There is emerging pressure for media organizations across Africa to find areas of convergence to push a continental agenda and stay in business. This comes on the back of actual or perceived dominance of international; mostly western media and dissatisfaction of their coverage of Africa, as well as financial difficulties being faced by media organizations.
The media has come a long way in helping to developed communities but things are not the same anymore. With social media dominating our lives, anybody can put anything across to thousands and perhaps millions of people all over the world. That is why there is the need to rethink media, embrace innovations and engage citizens to bring about the required change; the theme for this year’s conference.
Latifah Ngunjni. Group Production Director, Royal Media Services
From across Kenya’s 105 vibrant televisions stations and 386 radio stations, these media practitioners, some lecturers from journalism schools have met to consider the burning issues of media practice. With representatives from Ghana, they discuss the need for a journalistic presence on social media, engaging audiences to build relevant content which then brings in the money to keep media organizations running.
For small radio and television stations, the advice is to merge on strategic projects and share the profits. Country coordinator of DW Akadamie, Kenya Jutta Vom Hofe describes how a media origination in Germany has had to lay off thousands of journalists.
Hassan Albeity, a participant
The media entrepreneurship part of the conference sought to draw the attention of media practitioners and journalism students to the need to create innovative media businesses and how to balance same with their commitments to their employers in honesty.
Prof Peter Anyang' Nyong'o. Governor, County Government of Kisumu
But whiles journalists improve their social media engagements and financial viability by forming consortiums and creating individual businesses, their attention was also drawn to a key national debate in many African countries now; gender inequities and media representations of gender.
An entire plenary session was dedicated to this discussion where it emerged that in some part of Kenya, some men are said to be unable to engage a woman sexually unless they have beaten them. There were also experiences of how female education received an overdose of attention leading to empowered women and men with an inferiority complex.
That would be followed by a brief debate on the role of media in enforcing socially assigned roles of boys and girls which may not necessarily be helpful to the gender balance agenda in the long run. Participants were inspired to note that females served in key positions in Ghana’s media but the point was also made of how these women in managerial and editorial positions have had the need to prove themselves over and over even when they have demonstrated competence above doubt.
Plenary session on Media and Gender
The story of Joy News’ security desk being headed by a female was also of particular interest to participants. Although some of them who practice in the dynamic Kenyan media industry had different stories to tell. In the end, Gender experts in Kenya say pushing a female media agenda may end up in discrimination of boys although they admit, history shows the vulnerability of females the world over.
Unemployed journalist, gender inequities, the financial viability of media organizations and social media’s facilitation of misinformation are key challenges but there are still many other problems that require urgent attention.