Sarmad Ali, Secretary General of APNS, and MD of Jang-Geo Group engaged in an in-depth discussion with Imran Malik, Editor-in-Chief of MediaBites, covering the future of Print Media, Wage Board Award, Digital Media, Economy, Information Ministers, and more.
Sarmad Ali’s concise and direct responses to MediaBites’ questions: (SA: Sarmad Ali & IM: Imran Malik)
IM: What was the worst time when Print Media started going down?
SA: Print Media has seen its worst time from 2018 onwards… The Govt advertising is the backbone of Print Media. However, it has been adversely affected by various policies of the governments.
To provide context, the federal government’s advertising business decreased from 3.8 billion in 2018 to 1.8 billion this year
As a point of reference: Big newspapers (i.e. Daily Jang and Daily Dawn) receive approximately 25% of government advertising, whereas regional and small newspapers depend on it for nearly 95% of their total business.
IM: What other factors other than Govt business are responsible for this downfall?
SA: The economic downturn has significantly contributed to the decline of Print Media’s business in Pakistan.
In addition to the government, the real estate, banking, and automobile sectors have historically played a substantial role in Print Media’s advertising revenue. However, all these sectors are currently grappling with crises, primarily due to the steep increase in bank interest rates, which have risen to approximately 22%.
This has made consumer financing, auto finance, and home mortgages financially unfeasible.
IM: Has the declining buying power of Pakistani consumers played a role?
SA: Absolutely. The significant drop in buying power among consumers in Pakistan has undeniably impacted newspaper sales.
IM: Which news medium do you believe is the most trustworthy?
SA: In terms of trust, Print Media remains the most reliable news source, despite the proliferation of digital platforms, including social media. Social media is rife with fake news and disinformation, while newspapers, on the other hand, provide readers with verifiable and factual news.
IM: Could you provide an update on the wages of Print Media workers, especially regarding the 2020 Wage Board Award guidelines?
SA: Certainly. It’s important to note that the newspaper industry is the only sector where wages are government-regulated through a wage board.
In 2020, the wage board award resulted in an average increase of 146% in the salaries and wages of newspaper employees. During this salary adjustment, the chairman of the board recommended to the government that government advertising rates should be increased in proportion to the rise in salaries. However, as of today, this recommendation has not been implemented.
IM: Sarmad Sir, as a top executive of APNS, you’ve worked with various information and broadcasting ministers. Who, in your opinion, has been the most effective for the Media Industry?
SA: In my experience, the most humble information ministers I’ve worked with were PPP’s Qamar Zaman Kaira and PMLN’s Parvez Rashid.
On the other hand, PTI’s Fawad Chaudhry was perhaps the least effective, often appearing self-centered. Shibli Faraz of PTI was decent and a respectable individual. Additionally, I had a good working relationship with PTI’s Farrukh Habib during his tenure as Minister of State for Information.