- Delayed or unpaid invoices put unnecessary financial strain on newsrooms and prevent them from paying their own bills and investing in their organisations.
- At a time when misinformation and disinformation spread easily online, the role of credible local journalism is now more vital than ever
Having worked in media for several years now, I have experienced first-hand the struggles that many media houses face when it comes to getting payment for work done for the county governments.
Media companies wait for months on end, and years, to be paid for advertisements and notices printed in their publications. This money runs into hundreds of millions of shillings.
Delayed or unpaid invoices put unnecessary financial strain on newsrooms and prevent them from paying their own bills and investing in their organisations.
Leadership is more than rousing speeches and catchy slogans. It is about making the hard choices about what is just and right. There are always reasons to delay action, from tight budgets to complex bureaucracy to shifting priorities, etc, but we must rise above the fray and lead with courage.
We all know that running a county government has not been cheap; there are many expenses to cover such as infrastructure projects, healthcare services, education programmes, recurrent expenditure and many more.
We understand that budgets are tight and reimbursement from the central government is slow. However, failing to pay media partners who provide a valuable service is not the answer.
When media houses don’t get funds owed, it puts local journalism at risk. Staff layoffs, salary delays, publication cutbacks, news quality decline and even closures have resulted from not getting paid for work done in a timely manner.
If county advertisements and announcements are important enough to be featured in newspapers, online, radio and TV, then it stands to reason that marketing spend should be honoured as promised within the timelines set.
Media coverage helps spread important civic messages to residents on topics such as healthcare updates, economic and development initiatives and community events.
Not fully compensating media partners undermines efforts to reach constituents as well as ensure a sustainable business model for local newsrooms.
At a time when misinformation and disinformation spread easily online, the role of credible local journalism is now more vital than ever to keep the public informed.
We need strong media outlets to hold our representatives accountable and to maintain an open exchange of facts and ideas. If county leadership wants an aware and engaged citizenry, it needs to support the media ecosystem, which makes that agenda possible, not drain it.
So to all the counties with past due balances outstanding, I say clear the slate. Pay what you owe so that newspapers, radio and television can get back to focusing on their important work instead of worrying about cash flow.
To governors and other county leaders, make this a priority, audit your books, determine what is owed, pick up the phone and call the media companies that you owe.
Apologise for the wait and make a firm commitment to pay overdue bills. Then follow through. Doing so will provide a lifeline to media houses while also demonstrating ethical governance. You have a chance to save jobs and preserve critical watchdogs that you will need in future.
Seize this opportunity to strengthen your community and show true leadership. Then citizens and media outlets will stand firmly behind you, knowing that you stand behind them.
Our communities and democracy will be better served with reliable sources of local news that are not stressed about finances. It’s time to pay up and show real commitment to local media and the public they serve.
Chairperson, Media Owners Association