Newspapers have been inflating circulation 

Audit: Inflating number of sold copies of newspapers, maintaining fictitious receipts, depositing money into the bank from personal accounts and reflecting it as money collected from sales and non-enforcement of rules were some of the major findings, the circulation auditing for print media houses revealed.

“It is a disturbing trend,” an auditor from Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC), India, Kasad, said while presenting his findings and recommendations of the sixth auditing. “It is my humble request to all the media houses to stop such unethical practices,” he said.

With the information and communication ministry’s initiative, an ABC auditor conducted the circulations audit of nine newspapers, Kuensel, Bhutan Times, Business Bhutan, The Bhutanese, The Journalist, Bhutan Today, Druk Melong, Druk Nyetshuel and Gyalchi Sarshog for the period of July-December 2015 from January 18 to 28. The Druk Yoezer has not opted for audit.

In one of the most disturbing trends, which will have a huge impact on media industry in future, ABC auditor has found that one or two media houses have resorted to inflate circulation figures by reflecting amount received from agents when the agents have not paid.

While auditing one paper, a publisher had reportedly shown the auditor the receipts issued to Thimphu agents for money collected. “However, when we visited few agents with ministry officials, they confirmed that they have not made any payment to the publisher,” Kasad said in the meeting attended by officials from ministry, regulator, owners and representatives from the media houses.

The auditor and some officials visited few agents in Thimphu and checked the copy of receipts issued by the publishers and found some discrepancies of receipts issued by agents and those maintained by the publishers.

It was also found that one of the publishers had shown lesser number of unsold copies than the actual reported by agents to show higher circulation figures. “Therefore, the books and records produced before us cannot be relied upon,” the ABC auditor said.

It was also observed that the publisher was depositing the money into bank from his own funds and showing it as money collected from circulation sales.

Majority of the media houses have not maintained books of accounts and cash collected from agents were not reflected in the financial books. Some have not billed for newspaper copies supplied to the agents and not reflected in their financial records.

Auditor also observed that subscription copies were supplied even after the expiry of subscription period and payment was not collected from subscribers at all.

Kasad pointed out that in many cases PDF subscription records were not at all available and the percentage of unsold copies was very high.

It was also observed that due to various reasons few issues were not printed during the audit period.  As per sales register, some publishers had shown that copies were supplied to agents for issues not printed. The record also shows that the agents have paid for the copies not supplied.

Many publishers have not collected the money from outside Thimphu agents.  Few publishers who have collected the money from dzongkhag agents were unable to justify the collection by way of traveling allowance and daily subsistence allowance bills. The auditor also noted that cash collected from agents were not reflected in the financial books.

The combined outstanding of all media houses for the period July-December 2015 works out to Nu 1.2M.

Kasad also pointed out that media houses have not followed rules although the ABC has been pointing out the same issues and same problems over the last six years.

Department of information and media’s director general Kinley T Wangchuk said that the circulation audit was initiated in 2010 to build the capacity of media houses, especially to keep proper records of circulation figures and financial records.

The findings of the audit for each media house will be shared soon with the stakeholders.

Rinzin Wangchuk