A free and robust press is crucial to a healthy society. President Cyril Ramaphosa recently took time out to champion the media for their contributions to the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic and to reflect on their broader and crucial role in society.
He called on advertisers to continue to support the Fourth Estate – “the unsleeping guardian of every other right that free men and women prize”.
Globally advertisers have begun to consider their moral responsibility to invest in trustworthy media, as well as to understand that trusted environments enhance their messages.
Ramaphosa saluted the media for their sterling work over the last six months of the pandemic. He recognised their role in keeping South Africans informed by disseminating key health messages about social distancing and hygiene. Moreover, “they have told the stories of the effects of lockdown on the lives of people and their businesses. They have been out in the villages, towns and cities, bringing stories of ordinary people and drawing national attention to problems being experienced in hospitals and clinics, prompting government action”, Ramaphosa noted.
He commended them on fulfilling their “watchdog role by unearthing acts of corruption and maladministration, sparking a massive national debate and leading to a number of high-profile investigations”. This reporting earned them the people’s trust.
Ramaphosa highlighted “the proliferation of fake news during the pandemic, primarily on social media platforms” and stressed that this had “added to the urgency for more news that is accurate, fair and impartial”. It was to the established media houses that people turned for such information.
As an aside, the Publisher Research Council (PRC) September 2020 report, Tracking Adspend and Audiences Since Lockdown, is testament to this. Between 27 and 31 March 2020, news sites daily audiences increased by 91% compared with pre-Covid February; in August they were still up by 37%, a clear indicator of their continuing importance in people’s day to day lives.
The president reflected that a “free press is not an end in itself. It is a means by which democracy is secured and upheld”. He described the media as “a unique entity in any society because its practitioners fulfil a role that is so essential to our democratic order. They work to keep the public informed and to keep power in check”.
Nevertheless, he noted that “the coronavirus crisis has hit our media houses hard” and exacerbated the many challenges already faced by the media houses. He recognized however, that the media industry is working hard to refine business models and to drive innovation.
He argued that South Africans owe the media their full support. Every South African can help to preserve these pillars of democracy, whether it is by choosing to pay for content, paying TV licences, buying a newspaper or supporting crowdfunded journalism. Even in these gloomy economic times, Ramaphosa undertook that the government will continue to support publications and broadcasters, especially community media, with advertising investment.
Looking towards the task of rebuilding the South African economy in the aftermath of the pandemic, Ramaphosa called upon local philanthropic and donor organisations to support public interest journalism and encouraged the private sector to continue to “support the industry through advertising and working with media houses in the production of innovative content in line with global media trends”.
In the past, marketers and advertisers tended to focus on audience metrics and pricing in making their media investment decisions. Less consideration was given to the wider ethical implications of such investments. Now is the time for advertisers and marketers to re-asses their approach. One of the issues that Kantar’s report, Dimension 2020 – Media & Me, addresses is the “need to make advertising great (trusted) again”.
It cites Stuart Bowden, chief strategy officer, Wavemaker, saying: “the whole area of trust and responsibility is more of a priority than it was 10 years ago. I can’t imagine having conversations back then on whether or not to recommend a newspaper on the basis of anything other than the metrics. Now those conversations are being had.”
The report underscores that advertisers need audiences to trust their commercial messages; making the right choice of medium plays an important part of that. By considering notions such as trust and credibility, advertisers can not only help to ensure that the free and diverse media in our country survives and thrives, but can enhance the credibility of their messages to consumers.
As the country’s largest provider of breaking and lifestyle news, we pride ourselves on accurate, responsible and credible news reporting that consumers and advertisers can trust.
Rika Swart, CEO: Media24 Print Media, holds a higher diploma in medical technology and an MBA from the University of Stellenbosch. Since 2008 she held various senior positions at On the Dot and under her leadership the division won the Media24 award for Best Performing Business in 2016 and 2017. Swart also received the company’s Hubert Coetzee Award for Outstanding Leadership in 2017.
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