Experts have emphasised the need to ensure a diversified source of income to build sustainable media during the challenging time following the Covid-19 crisis.
They expressed their opinion at a programme to launch a report titled "Leadership or Stagnation: The State of Media Viability in Bangladesh" on Thursday.
The Management and Resources Development Initiative (MRDI) organised the programme where Adjunct Professor at Hong Kong University Ross Settles was the keynote speaker.
Ross Settles said, "In the last 20 years, Bangladesh has gained a liberalised media industry with lots of startups emerging here. The media economics needs diversification as the digital media market in Bangladesh continues to grow."
Gausul Alam Shaon, managing partner and country head of Grey Advertising Bangladesh Ltd, said, "The media business is not like any other business. It has its own style. There is no need for political interference in this industry, and media houses must not become pawns of the corporate companies."
In this context, he opined that it is necessary to close the free-to-air channels in the media industry of Bangladesh. The television channels should increase their revenue through smart TVs and the newspapers should move towards digital revenue to reduce their reliance on advertising.
Shakhawat Liton, deputy executive editor of The Business Standard, said the development of sustainable media requires continuity of democratic practices with the overall development of the country.
Voicing a similar opinion, Prothom Alo Editor Matiur Rahman, said, "The media could not play a meaningful role without an environment of democratic practice in the country. Besides, there is a financial crisis too."
"So the media has to learn to operate on its own money. They cannot just rely on advertising for money, they have to create different sources of income. The media will be able to enjoy its freedom if it learns to operate with its own money," said Matiur Rahman.
He also opined that now the media should be developed based on the needs of the new generation with more emphasis on digital versions. He called upon the government to be proactive in providing policy assistance in this regard.
Dhaka Tribune Editor Zafar Sobhan emphasised on ensuring data transparency along with financial prosperity to make media viable here.
Syed Ashfaqul Haque, executive editor of The Daily Star, said, "Democracy and independent media go hand in hand. But there is a crisis in the democratic environment in Bangladesh, which is also prevalent all over the world. In this situation, anti-media law and technological muscle are wielding power, which is not pleasant for the media."
Rejoanul Huq Raja, head of news of Maasranga Television, said, "The audacity of the advertisers has increased to the extent where they want to decide what programmes will go on television. They are even deciding who will be the lead actor-actresses of the drama."
In this situation, he opined for starting pay channels or smart TV management to overcome the dependency on advertisement.
Speakers at the event expressed concern over the fact that the number of media outlets is larger than the country's advertisement market, lack of media literacy, and the proliferation of fake news and fake media.
They also urged the media personnel to be vigilant about implementing the Mass Media Employees Act and preventing misuse of the Digital Security Act.