The PUL is the umbrella organization of all media institutions and individual journalists in Liberia. It was established on 30th of September 1964 to advocate for press freedom, freedom of expression, journalists' safety, human rights and democracy.
Speaking further, Mr. Coffey said public financing will further provide affordable debt and equity financing to independent or private media, particularly in a range of countries where access to free and independent news and information is under threat.
“I am optimistic that Public financing and technical assistance will help scores of media institutions build robust businesses, strong enough to hold governments to account, expose corruption and provide a platform for debate,” Mr. Coffey asserted.
Mr. Coffey’s comments were contained in a statement he delivered at the ongoing International Colloquium on Private Media Financing, in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.
Touching on the Economy of the Liberian media, the PUL President informed the international forum that Liberia has no government subsidy for its private media and the country's media reform initiatives are solely supported by United States Agency for International Development (USAID)and other non-governmental organizations.
He said though the Government of Liberia(GoL) has made significant strides in promoting press freedom, freedom of expression and it is the largest advertiser with the media, it is not providing direct budgetary support to the private media.
“A school of thought suggests that providing direct budgetary support to private media will compromise them, while another school of thoughts suggest that such process will empower the media to ensure objectivity, fairness and good journalism,” he further asserted.
“I fully support public financial support to all media because the national budget is for every one and it is impossible for government to manipulate all the media or control the media wrongfully. Public financing in an economy of over two hundred media outlets including radios, traditional televisions, online televisions and newspapers, most of which lacked access to basic financial services, can be brought into formal financial networks, for financial inclusion if adequate public funds are provided,” Mr. Coffey told the well-attended gathering.
“Government is providing support to its public media such as the Liberia Broadcasting System (LBS) which normally receives sixty percent budgetary allocation from government while its management is responsible to find the forty percent. LBS has television, radio and online media outlets. Other public media institutions are Liberia News Agency (LINA) and New Liberia Newspaper. But these public media institutions alone cannot address the communication and information needs of the Liberian people with different media taste. Owing to the lack of public funding the private media are surviving on advertisements and special programs. With the emergence of the new media, traditional method of generating finances cannot adequately solve the economic problem of the Liberian media,” the Liberian media guru accentuated.
He mentioned that there is a need for Africa governments to provide direct budgetary support for both private and public media, averring that the no money syndrome is forcing some private media institutions in self-censorship.
He commended other African countries whose governments are providing direct public funding to their media.
“By empowering private and public media institutions will enable them cultivate economic opportunities thus ensuring a strong and inclusive growth of the media. Let us continue to seek ways and means to empower the media. The situation is becoming increasingly uncontrollable; most media owners are not adequately paying their staff with reporters being victims of the situation.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Coffey expressed the hope that the Colloquium will determine the best course of action aimed at improving the economy of the media and prevailing on our respective governments and people to see media financing initiatives as top priority.
“Because the media is the conduit through which they can express themselves. The media also keeps them abreast of happenings in the world,” Mr. Coffey, among other things, added.