Tanzania Daily News (Dar es Salaam)

16 February 2013

Tanzania: Public Broadcasting's Role Revisited

analysis

TANZANIA joined the international community this week (February 13, 2013) to celebrate the World Radio Day which is marked worldwide to reflect the importance of public service broadcasting for the development of humanity.

Tanzania marked this day for the second time this year. A day the UN recognized the importance of radio broadcasting in the world that it caters for everyone and helps spread information faster and it reaches most people irrespective of where they are. The day was marked under the theme; "Challenges of public broadcasting in Tanzania".

Mr Ndimara Tegambwage, one of the respected media gurus in the country gave a presentation titled; The concept and rationale for public broadcasting in Tanzania. Other presentations during the occasion included; The legal framework for public service broadcasting in Tanzania which was presented Mr Mohammed Tibanyerenda a legal expert and media activist.

The UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, in his message on the occasion to mark the world radio day underscored the importance of radio broadcasting in the modern world. In his message read on his behalf by the country director for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), Ms Vibeke Jensen, radio broadcasting is a communication medium that remains at the forefront of the 21st century.

The UN has endorsed the 2011 resolution adopted by UNESCO General Conference, proclaiming February 13, every year, as the world Radio Day, the day the UN Radio was established in 1946. "Since its inception more than 100 years ago, radio has sparked the imagination, opened the doors for change and served as channel for lifesaving information in its critical role to educate, entertain and inform the public on what is happening around them," says Ban Ki Moon in his statement.

UN radio, established in 1946, has been used as a channel for life saving broadcasting- widely accessible, easy to deliver massage even without electricity. It connects people, thus, it was used to reach out to the world. Number of radio stations has been on increase in the world. It, therefore, remains source for social change in the world.

According to UN Secretary General, the radio remains widely accessible, it is relatively cheap especially by the rural dwellers and "it is still the medium that can carry any message to any place, anytime, even without electricity." UNESCO committed to maintain the power of the radio to champion good governance, protect radio journalists, make full use of community radio to amplify the voices of the young people, says Ms Jensen during the event that was organized by the Media Council of Tanzania (MCT).

On the concept of public broadcasting in Tanzania, Mr Tegambwage was critical about the set up of the "perceived" public broadcasting services, saying they are concentrated on news about national down to local community leaders. Public service broadcasting is big debate worldwide and even it is difficult to distinguish between the public and private radio broadcasting services. "In fact, some of the privately owned broadcasting radio stations are doing a better job," he said.

According to him, public broadcasting services are not supposed to operate under any political or business influence. "Essentially, they are supposed to be run by tax payers money, who will have final saying on how the medium should be run. It is also expected to reach the majority of the people and their voices must be heard and not glorify the few individuals with political and monetary influence," he said. He recommended that public service broadcasting in the country must have the following prerequisite: We need public service broadcasting which will stand by nothing, but the truth. Its broadcasters must have the highest degree of professionalism.

The objectives of public broadcasting services must be to reach out everyone in their respective localities on the basis of equality. Professional working in public service broadcasting must be independent professionals and tax payers must be able to decide what should be broadcasted that would boost their knowledge on various national policies and programmes with aim to boost their socio-economic development. Public service broadcasting stations must be different from the private one, actually they should be role models upon which the private service broadcasting services could emulate.

Public service broadcasting must have the courage to have public interest at heart. The rationale for public service broadcasting is to boost knowledge and help the citizens make informed decisions on issues that affect their lives. In this case, they must reach the majority of the people. For the message to be delivered, to be broadcast and listened by majority of the people is important. For us to have national campaign to mobilize people to buy radio sets, there is need to have public radio listeners association as is the case in many countries in the world.

On the status of public broadcasting in the country, Mr Ndimara expressed doubts if there are any. According to him, even those perceived to be for public, have been serving the interests of leaders. He gave gave the example of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) which he claimed once faced with ethics issue which had to be resolved by the Parliament. Mr Ernest Sungura, the executive Director of the Tanzania Media Fund (TMF), urged creativity and high ethical standards among public service broadcasting staff so that they could win public respect. "Uniqueness comes with creativity in bringing in new programmes.

But the problem we see today is that there is not much difference between public and private broadcasting services in the country," he said. He explained that the ability to serve the public, politicians equally comes with creativity in which the private ones should take them as point of reference with aim to improve their services. Ms Jamillah Abdallah, the owner of a private newspaper in the city-Changamoto-is of the opinion that Public service broadcasting should work independently from politicians and business community influence.

In this case, the medium must be run by tax payers money. It also calls for all Tanzanians to be loyal in paying taxes if we are to steer the development of this country into higher levels, including the public service broadcasting, according to her. Other speakers to the one day event held at the National Museum Conference hall in the city this week, talked of the need for public service broadcasting to meet their goal to reach the majority of the people, they should strive to meet expectations of the people especially those in the rural areas who are hungry for information.

Ms Rose Haji Mwalimu, renown public broadcaster and media consultant, says more than 80 per cent of the country's population of 44.9 million (according to 2012 census) live in rural areas. Most of them do not have access to credible information as most media are concentrated in urban centres. Ms Mwalimu, who is also the coordinator of community media project at UNESCO country office in Dar es Salaam, says the establishment of Community radio stations and newspapers have helped fill the vacuum created due to absence of public media in the rural areas. According to her, many of community media are doing better.

Other speakers urged for the need to have strategies aimed to transform the Tanzania Broadcasting Corporation (TBC) to make it really a public broadcasting medium. They cited the example of the good job by the then External service of the national radio-radio Tanzania Dar es Salaam (RTD) during the liberation struggle of Southern Africa in the 1970s that won Tanzania respect before the international community to date.

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