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Peter Kuthan / AZFA
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« on: February 14 2007 »

By: Roseleen Nzioka

Article summary:
African media need to focus on local content production to balance the flow of communication and images from the North

Media practitioners in Africa have been challenged to help African governments in formulating a regulatory environment that is conducive to the establishment of indigenous media.
Speaking at a media session during the World Social Forum at Kasarani in Nairobi, the Director of Highway Africa News Agency (HANA), Chris Kabwato said there was urgent need to engage African governments in media best practices. This kind of dialogue with the government would enable indigenous African practitioners to invest in producing culturally relevant content and counter the highly skewed Euro-centric content that Africans are currently consuming.
Mr. Kabwato said that Africa had for years been infiltrated by foreign media and this had reduced Africans to almost pure consumers of media and not producers. Time had come he said, for Africans to establish home-grown media as alternatives to the foreign media which dominate broadcast and print media in Africa. Mr. Kabwato warned that some of the alternative media in Africa relied heavily on donor funding for their operations. This he said was dangerous because it meant that the media could not be self-sustainable.
Other issues he outlined as crucial for African government's to address in order to create indigenous African media with culturally relevant content were : access of media ; citizenship versus consumerism ; the north/south relationship ; hegemony ; and diversity and pluralism.
Speaking at the same forum, the Africa director of Inter Press Service news agency, Ms Farai Samhungu revealed that although IPS was formed with the ideal of the South to generate home-grown news, the agency was still donor dependent 43 years later. Ms Samhungu said although IPS publishes in about 20 languages, the cost of translations was exorbitant.
"For example it may cost us three times more to produce a French translation of a news report from English", said Ms Samhungu emphasizing the expenses involved in producing multi-lingual content. She however said there was room for the co-existence of information as a commodity as well as for the common good.
A communication activist, Jason Nadi, spoke about the liberalization of media content production. Mr. Nadi said that the modern information communication technologies such as the Internet had enabled individuals to produce their own news content culminating in an information society.
 In common parlance an information society was one where information was treated as a form of currency at different platforms and fora. Mr. Nadi said this individually produced media was an alternative to the traditional mass media.
Mr. Nadi also said that in Europe, media conglomerates in individual countries had distorted media freedom as giant companies had the financial power to control content and the manner of distribution. He said information through mass media was becoming less reliable because it was treated as merchandise for consumers not audiences.
"To counter this we need communities to be able to create and exchange their own content and use different platforms", said Nadi adding that modern technology in the media was operating amid medieval media governance structures. Jon Barnes from the PANOS London office said that his organisation had identified weaknesses and challenges within the African media and began redressing them. For example, he said, PANOS was engaged in building African journalists capacity to report effectively on trade issues especially at international level where there was a dearth of African generated content.

more: http://hana.ru.ac.za/
Story provided free by the Highway Africa News Agency

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