the move is aimed at cutting down expenses in the state sector or an attempt to regulate government in advertising in line with the recent Cabinet decision to allocate 25% of advertising budgets of state-owned entities to state media institutions.

Allocating 25% of government advertising budgets to state-owned media stations is part of the government’s strategy to make the companies less reliant on the Treasury.

However, former Minister and SJB MP Dr. Harsha De Silva today publicized a letter written by Dr. P.B. Jayasudara to the heads of all state institutions on November 18 directing them to suspend their ongoing advertising campaigns.

“Is this an attempt to channel government advertising into a handful of media stations operated by some close allies of the government?” de Silva asked.

Meanwhile, the government’s decision to suspend advertising will deal a severe blow to the country’s media industry in general. Except for a few private media companies run by close allies of the government, other media institutions are struggling, as advertising revenue has sharply dropped in the face of the raging pandemic.

“The government cannot choke media in this matter. We know it’s a tough time for everyone. But media companies can’t survive without advertising from state institutions and SOEs,” a journalist holding a senior editorial responsibility in a privately-owned newspaper told Asian Mirror.

“If the government wants to play hardball, they must know that media also can reciprocate. What if we stop giving publicity to the government and refuse to carry their interviews etc.? So, the government must know that this is not one-way traffic,” he added.

The final decision in this regard, he said, lies with bodies such as the Editors Guild of Sri Lanka (EGOSL)

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