21 January 2013

South Africa: Small Media 'Struggle to Survive'

Durban — Small media companies are struggling to survive as their mainstream counterparts take chunks out of the business, a seminar in Durban heard on Monday.

"The ownership of print media has been compromised a great deal due to the fact that small publishers lack financial resources to run a healthy or reliable business," KwaZulu-Natal Community Newspaper's publishing editor Sheila Mhlongo said in Durban on Monday.

She was speaking during a meeting of the print and digital media task team to discuss transformation by community and independent media publishers.

"As a result of this, mainstream media has seen a great opportunity to start what they call neighbourhood or community newspapers."

Most of these mainstream media companies were predominantly owned by whites, and the small-scale media companies by blacks.

Mhlongo criticised private companies and the government for preferring to advertise in mainstream media, even though small media companies offered their paper to the public for free.

"As a result of being unable to source enough advertising revenues, sometimes I have to depend on family assistance or opt to get part time jobs for survival, which has proved to compromise the business in most cases," Mhlongo said.

She said mainstream media companies had the resources to employ sales people who would find advertising for the papers.

Small publishers were also at a disadvantage because they did not own printing machines. They had to depend on mainstream media companies who would normally charge high prices and ask for up-front payments.

UmAfrica editor Fraser Mtshali called for his paper to be owned by blacks, because it was currently not getting attention from its owners, Media 24.

Mtshali criticised the company for being preoccupied with its white mainstream newspapers.

He said last year circulation had fallen 46 percent and the paper was not getting much advertising.

UmAfrika is a Zulu newspaper published once a week in KwaZulu-Natal.

Ilanga newspaper's news editor Eric Ndiyane said the white press was favoured when it came to advertising.

Ndiyane said Ilanga had not attracted as many advertisers as English newspapers, even though it had a higher circulation.

He said the paper was also faced with the challenge of having to retrain journalists to write with flair in isiZulu.

Ilanga did not have its own printing press and depended on Media24-owned the Witness for this.

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