“Don’t let him go, he didn’t pay; he never gave us any money”, shouted a certain media manager when his editor suggested to post/publish an interview in their newspapers – an interview with a candidate who was, at that time, running for president of the Republic of Srpska. This candidate indeed had firm chances to become a president, until he decided to challenge a counter-candidate on a TV debate.
“So what if he never paid, shouldn’t the public interest be our motive to publish interviews with all candidates running for presidency, regardless of whether they had paid for it or not”, the editor replied trying to act professionally and respecting professional journalists standards and the readers.
“Just forget about this, they gave us BAM 0, 00 and we did send them our offer, didn’t we”, replied the manager drawing 0 on a piece of paper in front of him.
The editor then concluded that his manager, who at the time being was considered a very bad journalist, now made himself a complete fool.
I shall say that media houses in BiH are in a rather difficult situation and it doesn’t take a lot to conclude, especially in private newspapers, that there are often open confrontations between media house managers on one hand (because they mostly care only about making profit) and journalists and editors who still try to be tied with journalism in the most appropriate and professional manner, on the other hand.
The strength of the election campaign in the media, during the above mentioned conflict, can be seen as a source of making additional profit and this amount is often considered as crucial for the survival of a particular media house in that particular year on one hand, and on the other hand, this amount could also determine whether this media house can sustain and terminate with its business operations. However, regardless of the profit they may make, the counter effect can easily emerge, so the foundations of these media houses, which should at least according to theory subsist, collapse. Naturally I refer to three key media tasks: to provide information, to educate and to entertain.
Luckily or not, depending on which side of the coin you’re looking at, election campaigns in BiH occur every two years, and the situation in the media, especially the printed media is getting worse year after year which is exactly why some managers are eager to make additional profit by making rotten compromises, as a result of which some good stories are left aside. Additionally, some rather unusual and strange people are being pushed forward, who, had they not paid, would surely never deserve to even appear in the newspapers. The matter is approached very superficially, public interest is being pushed into second or third plan and this altogether sends a completely incorrect picture of political offers during every single election. Let me make myself clear about this; not even public broadcasters are immune to this occurrence, bearing in mind that their legal duty does include providing information to the public
The public service, however, failed to fulfill this particular duty and responsibility after the campaign for the local elections was completed in BiH. On the contrary, they seem to have completed the campaign process simply because they had to and political parties directed their money to private media houses that welcomed them with open arms. Therefore, the viewers could have watched the debate of candidates running for both municipalities and the city hall on private TV stations. Despite the fact that these debates occasionally appeared as quality-tailored programs, the media field and part of the public still paid more attention to information revealing the amount of money the candidates had to pay in order to appear on these TV stations. One example supporting the above mentioned occurrence was the case of one of the candidates running for the position of Banjaluka City Mayor. On his Facebook status, he stated that he didn’t participate in the TV debate, not because he didn’t want to confront the other three candidates, but because he didn’t have enough money at the time to pay to that TV house.
Some would call this a tough market competition and I have no reason to disagree with this theory, but I once again recall the initial story about the public interest. How come the biggest media houses do not care about this issue? How come smaller, almost local TV stations, that hosted many candidates free of charge during this campaign, are concerned with public interest?
When it comes to details, the media outlets have been to some extent, during this campaign, doing the same mistakes as in the past campaigns, to a lesser extent, because we did have elections after all in which the selection of candidates is wider and where more media houses have the opportunity to compete for their share in the market. This year media houses misused children as part of the pre-election campaign. Certain researches have been published with no scientific foundation and these researches were mainly used for spin purposes in the campaign process. Seeking to increase viewership and readership, media houses never hesitated to use sensationalism, posting and publishing unchecked and unconfirmed information that was often incorrect which can best be seen through the case of the well-known football fans from Belgrade and their appearing in Prnjavor, a day before the election day. All media houses reported about this event and none of them provided the public with a complete picture of the real and actual situation. Taking into consideration that the election occurred a day after this, no media house wrote, posted or published a single word about this event on Monday, a day after the Election Day.
Finally, I don’t want to seem romantically optimistic and claim that things may change in the near future. The media scene shall at least for another decade be managed by directors and entrepreneurs similar to those from the beginning of this text/article; media houses shall face an even worse financial situation than they experience at present. Political parties shall be aware of this fact so they they’ll tend to reduce the money rates. Neither shall think of public interest.