The East Africa’s media landscape is distinctly fascinating as shown by the three independent country reports -accessible via our EAST Library. The studies were guided by the DW Academy Media Viability Indicators (MVIs) which consider five key aspects: politics, economy, technology, community, and content.
Here are five thought-provoking findings you might not have known about East Africa’s media ecosystem.
I).The Covid pandemic punctured Ad boom
Kenya was East Africa’s most prominent media ad spender, East Africa’s biggest economy shelled out $1 billion in commercials as of December 2019. However, revenue from advertising has recently been hit hard by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
In Tanzania, ad revenues have been declining for a long time, but the ongoing pandemic has exacerbated the situation. Analysts blame stiff competition from new entrants into the media space who have taken advantage of digital platforms for declining ad revenue.
Uganda’s $0.05 daily tax on social media users may have increased government revenue but has harmed the previous access and consumption of media sites Ugandans enjoyed before the tax, and thereby limited the digital ad revenues for media outlets.
II). Politics constantly attempting to influence media
Another critical finding from the study is that companies that buy ad campaigns in Kenya have strong links to the political elite. As a result, some of them occasionally seek to manipulate media content. The government subtly attempts to influence the media too.
“Why would the government be re-introducing new pieces of legislation that have been declared unconstitutional by the courts of the land as going against freedom of expression and other democratic gains?” Dr. Erneo Nyamboga, a media scholar and lecturer at Moi University, asked. He gives an example of the Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes Amendment Bill 2021, seeking to amend the Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes Act (2018).
In neighbouring Tanzania, potential advertisers have to walk a tightrope, and many avoid media that are critical of the government for fear of reprisals.
Uganda’s current legal framework does not support media growth, and some laws even seek to suppress and control the press. In addition, frequent internet shutdowns by the government during elections and the switching off of radio stations – Ugandans rely heavily on radio for news and information – significantly undermines freedom of expression.
III). Technology- budding space for East Africa’s digital news content
With the proliferation of social media and increasing internet access, the digital space is a boom and a curse for East Africa’s media industry.
Tanzania’s commercial capital, Dar es Salaam, is one of the most expensive cities to purchase internet bundles. Nevertheless, access to Information Communication Technologies (ICT) has seen a steady increase, particularly in Tanzania mainland.
At least 40% of Ugandan journalists used cyber cafes and shared computers to access the web five years ago. But the country is now experiencing exponential growth in accessing and using ICT. More than 18 million Ugandans are now connected to the internet, the majority of them via smartphones. However, like in Tanzania, internet connectivity is still high for many Ugandans.
On the contrary, more than 85% of Kenyans were connected to the internet in 2020, the highest internet penetration in Africa, according to a ranking by Internet World Stats (IWS). Tanzania had 39% and Uganda 37 %, respectively. In addition, approximately 2.8 million people in Kenya get their news digitally every day.
IV). Content- Need to improve quality to attain media viability
Tanzania boasts the most print publications in East Africa. However, since the establishment of the Fifth Republic, authorities have enacted new legislation and enforced existing laws that stifle independent reporting and restrict the work of media, non-governmental organisations, and political opposition groups.
The Kenyan media landscape is considered one of Africa’s most developed. But while Kenyan reporters are highly qualified, there is a considerable gap in journalists specializing in covering thematic issues such as the environment, law, foreign policy, science, and other relevant topics.
In Uganda, most broadcast media organisations prefer to hire professionals who are not necessarily journalists but focus on entertainment that attracts a large audience. Those who engage trained journalists go for diploma holders instead of degree holders since the latter demand more pay.
V). Community changing news consumption habits.
More and more Tanzanians are turning to social media platforms to connect, interact, debate, and share stories from mainstream media. The trend is so popular that the government decided to intervene with regulations to monitor the space. Citizen journalism is thus becoming an essential aspect of Tanzanian media by helping address issues that mainstream media would have otherwise neglected. However, comparatively low media literacy rates may limit true audience engagement and participation in the medium term.
The ideal way to reach Ugandans with news is via radio. Although social media is gaining popularity, an estimated 87% of citizens own a radio.
“This is a vital finding in the face of perceptions that technology has greatly changed the media landscape with most Ugandans relying on social media,” Emilly Maractho, researcher and media lecturer at Uganda Christian University, said. “This heavily played out during the 2021 elections in Uganda with disappointing results for those who relied on social media to read the pulse of the election.”
By contrast, traditional news media in Kenya is in fact under pressure from social media newsmakers. Bloggers, influencers, and content makers are quick to break stories that mainstream media otherwise ignored but, after picking traction online, become stories of the day.
Conclusion: The study calls for solutions to structural, political, and societal conditions that jeopardize the future of media as a viable business and a source of high-quality journalism in East Africa. To find out more you should read the full report here: Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania.
