ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s radio, television and newspapers are charging premium rates of 150 to 300 per cent of standard prices from candidates in upcoming Presidential polls, a survey has found.
The Divaina newspaper was charging 2.14 times the standard rate, Daily Mirror 1.27, TV Derana and ITN 1.5 times, Hiru Gold Radion around 3.0 times, the survey by EthicsEye, a unit of Verité Research, a Colombo-based think tank that runs Manthri.lk has found.
“You may think that in a democracy where it is important for a candidate to communicate to people their positions, policies and their ideas, that we should have a media environment in which the cost of doing so are is low as possible,” Nishan De Mel, Executive Director, Verité Research told a forum in Colombo.
“This is something we have not yet seen discussed in the country. The State media have a law to give some promotions free of charge, but private media organisations are not bound by that law. We must think that candidates are participating in the election not to make a profit out of it,” De Mel said.
Unlike state media, however, private media do not get government support to run and have to make a profit to pay workers and meet other expenses.
Rates charged by media stations depend on their audience and reach built up by that organisation with their own funds and programs.
At elections times readership and audience go up increasing the value of advertising space and airtime.
In the case of newspapers, circulation may go up by 20 or even 30 per cent or more, but costs rise due to the bigger print run. Each newspaper is sold at a loss.
In the case of television stations, airtime is severely limited as most of their revenue comes from the commercial spots available during a 3 to four 4 hour night peak.
In this election, a record 35 candidates are participating with the main fight between the ruling United National Party and the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna.
The two main candidates were the biggest spenders, a monitoring organisation has found.