A new emergency: Reversing and preventing the collapse of independent media

While media became more important than ever for citizens as a source of reliable information in an insecure and continuously changing world, newsrooms struggled to pay their bills,” states Larry Kilman in a report published by UNESCO 2022, titled: “After the pandemic, building back a stronger media: inspiring initiatives in ensuring media viability”.

A paragraph from the introduction could well summarise the situation for the Media sector in Mauritius: “Independent news media were already facing an existential threat when Covid-19 hit. Their business models were severely disrupted by the digital revolution, with a massive loss of advertising revenue to the giant digital platforms like Google and Facebook. Without this traditional source of funding in many places, news outlets are closing, journalists are losing their jobs, and communities are being left without a reliable source of local news.

After a pandemic period where hundreds of thousands of Mauritians were at home, the resumption of work has not been accompanied by a resumption of purchase of traditional printed media. Likewise, even the leader, the Canal+ and Netflix providing media house, MC Vision has seen a 2% decrease in its turnover and -104% decrease in its PBT. The national Mauritius Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) itself sees its profit plunge by -149% (Rs -57.2 M). Thus, the financial results of year 2022 paint an extremely dire picture of the Media sector’s situation.

The customers’ habits have evolved and they have remained loyal to popular radio outlets with a strong “community journalism” approach. The radio outlets have made strong growth and profit (Profit before tax) in 2022. From 2021 to 2022, they have made astounding progress: Radio Plus Ltd (from Rs 3.2 M to Rs 13.8 M), Top FM Limited (from Rs 658,000 to Rs 3.1 M) and Viva Voce Limitée (from -Rs 6.2 M to +Rs 2.8 M).

However, as the UNESCO report emphasizes: As the report highlights: “The decline of independent news media, which some have referred to as an extinction event, has an impact on the very foundations of our societies. It is not just a question of failing businesses; without independent news media, corruption and incompetence thrive, and good governance is weakened.

Furthermore, as the General elections loom ahead for year 2024 after a ten-year tenure by the same party, a conjunctural layer of stress weighs on the shoulders of media houses. The absence of a Freedom of Press Bill in the legislation perpetuates an uncomfortable situation, namely for investigative journalism. Weak rights prevent the reinvention of the sector, while in other countries as illustrated by the UNESCO report, there is scope for financial relief via cross-border collaborations or development of Fact-checking as a business alternative.

As Guy Berger, Director for Policies and Strategies on Communication and Information at UNESCO comments: “without sustainable journalism, it is hard to see how societies can have the information and freedoms they need to make the world a better place.

Rank Company name Turnover 2022 (Rs/Million) Profit before tax (Rs/Million) Financial year
1 MC VISION LTD 1,247,618,015 (1,235,301) 12/31/22
3 MAURITIUS BROCASTING CORPORATION 922,294,081 (57,246,367) 6/30/22
4 MEDIACOM LTD 157,173,198 (18,689,926) 6/30/22
5 LA SENTINELLE LTD 144,952,368 (51,325,729) 6/30/23
* Le Mauricien Limited (No updated Account)

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