State should clear debts to revitalise the media

The media play a vital role as the watchdog of society, highlighting challenges and holding up examples to inspire success by individuals, public and private organisations, but they are also businesses. To be effective, they incur huge expenses, like operations and salaries.

It’s an open secret that the government is among the huge debtors to blame for the industry’s mounting financial woes. Media houses operate in a tough economic environment that could be substantially eased if the government cleared the Sh2.5 billion bills it owes them. Some are pretty old debts.

Faced by difficult choices, the first casualties are usually employees, as the organisations downsize to remain afloat. Well-trained and professional personnel, mostly young people, now stare at job losses as the government, which has refused to pay its debts, splashes billions of shillings on non-essential travel for its top officials. It is, indeed, shameful and disgraceful to spend Sh24 billion in nine months on travel alone.

Largely to blame for the ongoing layoffs and restructuring in the media industry are advertising debts owed by the national and county governments in the past 10 years.

The media promote investment to grow the economy for national development and prosperity. The government should be at the forefront of promoting the growth of businesses, including the media, not killing them. It should help businesses to survive and create and sustain jobs. One way is to come up with appropriate tax policies and avoid the punitive ones that are scaring away prospective investors as some enterprises prepare to exit. At this rate, the tax mandarins will find themselves with nowhere to get their pound of flesh from.

The media’s moniker “The Fourth Estate” is because they serve as a watchdog over the other three: The Executive, Legislature and Judiciary. The media inform, educate and entertain the public. Government policies are also best explained through mainstream media.

By prioritising the repayment of media debts to avert the collapse of this vital industry, the government will enable them to continue to effectively perform their critical role in society.