17 August 2017

Ethiopia's Satellite TV Dilemma

The development of the new media is one of the basic changes in the communication sphere in the 21st century. One can have access to pending conversation and main stories around the globe with a click and blink of an eye. Though evolution of social media and citizen journalism overshadows and challenges the leverage of the mainstream and traditional media, the latter still continues to serve as an alternative source for the public by updating itself and adopting modern mechanisms. Now the choices for contents are many ranging from new and traditional media.

Despite the overflow of information from different sources, doubt remains on the accuracy and relevance of stories. This would also be a right question to ask the media in developing countries where they are expected to foster socioeconomic developments. Serving the public may account beyond entertaining and informing.

Ethiopia is going through satellite media revolutions with the number of channels growing dramatically over the past few years widening alternative programmes for audiences.

While the satellite TV channels ought to get licensed by the Ethiopian Broadcasting Authority, some of them based in foreign countries do not need to have license from the Authority. This gives autonomy to the media organization, but the role of social responsibility could appear at stake.

The cultural pollution by the media is well understood not only by the audience but also the authority. According to Gebregiorgis Abrha Authority Communication Affairs Director the audience claim that licensed channels have come up with insignificant and unethical programs. However he says the authority has no mandate to monitor the programs broadcast by foreign based channels.

Today, 13 private and public satellite TV channels are on air, of which five of them were licensed this year with Walta and ENN televisions airing programmes already while Fana TV is on transmission test. Dimtse Woyane and Arki televisions are also going through establishment process..

The authority monitors each media program whether they are entertaining social and political affairs, and either they are operating in line with the profession among others. Nevertheless, most of the media and new television stations are somehow implementing what they have proposed before establishment.

The stations are fond of entertainment programs as they try to appeal to attract wide audience which the authority sometimes write a letter to the televisions requesting them to come up with valuable ideas and something important to the audience.

Dr. Teshager Shiferaw Journalism Lecturer at Addis Ababa University. "Some of the media houses tend to be more concerned on entertainment than serious but important issues of the public. They are market oriented that's why they fail to provide relevant and timely information." They are more interested interested making profits than giving timely national and international information. It is well understood that entertainment programs are not that much valuable to bring attitudinal change on the public,

Whereas entertainment is necessary to grab public interest, international influential media are mainly concerned on news and edutainment that would solely entertain the public. Anyways the increasing number of the TV channels would create various media choices that help the public to satisfy its preference.

In a developing country like Ethiopia, adopting foreign media system is significant to share the world experience but that should be done in the way that prevent cultural pollution. And the public outcry that we see today is mainly due to the fear of the media impact on the generation.

The recent media system in our country is alarming for the low content of programs and unprofessional presentation. This need needs journalist's commitment to upgrade themselves and organizations to media council to curb the problem.

It is not only the intellectuals who raise question on media content, viewers also shares similar thought. Audience Getachew Misganaw believes ENN is good to some extent for broadcasting news and other social valued programs. But some of the TV stations are not relevant to him. "I can say most media product of some channels is unmatched with Ethiopian context. He also categorizes the channels as either entertainers or information providers. For him channels such as ENN are performing well to some extent in terms of reporting and breaking new developments and raising controversial issues.

Another audience Natinael Yohannes seconds Getachew's opinion. He observes some of the media organizations as solely sticking to transmission of foreign movies. Although he is not fond of watching TV channels, he believes the content of some media houses are superficial. "Personally I am not that much exposed to the TV channel but, as per my observation there is a high level of addiction to them "

It is obvious that the increasing number of the media by itself is a notable change for availing access to alternative information but one may argue on the quality of the program of the TVs.

According to Mehamed Said, Government Communication Affairs Public Relation Officer, while the increasing number of TV channels is encouraging, their role is still low. He is skeptical over the media's role in serving the needs of the people. He says some of the satellite televisions are mainly concerned with sport drama, and music..

It seems vague while officials become reluctant to tell the media about their performance. However the problem is emanates from the low performance of their duty. And some of them are pretends cooperating with media as eating one's own tail. And this could create one reason to the channels to be mainly concerned on entertainment.

ENN TV News Room Head Yayesew Shimelis expressed his irritation on some official's reluctance to provide the media organizations with the needed information. But despite this challenges he believes that media is working its level best in offering the public with timely news and relevant development stories in addition to airing the investigative reports. But the media has consequently faced resistance from some government officials to provide genuine information.

As ENN is investigating the implementation of national projects and the public claims, it faces various problems particularly in getting information which he described as a major hindrance in the steady growth of Ethiopian media.

While the constitution allows every citizen to get information, the officials themselves violate this right by refusing to provide information.

Responding to media claim on official's reluctance to offer genuine information, Mehamed says his office is doing its level best in awaking the officials to positively respond to the media. In fact, one of their challenges to come up with credible and relevant stories is reluctance of officials to give information. There are even times that my office is forced to write recommendation letter requesting officials to respond to the claims of the media.

Including ENN various media are still working for the public interest amid of the dilemma. As to Yayesew, his media is plans to add more informational and educational programs in the coming budget year. "It costs a lot to build a vibrant and sustainable media. But that is what ENN is trying to do."

Nahoo TV is another channel that is working to upgrade its programs both in quantity and quality. TV Owner and CEO Wendosen Kassaye notes his TV station is playing its due role through promoting social value and nationalism. Nahoo TV would increase extra audience oriented programs and news that could meet the interest of the people.

As the country is working to raise the media role by modernizing its analogue media system to digital one and plans to increase the current 13 satellite TV stations to 20 in the near future., broadcasters need to deliver timely and relevant national affairs.

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