Should Mississauga Have Awarded A Sole Source Contract to One Media Outlet?
It’s no secret that even before Rogers TV pulled out of Peel Region, local media in Brampton and Mississauga has been surprisingly deficient, which is perplexing when you consider the fact that it’s one of the largest regions in the country. Winnipeg has less people than Mississauga, and yet they have more radio and newspaper outlets than either of Peel Region’s big cities.
“Five-year sole sourced contract with the Mississauga News worth up to $2 million.”
And yet, there is life beyond Rogers, and it’s not just Quickbite News: insauga, inbrampton and inhalton (which boasts 5 times the traffic of the Mississauga News) that has provided news and content in Peel Region. There are now a slew of local news providers that are popping up, and well as existing ethnic media focused on the region’s diverse array of communities.
But it’s not as though these are big organizations that have tons of advertising revenue.
One can’t blame municipal governments for trying to provide some money to struggling local media outlets. There is a quid pro quo involved here: the city needs local media in order to get the word out on the initiatives they are undertaking, and local media needs content and news to cover and the closest level of government that they scrutinize is the city.
There are now a slew of local news providers that are popping up, and well as existing ethnic media focused on the region’s diverse array of communities.
So you would expect the city to have an advertising budget and communications policy geared towards local media vendors, but would you expect Brampton or Mississauga to provide majority funding to just one media outlet?
Mississauga invests heavily in a long-standing news organization, and boasts a five-year sole sourced contract with the Mississauga News worth upwards of over $2 million.
As far as Brampton goes, they provide the Brampton Guardian—a Metroland Publication—with funding to the tune of $1 million.
The City of Mississauga has been working on developing a modern communications and advertising strategy for residents. Back in the fall of 2016, Mississauga councillors asked city staff to present a report updating them on this strategy, which was outlined in this corporate report.
According to city staff in an email to insauga.com, paid advertising in the Mississauga News, or other media, is handled by each business services area based on their operational needs and objectives. In addition, advertisements for mandatory public notices are largely driven by the amount of activity, events and applicable public notices that are required in any given year.
“You’d expect some debate over a sole source contract going to only one news publication.”
City councillors were asked to approve the following in a May 2017 Committee meeting.
That City Council receive and endorse the corporate report entitled “Communicating City Information and Mississauga News Advertising”, which outlines the proposed communication plan including a 2 year pilot to print and distribute a city-wide newsletter.
That the Purchasing Agent be authorized to execute a contract with the Mississauga News for a 5-year period beginning July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2022, with an annual upset limit of $410,000 for city-wide communication and advertising.
That the Purchasing Agent be authorized to add $50,000 to the contract with the Mississauga News in 2018 for the purposes of election advertising.
Normally you’d expect some debate over a sole source contract going to only one news publication, essentially giving them advertising revenue for five years. But when you go back and watch the meeting, all the items on the ‘Matters To Be Considered’ (Section 8) were approved unanimously in one vote by all members of council, including the sole source contract. There was not much discussion from anyone or objection raised from any of the city councillors.
“There should be an open the discussion about who should get the city media contract, instead of it being rewarded to one media company simply because it’s always been that way.”
During the November 22, 2017 council meeting, insauga.com founder Khaled Iwamura (video above) requested speaking time before Council so he could inquire about the city’s communications strategy, as well to highlight insauga.com as an example of an alternative media source in Mississauga. The website went from 2,000 views in 2012, to over 100 million views in 2017, both on insauga and its sister sites inbrampton.com and inhalton.com.
That digital reach has now surpassed that of the Toronto Star in not only Mississauga but the western Greater Toronto Area. Iwamura asked why the city would spend over $2 million on a sole source contract to one media entity when there were clearly other options available for advertising. He wasn’t asking that the city simply switch the contract over to insauga, merely suggesting that the revenue could be somewhat distributed more evenly if the city wanted to widen their communications outreach to residents, such as those who don’t regularly read the Mississauga News.
In the video, Iwamura says there should be an open the discussion about who should get the city media contract, instead of it being rewarded to one media company simply because it’s always been that way. This, he argues, will allow the media landscape in Mississauga to flourish.
City staff and councillors responded that it was something that was worth looking into, but there were those in council that were perhaps not as familiar with the nature of digital media in today’s world.
If we were talking about 30 years ago, having a sole source contract or allocating such a large amount of money to one media outlet which was the primary news provider made sense.
But as the two examples clearly demonstrate, there are many media outlets out there, so why should the city continue to offer one media outlet a sole source contract for advertising when there are other options?
Do you think Mississauga should be providing city funds to more than one major media outlet in 2018?
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