TANZANIA Media Fund (TMF) has freshly introduced Transformation Grant, which is aimed at partnering with a media organisation for a significant period of time, with the aim of 'mid-wifing' a long-lasting legacy in the partner institution or with the aim to contribute to structural changes in the media environment (legal or economic).
Staff Writer DEOGRATIAS MUSHI recently interviewed TMF Executive Director, Mr ERNEST SUNGURA, on this grant and the effect it intends to impart on the Tanzanian media. Excerpts...
QUESTION: What kind of media houses qualify for this grant?
ANSWER: All media organisations or practitioners with at least three years experience in the industry with collaborative partnership between TMF and a selected media organisation may apply for this grant. The partnership lasts between one to two years and the maximum budget is 200m/-. The grant is open year round and is usually approved by Grant Selection Committee.
Q: How is the implementation envisioned?
A: According to our plans, the implementation of the transformation grant is envisioned in such a way that different media houses may submit project proposals guided by the standard applications form developed by us (TMF) and accessible in our website.
The applicant is supposed to respond to our questions like:- Structural problems that hinder successes in terms of making Media House a critical player towards domestic accountability, describing structural problems which affect Media House and make them not to become critical players towards domestic accountability?
We also expect applicants to briefly describe how they intend to change their media houses and make them critical players towards domestic accountability? We expect applicants to itemise what exactly they want to be done and how they would like be implemented.
Q: Could you describe the wider benefits of this structural transformation.
A: We expect the structural problems in the Media House to focus on lack of quality media products, lack of investigative journalism, low circulation/ reach, low readership/listenership, lack of advertisements, small revenue, lack of use of new technology, lack of qualified staff, lack of equipments and lack of economic sustainability. All these are listed in the form for the applicants to pick or inspired by some of them.
Such questions are the main difference from the format of the content application form, otherwise the rest of the elements is similar. Applications are subjected to the ordinary review and assessment where quality proposals are to be determined and followed by pre-award assessment on financial and organisational capacity of the media organisation.
Q: Any challenges and lessons that TMF has learnt so far?
A: It is interesting to note that since when the open call was made in October 2012, some mainstream media outlets and website, the results of applications were shocking. Until the closing date in January 2013, only six applicants applied under transformation grant.
No any of the applicants under transformation grant responded to the questions rightly. Most of the applicants under transformation grant requested funds to establish investigative journalism desk focusing mainly on purchase of equipment, nothing featured on identified critical issues to investigate.
Q: What steps did TMF take to address such challenges?
A: Since most of the applicants applied on content grant (53 out of 59), we had to identify those who could not be shortlisted for pre-award assessment may need transformation to re-apply under transformation grant. On receiving the re-applied project proposals under transformation grant, we organised a workshop to take them through what it is expected from the transformation grant and together identified the structural issues affecting the media.
As a TMF team we are always careful to ensure the structural issues originate from the applicants and reflect the reality of the Tanzanian media industry.
Q: Explain how you scrutinise applications for this grant?
A: We normally facilitates the structural issues identified, to pick only those which can be addressed through TMF funding and not those which may require collaboration with other media stakeholders. The applicants are then asked to reflect on the selected structural issues and customise them depending on each of the particular media house's needs.
We are always there to guide the process of project proposal development for another day. Usually, all applicants are given a week to finalise project proposals and submit on time.
Q: What has been your experience so far?
A: A total of 25 project proposals under transformation grant were submitted.We subjected them to critical review and pre-award assessment. Twelve project proposals passed the initial assessment criteria. Our secretariat is still not yet satisfied with the design of the 12 project proposals which passed the initial assessment criteria.
Most of the project approaches do not guarantee real transformation to take place unless proper guidance is put in place in more strategic way. The concerns prompted us to reflect again on our strategy and what is expected by the transformation grant in terms of addressing structural problems in the media houses.
We have come up with main four structural strategic objectives of which one or two may be addressed by a particular media house to ensure that at the end of 2014 (five months before end of phase 2A in May 2015), a certain legacy of structural changes will remain in a particular media house and draw better lessons for the next phase 2B.
Q: How do you propose new selection and approval procedures?
A: We are supposed to have funded at least 24 media institutions under transformation grant (4 in 2012, eight in 2013, eight in 2014 and four in 2015). To make impact of the transformation grant and ensure diversity use of the grant, the four structural strategic objectives are allocated number of beneficiaries.
Eight media houses will undergo intensive institutional mentorship by end of 2014. Eight media houses should establish investigative journalism desk and function as a watch dog of those in power by end of 2014. Four media houses are expected to undergo development of media business model to guarantee more revenue and profitability as one of the economic sustainability strategies of the particular media house.
Four potential partners on new media and social network shall establish platform that will give space for on-line and citizen journalism.
Q: Does this programme include approval process?
A: Yes. Through proactive approach and engagement, potential media organisations will be identified by using the selection criteria described under each of the separate structural strategic objectives below.
