A call to Move beyond Platitudes about Diverse and Pluralistic Media: Influences on Editorial Direction of Tanzanian Media

TitleA call to Move beyond Platitudes about Diverse and Pluralistic Media: Influences on Editorial Direction of Tanzanian Media
Publication TypeConference Paper
Author(s)Akpabio, E., A. Katunzi, and N. Mfaume
Affiliation (1st Author)School of Journalism and Mass Communiation, University of Dar es Salaam
Section or WGJournalism Research and Education Section
DateSat 29 June
Slot CodeJRE S3b
Slot Code (Keyword)JRE S3b
Time of Session14:00-15:30
Session TitleRedefining Ethical Implications Theme III: Professional Journalism
Submission ID4943

The history of the news media in Tanzania dates back to 1888 when the Anglican University Mission to Central Africa (UMCA) established its first periodical named ‘Msimulizi’ - ‘the story teller’(Sturmer, 1998). This early beginning of the Tanzanian media’s story telling abilities has grown to encompass magazines, radio and TV stations and online presence. Smeltzer (1998) notes that for thirty years, the role of the media was to “support the implementation of government policy and serve the ruling political party” (p.47). Towards the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s, the media environment changed considerably with more players taking advantage of the liberalized environment to open shop. There have been concerns and discussions among journalists and stakeholders on the level of editorial independence of these media given the various interests of their proprietors. The Media Council of Tanzania (MCT) State of the Media 2010 report also underlines these concerns when it posits that some news stories appeared to have been slanted to suit proprietors’ business interests and concerns or are due to advertisers’ pressure. These are also reflected in the literature on Tanzania and African media where advertisers, proprietors, public relations and corporate interests as well as government officials etc have all being fingered as exerting tremendous influence on the news (White 2012, Ongongo-Ongogo’a and White, 2008, Skjerdal, 2008; Akpabio, 2007; Faringer, 1991). Same also applies globally (Croteau and Hoynes, 2001; Croteau and Hoynes, 2003). This study, therefore, set out to determine the impact of ownership on the operations of the Tanzanian media through a survey of Dar es Salaam-based journalists and in-depth interviews with media managers and retired journalists. Using stratified sampling to accommodate main or predominant work area, eighty one journalists from four media organizations were chosen as respondents for the survey component of this study. Four managers from these media houses as well as three retired but well respected journalists were interviewed to obtain past and current perspectives on this issue. Findings indicate that ownership plays a huge role in the way news is reported with both government and privately-owned media guilty of influencing the editorial processes for a variety of reasons mostly self-serving purposes. Corporate bodies also exerted influence on the news even though there were divergent views on this; with journalists denying this effect while media managers and retired journalists affirming this to be the case. This study, therefore, provides convincing proof of these influences on the local media and hopes that a global process of searching for practical solutions of this malady beyond platitudes can commence.

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