Mohammed Hammie is not your typical reporter. In 2019, the young Tanzanian swapped from being a regular journalist to media for community empowerment and has since specialised in telling stories about the human right to access clean drinking water, particularly in rural areas.
The theses dwelt on thematic areas in Kenya’s media landscape, from solutions journalism, content analysis of the coverage of Covid-19 as well as data smog in the newsrooms, which the findings show is having a devastating effect on print journalists.
There is no doubt that the coronavirus pandemic has altered our lives in unimaginable ways. Economies are bleeding. It has disrupted learning; millions have lost their jobs, while many others contend with reduced salaries. Yet, amidst the chaos and disruption, journalists – also hugely affected – have remained steadfast to their cause to tell stories of the pandemic. Some of them narrated their experiences to EAST site’s writer Isaac Swila.
The Covid-19 pandemic and the technological shifts have caused severe consequences to today’s press. However, Prof George Nyabuga says the writing has long been on the wall, yet many chose to bury their heads in the sand like the proverbial ostrich.
Ever since 170 journalists from Kenya’s Standard Group were made redundant in 2020, media experts argue that convergence of business processes in the media industry is an inevitable and necessary step. The term convergence has dominated media houses for years. But what does it mean and why is it crucial for the future of journalism in the region?
The digital and social media experience has disrupted the media industry in unprecedented ways. Gone are the days when media houses could solely rely on revenues generated from the sale of content, for example, newspapers. Kenya’s Standard Media Group understood the need to adapt to the ‘new digital newsroom’ and embarked on a three-year- restructuring programme, but the change is not without challenges as Peter Oduor found out
Kenya’s leading newspapers – The Nation, Star, and The Standard, recently set up paywalls on their online content. Though some readers are complaining, the uptake has been impressive. Senior editors who spoke to EAST Site’s writer, Isaac Swila, insist the paywall is the future.
What do Kenya’s post-election violence, Sudan’s protests that toppled President Omar al-Bashir, and the Arab Spring have in common? The audience played a crucial role in informing the world where journalists were restricted in one way or the other. Today, direct audience engagement in the news cycle has brought far-reaching changes to the media industry.
The belief that journalism can make the world a better place is why the Media Challenge Initiative exists. This aspiration has become more evident during Covid-19, where journalists are at the frontlines of fighting the pandemic across the globe.
Ten years ago, an ambitious and daring Giles Muhame started an online platform at Makerere University. The platform’s main idea was to bring news in real-time. Initially, the online platform struggled as the audience was still rigid, preferring traditional modes of news consumption such as radio, print, and television.
One of the most significant impacts of the pandemic has been the dramatic shift in the global digital landscape and digital business. Africa’s media industry needs vision, innovation, transformation, collaboration, and adaptability to develop agile business models.
Kenya’s media still struggles with undue political interference as evidenced by sporadic harassment from government, coupled with economic constraints that have recently been amplified by the effects of the ongoing global pandemic
Debunk Media, a platform for explanatory journalism wants young Africans to understand how big events in their environments affect them and why those events are important to them… It wants to show them the little dots and the invisible lines that join these events.
The changing dimensions and presentation of the challenges facing women in the newsroom and the media as a whole call for a dynamic approach by women, gender and general human rights activists.
Almost all newsrooms, big and small, have had their operations severely affected by the devastating disruption wrought by the Covid-19 pandemic leading to loss of hundreds of jobs. Worse still, revenue sources for broadcast and print publications have shrunk as businesses collapse.
Job cuts, pay cuts, content reduction and closures – that is what many media outlets are currently facing. Some blame digitalization and the coronavirus pandemic. But could it be that they got their priorities wrong in the first place?
Freedom of the media is the cornerstone of a just and democratic society to promote socio-economic and political developments even though Eastern African countries fashion the independence for the sake of complying with international obligations.
The state of the media in Uganda has been the subject of several studies and commentaries. Whether critical or favourable, all attempts to analyze the health of journalism in the country tend to coalesce over its contradictions.
Journalists and the news media organisations in East Africa are today confronted with unprecedented economic and market challenges, increasing distrust, denigration of the journalistic work, and new forms of digital repression exacerbated by Covid-19.
In open societies where democracy flourish, the media plays a critical watchdog role by not only putting into check but also questioning the excesses of the government. Sadly, in Tanzanian media space these pillars seem to lack.
While solutions journalism as a news philosophy presents many opportunities for the strengthening of journalism practice in Kenya and by extension Africa; it is certainly not a quick fix.
Just like New York Times adjusted to digital disruption, Covid-19 has presented an opportunity for local media houses to analyze the emerging trends and audience behaviour to come up with innovative ways of generating revenues.