Is Telecom Reporting Undergoing a Halt?

drowningTelecom reporting in Pakistan, specifically for the print media, has gone through various phases.

There was a time when there was no telecom beat (talking about print media) despite having half a dozen mobile operators in the country; this was back in 2003-04.

Being the oldest, naturally Mobilink pioneered the idea of having a Public Relation department, which was later replicated by other mobile operators. But full marks to Mobilink for pushing print media reporters to cover their events, products, services and so on.

Mobilink’s efforts combined with other cellular operators eventually convinced the media houses to define telecom as an independent beat by allocating dedicated reporters to cover the telecom industry.

Reporting after Telecom Boom:

Then there came a time when print media produced tons of news stories, analysis, researches and what not. If you remember, Business Recorder used to publish at least two pages for Telecom industry alone.

This was the time when Print media flourished. We saw dozens of new weeklies, dailies and monthly magazines appearing every other day and covering telecom industry.

Decline of Reporting after Economic Crunch:

Start of economic crunch, saturation in the market, coupled by elections in year 2008 was the beginning of down turn of telecom reporting. Telecom news in dailies started to shrink and ultimately started disappearing altogether by 2010 onwards.

If you look around presently, there hardly appears a telecom report or exclusive story in papers. No, I am not talking about press releases or reports detailing corporate events. In short, maturity of telecom industry didn’t mature the reporters and hence media houses and telecom reporters were left behind.

Policy shift of celcos:

Lack of interest from PR agencies and PR departments forced telecom reporters into the dead pool, where they now rely on press releases only. Telecom operators go less public now, just look at press conference they do these days as compared to 2005-08. Where are those NOC visits, cell site tours and other such activities to engage telecom reporters?

Here’s the reason: This is mainly because telecom operators have setup their businesses well and all they need now is the smooth sailing.

I have heard telecom reporters complaining about unsupportive PR departments. They say that mobile companies take days, even weeks, to respond to reporters’ queries. Most of the time they don’t comment or give you the required information in the name of privacy of corporate data.

Usage of marketing muscle further hampers the efforts of telecom reporters. They usually know that negative but genuine stories will go directly to editor’s dustbin – so they find it better to not to report such stories in the first place.

Future:

I don’t see things changing in coming months. Media houses and reporters should reconsider their current practices and the disadvantages it is bringing to their professional obligations.

Just look at the taxes that telecom consumers are paying, it’s highest amongst all sectors, but mobile operators, even being largest investors in the country, don’t do much about it. It’s not that they can’t, but as I said above, telecom operators are well off now, they opt not to use media for such issues, because if media goes up again – it may bug them in other matters too.

So equation is simple: Today telecom operators don’t care much about brand building, sales, or market reputation. Now they want to keep it simple, neat, smooth and without any questions.

Tech reporter with over 10 years of experience, founder of ProPakistani.PK


  • samz

    dekh lo bhai, even a post regarding telecom beat is not worth to comment:)

  • Telecom news alive only on blogs and social networks… our print media is focusing only on entertainment, politics and sports news. no education news, no IT and Telecom news

  • vaqar

    well, it is an interesting read. i must say, that being a telecom reporter for a daily english newspaper i have found that telecom reporting is not flourishing. and some of the reasons i have found are:

    1. today, due to economic crunch the media of the coutry finds it hard to sustain plausibly, and cellular companies are the only source of heavy income for the publication houses in terms of adverstisment. so, the media publications dont want to lose their advertisers just by reporting anything against them.

    2. the cellular companies know this very well, therfore, the PR people of cellular companies dont bother to engage telecom reporters in their doings. so now its marketing-to-marketing pehnomenon that excludes reporters. the PR people of cellular companies are excersizing this newly generated power.

    3. in this scenario, the only option telecom reporters left with is to publish news items against PTA, so that in turn the authority can presurize cellular operators a bit. but again, this option is also not working much as PTA has also started presurerizing media peolpe throuhg their marketing departmetns to refrain telecom reporters from publishing news against PTA.
    once an official of PTA told me that they are restricted from the goverment to take any action against cellular operators due to the fact that they are one of hte biggest source of foreing investment and if PTA goes stern against them they might packup.

    4. this sector is a closed one like IT, as no suitable people are availaible to hte reporters. and getting information at hte highest level is a bit difficult job for which telecom reporters have to do extra efforts. knowing hte fact that even their utmost efforts wont bear fruits and any story against cellcos wont get published, they prefer remain aloof.

    so, these are the main reasons for declining trend of telecom reporting. yet there are so many issues still to be mentioned.

    and i think this trent will remain same for many years just becasue this is the world MNCs, and we are bound to suffer.

    regards

    • admin

      Thanks for your insight veqar bahi, you said it all and well which i wanted to mention between the lines.

      I am preparing follow up stories for the topic, let’s hope for the good time to come.