Recent media reports have stated that government is pulling its job advertising from mainstream print publications in order to punish critical media. Donald Liphoko, acting director general of the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS), disputes these claims. Michael Bratt spoke to him to find out what exactly government is doing and why they are doing it.
Liphoko did not deny that government is pulling job advertising from mainstream print publications. In fact he confirmed that it is moving them to its own publication Vuk’uzenzele. But he did clarify that not all job advertisements that are being moved, “only those with entry level and low level jobs”. When asked how much money the mainstream print publications will lose out on, because of the move, Liphoko estimated that only 10% of total spend will be affected.
He revealed that government currently spends R360 million a year on job advertising in print publications, so they will lose R36 million, a figure he refers to as “a drop in the ocean for them”. The two media groups that hold the majority of the yearly ad spend, 60% of the R360 million, are Media 24 with Rapport and City Press; and Times Media Group with the Sunday Times and the Sowetan.
When asked why government is shifting the entry and lower level jobs advertisements to its own publication Liphoko said, “If you look at any publication government advertises in, currently it is inefficient. When low level posts are advertised in traditional media you are excluding the majority of South Africans. We feel we can be more inclusive by using our own title.” He went on to add, “The aim of Vuk’uzenzele is to get government information into areas that are currently outside the reach of mainstream papers.” The free distributed newspaper, which is published monthly, has a circulation of 1.7 million copies a month.
Liphoko also rubbished claims that government is punishing print publications who have been critical of it. As well as the reason above, he cited government reprioritising its budgets and cost-cutting measures as the motives behind the switch. “The economy is constrained so it doesn’t make sense for government to keep increasing its expenditure. One area where costs can be cut is recruitment.”
Liphoko says government spend on job advertisements, across all media platforms, ranges from R900 million to R1 billion a year, depending on which projects are in place. He also revealed that this is not a new plan, having been in the works for many months and that mainstream publications know about it, as many of them have helped GCIS with planning for the inclusion of job advertisements in Vuk’uzenzele.
Liphoko says there are two reasons government will not pull all of its job advertising from mainstream print publications. Firstly, it is “mathematically its impossible to squeeze R360 million worth of advertising into Vuk’uzenzele.” Only eight pages have been set aside in each issue for the job advertisements and these pages won’t just have advertisements. They will also carry career advice.
Secondly, “Government has a responsibility to protect the media industry. They are one of our stakeholders. We wouldn’t pull that much investment from any other sector so why would we do it from the media?”
Liphoko said moving job advertisements out of newspapers is also in line with current trends, which see “Recruitment for jobs moving into the online space.” He went on to say that GCIS is exploring this option, with an app having already been developed for Vuk’uzenzele.