Covid-19 lockdown: Sanef 'deeply concerned' by financial challenges facing media industry
Durban - The South African National Editors' Forum (Sanef) said on Friday it was concerned about the increasing number of media houses facing drastic falls in earnings as a result of dwindling advertising due to the country's Covid-19 lockdown.
"Sanef has learnt that Caxton, the publisher of The Citizen newspaper, is the latest to register a fall in income by more than 60% as a result of the lockdown. We are concerned that this could lead to a temporary cut in salaries or a reduction in staff numbers, especially now that there has been a two-week extension of the lockdown," said the forum via a statement.
"We also note that the situation is affecting the company throughout the country, including its small-town newspaper operations, magazines, and Moneyweb."
Caxton's financial difficulties followed those of the Mail & Guardian and African News Agency (ANA), said Sanef, adding it had "expressed solidarity" with colleagues from all three media houses "as the full impact of the coronavirus lockdown echoed throughout the industry".
"Sanef believes that the importance of journalists and journalism in South Africa - and across the world - has never been stronger. Journalists are playing a critical frontline role in keeping the nation abreast of all developments around Covid-19. We know that audience figures have sharply risen as citizens constantly seek updates on the spread and containment of the disease."
The forum reiterated its appeal to members of the public, corporates, donors, and government to support the media industry and journalism through the payment of subscriptions, membership fees, donations and sponsorships.
"We also call on business and government to continue to advertise to keep the sector afloat."
The forum urged media companies to seek creative ways to cut costs before resorting to newsroom cuts, including salary cuts.
"Sanef notes the significant attrition to posts – and cuts to salaries - over the years, which we believe has eroded quality journalism."
The forum was also worried about "the profound personal distress and insecurities this economic crisis is creating on the lives of journalists and their families," it said.
"We have raised financial sustainability challenges as one of the critical issues in our media industry. This has been an important focus in Sanef’s submissions to the retired Judge Kathy Satchwell Inquiry looking at media ethics and credibility. We eagerly await the recommendations of the inquiry and its contribution to possible ways forward with the ultimate purpose of ensuring quality, ethical, democracy-deepening journalism for all our citizens."