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Africa Media Development

Editorial decisions, economic decisions: The funders’ role in West African media

Nonso Jideofor's picture

While independent journalists are bastions in support of good government, “independence” is not always an available choice. In Nigeria, for example, in a highly competitive job market that underpays and has little respect for journalists, many sway their coverage according to explicit and implicit political pressures and are sometimes expected to take bribes. One member of the media explained it this way:   
 
“If there’s a cholera outbreak from contaminated water sources and the Ministry of Water Resources is doing an event, reporters will cover the event and not bother about the cholera outbreak itself. This is not because they don’t care; [editorial choices] have mostly become economic decisions. The Ministry will pay for the event to be covered, that is how the system works. You aren’t supposed to pay for news but you can pay to make news.”
 
In a media landscape like this one, where economic and editorial decisions are in conflict, international donors can provide vital financial support to independent media organizations, empowering them to hold governments accountable. But as my team at Reboot detailed in a report published this summer, providing strategic support requires a holistic approach, beyond program funding.    
 
Because of its flourishing media ecosystem, Nigeria is a powerful regional case study for how funders might take such an approach. Even though Nigeria formally ended state-owned media monopolies when it deregulated broadcasting in 1992, the government maintains informal control of the news through political patronage, corrupt practices, and direct threats and violence. This is true both at the federal level as well as subnational; state and local governments, to varying degrees, use these tools to bend media coverage.
 
Examples can be found across West Africa, such as in Ghana, where we learned that the practice of purchasing coverage is so widespread it has entered common parlance under the word “soli,” or solidarity money. In this landscape, independent media struggles to be truly independent.  
 
Nevertheless, the rise of the digital age is democratizing coverage control in West Africa. Citizens are breaking news and analyzing stories through social media. Their voices are transforming media—upending the traditional media models and inspiring new ones—and demanding that media uncover corruption and hold leaders accountable. This citizen-powered media landscape has in turn pushed the government to become more responsive to public discourse, potentially driving more citizen engagement.

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

World of NewsThese are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Gasoline, Guns, and Giveaways: Is the End of Three-Quarters of Global Poverty Closer than You Think?
Center for Global Development

Amartya Sen’s famous study of famines found that a nation’s people died not because of a food shortage but because some people lacked entitlements to that food. In a new CGD working paper with Chris Hoy, we ask if a similar situation is now the case for global poverty: are national resources available but not being used to end poverty?  The short answer is yes (but don’t stop reading…). We find that approximately three-quarters of global poverty, at the extreme poverty line of $1.90 per day, if not higher poverty lines, could now be eliminated—in principle—via redistribution of nationally available resources.

People-Powered Media Innovation in West Africa
Omidyar

As media ecosystems in West Africa are increasingly diversifying and opening up after decades of state control, innovative and independent journalism is advancing government transparency and accountability. New opportunities for funders are opening in tandem, with potential for both social and economic impact. This report explores several of these opportunities, surfaced through in-depth research on Nigeria and Ghana. While both countries lead the region in terms of both economic and media development, they operate under many of the same dynamics and constraints that exist across West Africa, and show how other markets may evolve, politically and commercially.
 

Meaty issues on the radio

BBC Media Action's picture

Ehizogie Ohiani, a Producer/Trainer for BBC Media Action in Nigeria, discusses how radio is raising awareness about the lack of hygiene amongst the butchers of Benue State, Nigeria.

A meal without meat is as good as no meal for most people in Benue State, North Central Nigeria. Considering its importance, one would expect that hygiene surrounding the preparation and sale of meat would be held in the same high esteem. This is not the case.

A murky mix of flies, blood, water, muddy walkways, sweaty bodies and smoke combine to make the abattoirs in the marketplaces of Benue State a perfect breeding ground for disease. Lack of adequate sanitation knowledge, lack of enforcement by market associations and insufficient supervision of animal slaughter by qualified veterinary officers conspire to create major health challenges for communities.

I was at Harvest FM, a local radio station in Benue State, to train producers. We were brainstorming ways we could use their popular early morning show “Good Morning Benue” to help serve the public interest. For the producers, an obvious choice was to discuss hygiene in abattoirs.

The programme explored a number of problems in the state’s local abattoirs: an absence of toilet and handwashing facilities and the practice of washing meat with untreated water sourced direct from the River Benue.

The Made-in-China Version of Media Development in Africa

Sina Odugbemi's picture

The South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA) has taken on an exceedingly important task. It has launched a ‘China in Africa’ research project. The project ‘investigates the emerging relationship between Africa and China’ and ‘seeks to develop an understanding of the motives, rationale and institutional structures guiding China’s Africa policy, and to study China’s growing power and influence so that they will help rather than hinder development in Africa’. (p.2). The important research paper that prompted this blog post– ‘The Rise of China’s State-Led Media Dynasty in Africa’– was published in June this year by SAIIA as part of the ‘China in Africa’ research project. The author, Yu–Shan Wu, is a researcher on the team.

The report shows that China is moving into the African media landscape with a striking comprehensiveness and intensity. Wu’s report is frank and detailed.  China’s efforts are designed to attain two objectives: