The International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX) on June 27, 2013 released its latest Africa Media Sustainability Index (MSI). IREX found out that traditional media still remains the preferred source of news.
By “sustainability” IREX refers to the ability of media to play its vital role as the “fourth estate.” How sustainable is a media sector in the context of providing the public with useful, timely, and objective information? How well does it serve as a facilitator of public discussion?
To measure this, the MSI assesses five “objectives” that shape a media system: freedom of speech, professional journalism, plurality of news, business management, and supporting institutions.
Comparing 2013 with 2010’s index, IREX found out that Africa’s overall average remained static. However, a noticeable jump took place in the Plurality of News objective, with the continental average standing at 2.05, up from 1.99. Offsetting this gain, however, was a drop of .11 in the Business Management continental objective.
The MSI has recorded progress and setbacks since 2007. Gains have been made in press freedoms, as journalists face fewer overt challenges to free speech. Countries adopting the Declaration of Table Mountain, which decriminalizes libel, have further improved.
Business management practices have suffered as revenues dropped during the global economic slowdown. Fears of losing advertising revenues are pervasive, such that editorial and advertising interests often intersect in newsrooms.
The report also shows that in Mali, journalists perceive the online media to be at an infant level. In Botswana a participant for this research stated that his colleagues do not use the online resources adequately for the purpose of gathering and disseminating news.
In Malawi, online advertising seem to be gaining ground but its profitability comes into question. For Namibia it was gathered that the lack of local language creates a huge barrier for many especially regarding content online.
South Africa remains the region’s best performer, despite backsliding in recent years, followed by Namibia and Ghana. Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Sudan were considered unsustainable, demonstrating severe problems with free speech, the quality of journalism, and absence or weakness of supportive institutions of a free media environment.
On the MSI graph for Nigeria, professional Journalism saw a rise from 2.00 in 2010 to 2.17 in 2013, plurality of news source fell by 1 from its 2.25 in 2010 to 2.24 in 2013, business management fell drastically from 2.14 in 2010 to 1.78 in 2013, same for supporting institutions which was 2.70 in 2010 and now 2.59.
IREX is an international nonprofit organization providing leadership and innovative programs to improve the quality of education, strengthen independent media, and foster pluralistic civil society development.
IREX designs education programs and provides consulting that support lifelong learning. Programs focus on primary and secondary levels, through higher education, and continuing into professional training.
IREX media projects work with local partners to advance the professionalism and long-term economic sustainability of newspapers, radio, television, and new media. Working in transitional, conflict and post-conflict and repressive environments, IREX uses specialized training, tailored consulting, and small grants to build skills for balanced, investigative reporting, better media management, and advocacy for press freedom.
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