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Gov’t wades into newspaper sales controversy

For the past couple of years, publishers have been at loggerheads with the lone official distributor of newspapers in Cameroon.…

For the past couple of years, publishers have been at loggerheads with the lone official distributor of newspapers in Cameroon. Last month a meeting between publishers and Messapresse, the distributor, ended in a decision by the later to stop distributing newspapers in the country as from March 31.

Following the disagreements, Issa Tchiroma Bakary, Minister of Communication organised a meeting with newspaper publishers on February 28 to scrutinize the issue and find lasting solutions.

Minister Tchiroma told participants at the meeting which ended with the creation of a commission, that government is leaving no stone unturned to ensure that citizens enjoy their right to information regardless of their location. He said it is for this reason that government is keen to solving the distribution problems newspaper publishers are currently facing.

Among the duties of the newly created commission is the responsibility of providing justifiable reasons why government should facilitate the distribution of newspapers through an alternative medium or decide whether or not Messapresse should be supported to improve on the distribution process.

Messapresse for its part claims its annual losses now fluctuates between 150milllion FCFA and 180million. The newspaper distribution company which is a subsidiary of a French newspaper distribution company in France, claimed 80percent of the newspapers deposited by media houses in Cameroon for distribution, end up not being sold.

The most recent of the meetings the distribution company has had with publishers in the past few years ended in a disagreement. Publishers argued the dropping sales is due to poor management of the distribution channel.

Messapresse currently retains 40% of proceeds per newspaper sold. As a solution to the dwindling sales, Christian Carisey, General Manager of the company suggested to increase his cut to 50%; a proposal which was turned down by newspaper publishers. Carisey and the publishers however agreed that the distributor would have to wait until the end of March 2017 to close down his business.

In the face of the controversy, the Cameroon News and Publishing Corporation, commonly known by its French language acronym, SOPECAM, is setting up a distribution house for its products. Some of the home publications of SOPECAM, include the national bilingual daily Cameroon Tribune, Nyanga, Weekend, etc.

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