Second step is that pre-award assessment are conducted to assess the financial and organisational capacity of the media organisations, while in step three agreement shall be made between us and partner on the expected plan of approach and project results as a way of buy-in from the media house and guarantee project ownership.
In step four, the applicant will be asked to develop a full project proposal and submit to us upon agreement. In step five, final shortlist by TMF secretariat is made not necessarily based on satisfactory content of the proposal, but on the need for taking the particular media house to undergo transformation.
In step six, final shortlist will be presented to GSC for final approval, again as in step 5 approval will be given not necessarily based on satisfactory content of the proposal, but on the need for taking the particular media house to undergo transformation.
In the last step, our secretariat will incorporate all inputs from GSC and guide the finalisation of the full project proposal and through use of its developed mentorship programme, Investigative Journalism desk establishment strategy, developed business models and project proposals developed together with the potential partners to implement the projects under transformation grant.
Q: What are the TMF structural strategic objectives?
A: Our first Structural Strategic Objective is Institutional mentorship conducted to at least eight Media House newsrooms both in the capital city and upcountry through mentoring to at least one editor and five other senior journalists whose professional capacity would be developed on skills, ethics and pluralism of content by end of 2014.
Another one is structural problem: Lack of newsroom mentoring culture has caused editors to become fixers instead of playing their role as editors who also have responsibility to develop individual journalists' capacity. If this trend is allowed to continue for next ten years, a big gap will be created between the young coming journalists and the guru.
The structural problem is centred on lack of sustainable professional standards and ethics that would always guarantee quality professional content in the media outlets.
Expected long lasting legacy: Many editors play a role of a mentor and aspiring to inspire all the time the junior and mid-career journalists who will always admire their editors and senior journalists as being the main contributor to their individual professional capacity development reflected on the quality media work.
(This will be administered through a particular questionnaire filled-in throughout during the partnership period between TMF and the media house)
Q: What is your plan of approach?
A: Selection of mentors with diversity of skills and knowledge, independent thinkers and open minded veteran journalists, readily available and has willingness and passion to see the media industry is professionally developed.
These will form a pool of mentors whose role will particularly focus on institutional mentorship attached to one of the qualified media house to undergo implementation of the structural strategic objective number one.
Engagement of international mentor trainer to train a pool of TMF mentors and enable them appreciates the mentorship effectiveness and how it must be done to develop the professional capacity of the newsroom through well organised mentorship programme.
(Engagement of the international mentor is completed as per Terms of Reference) Develop an effective mentorship programme focusing on institutional mentorship. The programme must have mentoring guidelines and standards of which each mentor must follow. It must also contain monitoring and evaluation of the mentorship effectiveness taking place at a particular media house.
Q: Any criteria for a Media House to undergo structural strategic house?
A: Selection of a particular media house to undergo this structural strategic objective must pass the following criteria:- Media owners true willingness to undertake this long term partnership where the TMF mentorship programme will be implemented to improve professional capacity and standards of a particular media house.
Agreement to improve working conditions and terms for journalists as retention strategy through better pay based on each individual journalist's performance measured bi-annually or annually to guarantee sustainable increased professional capacity and standards in a particular media house.
The Structural Strategic Objective 2: Investigative journalism stimulated through practical investigative reporting where at least eight media houses are perceived by public as critical media player that function as a watchdog to those in power by the end of 2014.
The linkage to structural problem: Investigative reporting in most of the Tanzanian media houses has gone down as most of the media outlets are inclined to single source stories without any effort, time and energy spent on in-depth search of reliable information. If this trend is allowed to continue, a media shall not become a critical player that function as a watchdog to those in power rather a mouth piece of the prominent politicians and business tycoons.
Q: Any expected long lasting legacy in this programme?
A: Vibrant and diversity of investigative stories published or broadcast and become part of daily functions of the newsroom with investigative journalism desks. (This will be administered through a particular questionnaire filled-in throughout during the partnership period between TMF and the media house).
Plan of approach include engagement of a media consultant with strong skills and practical experience in investigative journalism to develop a strategy to establish an investigative journalism desk. The strategy must include plan of approach, guidelines, requirements and estimated cost to implement the strategy in a normal circumstance.
Media owners true willingness to establish investigative journalism desk which aim to stimulate practical investigative reporting on critical issues affecting the ordinary people without fear or favour to those in power.
Q: Why is Tanzania's economic media environment volatile?
A: Economic media environment in Tanzania is volatile due to underdeveloped distribution systems, decreasing reading habit that would have increased circulation, misuse of the value of airtime, lack of advertisement power, etc, all these require a creative media business model that would guarantee more revenue and maximise profits as such develop the economic media environment of particular media house in long term partnership with TMF.
If the economic media environment is not developed through creative media business model, the trend to compete on same sources of income will continue thus affect profitability. The existing situation of inadequate remuneration of staff paid untimely will continue, thus affect professional independence and journalists will still be prompted to corruption and brown envelop.