Middle East

State intervention sought as newspapers face financial woes

Editor-in-Chief says no other options left after re-structuring and financial cuts

Manama: A Saudi editor has urged King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud and Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman to rescue the local print media as they are under increasing financial pressure and risk to shut down.

“Over the past five decades, press institutions had made huge profits that spared them the need to seek state assistance or support,” Khalid Bin Hamad Al Malik, the editor-in-Chief of Saudi daily Al Jazirah wrote in a column on Thursday.

“Part of this profit was used to develop the publications of the company and local newspapers became an outstanding model that Saudi Arabia was proud to show off. The papers’ standards, credibility and widespread publication as well as their local, regional and international influence were also a source of pride for the kingdom.”

However, the situation is different today and state assistance has become a necessity, Al Malik said.

The steep decline in advertising, the main source of revenues, followed by a severe shortage in the resources of all newspapers forced press institutions to engage in rationalization programmes that greatly reduced their power to attract or keep competent journalists.

Newspapers were also pushed to reduce the number of their pages and edition copies, to shut down bureaus in Saudi Arabia and abroad, to sack sacked staff and to limit their website editions, he added, saying that the surgical operations were ominous and frightening and called for outstanding intervention.

“Faced with huge financial difficulties despite the sharp rationaliszation of expenditures, the frantic search for alternative resources for advertisements, painful restructuring of them and budget deficits, the press institutions require the rapid intervention of the highest authority in the State – the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and His Crown Prince – , so that the Kingdom does not lose giant press institutions that were founded and developed to carry out their mission in the service of the country according to the best and most competitive standards.”

Al Malik added he did not have the slightest doubt that King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad, should they be made aware of the situation, would not hesitate for a fleeting second to provide the required assistance to help the print media out of their financial and existential woes and empower them to resume their mission in the service of the kingdom.

Al Jazirah, based in the Saudi capital Riyadh, was launched in 1960.

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