Financially decreasing media houses in BiH are forced to, not looking at all contract details, chase advertisers
Translation: Fairpress
“Sponsor of this morning program – Banjaluka Market!”. At first glance, this radio jingle has very little in common with big advertisers in Bosnia and Herzegovina’s media field, because, one should say, it is common sense that the market (and probably for an insignificant amount of money), advertises in the program that starts with market buyers, commonly known as early clients: the labor class and pensioners. But, if we scratch just a little bit more below the surface things become a little more exciting. Firstly, it is not about being advertised on the local radio station program, instead, this advertisement goes on air at a public broadcaster, namely the Radio of Republic of Srpska, and the program itself (originally called “Razbudilnik”), is listened to throughout BiH, from Drvar to Mostar, Sarajevo, Nevesinje, etc. The question is why would an advertiser offer a kitchen pot or tomatoes from the Banjaluka Market to a housekeeper from Brcko or a pensioner from Trebinje? And finally, why would Radio RS, with finances deriving out of the RTV tax fees and other associated and relevant sources, require sponsors for the morning program which is one of the cheapest media products, in terms of production? The Banjaluka Market is owned by MG Mind Company, which is Mladen Milanovic – Kaja (to be more precise), a businessman from Mrkonjic Grad who happens to have close ties with RS authorities.

According to the data base provided by the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIN), MG Mind and its sister company (same owner) “Mrkonjic putevi” are amongst the 50 most successful companies in the field of public bids: from 2011 to 2015 they signed contracts with public companies for contracts the value of which exceeded over BAM 60.0 million and this information covered available sources only. Despite these figures, you will hardly find in so called main media houses, especially in RTRS, a journalistic investigative story that even attempts to question the nature of the business of the above mentioned companies. When big advertisers are in question, it is very naive to believe that the story begins and ends with telecom operators, banks, trade centers, and monopoly – based public enterprises or even Coca Cola and L’Oreal. If journalists could, despite their daily struggle with poor working conditions, manage to deal with the “hand that feeds them”, they could eventually discover many cases and examples similar to the one that appears in “Razbudilnik”. Another question is who or what big advertisers represent in a small and poor country, such as Bosnia and Herzegovina? If we exclude advertisements for boutiques, butcheries and driving schools advertised on local radio stations, all advertisers that manage to “reach” an annual contract with more significant media houses, expect the treatment and rights like the those provided to “big clients”. “Advertisers buy media space, but also media silence”, detected, at the very beginning of this millennium,Pierre Bourideu, a French sociologist. This purchase is (in some cases) obvious, but often inevitable or wrapped into the colorfulness of a festival, care for nature and the “common man”, including humanitarian activities and similar “corporate social responsibility” based manifestations.

According to the evaluation conducted by Via Media 2007, the marketing market in BiH is estimated to some EUR 70.0million, while in neighboring Croatia this amount exceeds EUR 800.00 million. At present, the situation in BiH is even worse, the marketing share has even decreased by over 70% comparing with the pre – crisis year of 2007. A great amount of this money goes to leading TV houses that still seem to be most attractive for great advertisers. Financially decreasing media houses in BiH are forced to, not looking at all contract details, chase advertisers that would eventually provide them with reasonable financial sustainability. Or as Ekrem Dupovic noted, in one or the previous editions of E-journalist, everybody

is “fighting for a larger portion of an ever decreasing (marketing) cake”.

In this battle and often failing to recognize (auto)censorship, media houses believe that no research or investigation regarding the business background of their clients (big advertisers) is necessary, including absolutely anything that may relate to “their clients”, and these clients in BiH are often mutually connected and connected with political elites and governing authorities as well.

And this is exactly how media houses encounter the paradox situations where they head to their own demise, as a result of their will to make profit.

The case of workers of one large trade center best illustrates that the conspiracy of silence functions perfectly even when it comes to selling milk and detergents. A group of workers of this company had sent, a few months ago, a letter to almost all crucial media houses expressing their concerns regarding obvious violation of their labor rights, including unpaid overtime hours in cold premises, mobbing they had been exposed to (on a daily basis), sacking pregnant female workers etc. No media dared to post or release this story, but journalists forwarded the letter to inspection authorities. No inspection officials reacted either. At the same time, a mother of four children, with three of them going to school, was sacked from this very same trade center. She was officially declared redundant. Her story was also not interesting to media houses. However, only a couple of days later, the above mentioned company organized a humanitarian action giving away school accessories to pupils whose parents could not afford school accessories. Absurdly, most media published this story, not as marketing content, but as a “genuine” informative story.

BiH is not an exception and the story about “our clients” has been detected even in our neighborhood. The story of affairs occurring in the Croatian Public Post with main media houses remaining silent proved the above mentioned thesis. Dnevno.hr, a local Croatian website discovered that the Croatian Post paid over HRK 4.0 million for “advertising services” during 2011, even though for more than 85 percent of jobs the Post is an absolute monopolist and the advertising is completely unnecessary as a tool to attract buyers and potential clients.

Marketing agencies represent yet another special part of this issue, including agents between big advertisers and media houses. The list of the biggest advertisers, contains only one local company (namely M – Tel) which remains stable (in terms of business progress), while others include rather multinational and foreign corporations and brands, such as L’Oreal, P&G and pharmaceutical industry giants. They usually make deals in BiH mostly through agencies that, in order to conclude business, propose unbelievable discounts amounting from 70% to even 90%! Media houses are thus forced to sell their most attractive space for “peanuts” (very insignificant amount of money) based on the “take it or leave it” principle. “Slobodna Bosna”, a local weekly magazine warned (ages ago) that the business operations and activities of marketing agencies are controversial. The situation culminated with the “Gibraltar” affair, in which nine managers of marketing agencies and media houses in BiH and heads of HT Eronet were arrested and three of them were accused of heavy corruption fraud amounting to EUR 5.0 million, regarding the alleged purchase of TV rights and associated provided services. This particular case was initiated by the judiciary bodies of Austria and Slovenia and the trial procedure recently concluded with the release of all accused. It was a first instance verdict.

Bulletin “E-journalist”/Fairpress

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