Dubai: Six thousand dollars can buy a minute of air time, but a talk show episode can cost $240,000. In Lebanon, media outlets are charging parliamentary candidates exorbitant prices for coverage.
Whether beamed into living rooms on television screens or heard over the radio, legislative hopefuls are keen to get their messages out to their constituents before the May 6 election.
"Election season has prompted Lebanese media outlets to offer packages that can reach up to $1.5 million per electoral list," says Roula Mikhael, who heads Maharat, a civil society group monitoring Lebanon's upcoming vote.
"A month and a half ago, a minute on a morning television programme could cost you $1,000. But the prices go up steadily as the elections get closer," says Mikhael.
These prices make people more frustrated as these candidates are willing to pay such amounts to support their campaigns, in a country that is suffering from a failing infrastructure, poverty and a mounting public debt.
One Social Media influencer who has a page on facebook called EL A’ama published a video, expressing his frustration about all the money that has been put on PR and advertisements.
“These parties and their candidates could have contributed that money to maintain roads and bridges, to improve electricity and roads. Candidates can put their names on these roads -- we surely don’t mind.”
Lebanon has one of the world’s biggest public debt, equal to about 150 per cent of its GDP, according to the International Monetary Fund. Debt service absorbs almost half of government revenues, making Lebanon’s the biggest debt burden in the world according to the World Bank.
Only this month Lebanon won an aid pledge exceeding $11 billion at a Paris conference, rallying international support for an investment program to boost Lebanon’s economy.
The money will go to overhaul its infrastructure and economic growth. Donors in turn want to see Lebanon commit to long-stalled reforms.
With inputs from AP