Friday, October 14, 2011

World Press Trends: Newspapers Still Reach More Than Internet

Newspaper circulation declined in print world-wide last year but was more than made up by an increase in digital audiences, the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) said Thursday in its annual update of world press trends.

"Circulation is like the sun. It continues to rise in the East and decline in the West," said Christoph Riess, CEO of WAN-IFRA, who presented the annual survey Thursday at the World Newspaper Congress and World Editors Forum in Vienna, Austria.

The survey found:

- Media consumption patterns vary widely across the globe. Print circulation is increasing in Asia, but declining in mature markets in the West.

- The number of titles globally is consolidating.

- The main decline is in free dailies. "For free dailies, the hype is over," said Mr Riess.

- For advertisers, newspapers are more time efficient and effective than other media.

- Newspapers reach more people than the internet. On a typical day newspapers reach 20 percent more people world-wide than the internet reaches, ever.

- Digital advertising revenues are not compensating for the ad revenues lost to print.

- Social media are changing the concept and process of content gathering and dissemination. But the revenue model for news companies, in the social media arena, remains hard to find.

- The business of news publishing has become one of constant updating, of monitoring, distilling and repacking information.

- The new digital business is not the traditional newspaper business.

Mr Riess's presentation focused on six key areas: the media consumption shift; economic developments; newspaper circulation and number of titles; advertising expenditure by media; newspaper revenue; and internet versus mobile.

This represented a significant shift from past versions of the world press trends survey, which WAN-IFRA has been carrying out since 1988. Long a statistical compendium of information from more than 200 countries, the 2011 report focuses on the 69 countries that account for 90 percent of global industry value in terms of circulation and advertising revenue. "We're concentrating on value rather than volume, focusing on key numbers in key markets," said Mr Riess. "Our approach puts a premium on insight over numbers." This reflects feedback from industry stakeholders, as part of the new WAN/IFRA review. But the survey will continue to monitor all countries.

Media Consumption Shift

When measured in minutes per day, media consumption patterns vary widely. For example, television dominates in the United States, internet accounts for one-third of media time in Austria, and digital gets just a fraction of consumption time in Russia. Time spent with newspapers is low when considering their impact and influence on society, compared with other media – and to their advertising revenues.

"Newspapers have always had a lower percentage of the time spent by the media user, relative to the high advertising revenues that newspapers produce," said Mr Riess. Newspapers account for 8% of media consumption time, but 20% of all advertising revenue. "We have always been extremely efficient in using the time of our readers. But now we are in a more challenging environment, because readers are more promiscuous, they have more choices, they read newspapers with less frequency. We have to do more to attract them, find new ways to garner loyalty."

There is no doubt that internet consumption is increasing world-wide, to the cost of broadcast more than other media, the report found. Radio consumption. in terms of minutes per day has fallen 23 percent since 2006, compared to 7 percent for newspapers, it found.

Economic Developments

There appears to be a structural shift in advertising and newspaper revenues. Long mirroring the growth and contraction of Gross Domestic Product, both global advertising revenues and newspaper revenues appear to be decoupling from their patterns related to GDP.

In the 20 years to 2001, advertising revenue increased more than GDP in an upturn, and fell farther than GDP in a downturn. "But this has not been true since the 2001 downturn," said Mr Riess. "After 2001, we have had good growth in Asia, but, contrary to the previous 20 years, advertising revenues increases were not higher than GDP during a recovery. And we have a greater decoupling of newspaper advertising revenues, which don’t follow the recovery as in the past. We have a structural change in general, especially in newspapers."

Newspaper Circulation

Daily print newspaper circulation declined from 528 million in 2009 to 519 million in 2010, a drop of about 2 percent. But what has been lost to print has been more than made up by digital newspaper readers. Digital audiences are typically a third of print readership. So against a 2 percent decline, digital growth is significantly greater.

In fact, when measured in terms of readership, newspapers reach 2.3 billion people every day, 20 percent more than the 1.9 billion that the internet reaches world-wide.

But the significance of this is not the total numbers, but in changes in purchasing patterns. "We get readers, but less regularly," Mr Riess said. "It's the same with digital – the problem isn't visitors, but frequency and depth." Mr Riess said the patterns required a reconsideration of newspaper subscription models, and of finding new ways to convince readers to come back.

Again, circulation patterns vary greatly world-wide. In the Asia Pacific region, circulations increased 7 percent from 2009 to 2010, and 16 percent over five years. Latin America also saw significant circulation increases – 2 percent last year and 4.5 percent over the past five years. But drops occurred in Europe – 2.5 percent year-on-year and 11.8 percent over five years in Western Europe and 12 percent last year and 10 percent over five years in Eastern and Central Europe. The decreases were greatest in North America, where newspapers have lost 11 percent of circulation year-on-year and 17 percent over five years.

The number of newspaper titles worldwide increased by 200 in 2010, to 14,853, but the rate of increase is slowing due to consolidation in many markets as publishers close unprofitable titles and the number of free newspaper titles decreases worldwide. This was particularly pronounced in Eastern Europe, where freedom of expression led to the creation of numerous titles that were not sustainable economically. The number of newspaper titles declined 4 percent in Eastern Europe in 2010, and 8 percent over 5 years.

In fact, free newspapers took a big hit in 2010 – a drop in total distribution to 24 million copies from a high of around 34 million in 2008. "The hype is over," said Mr Riess. "In many cities, too many free titles were launched. There were newspaper wars. Now the market is maturing, and though the number of titles has declined, there are still opportunities.

Mr Riess noted that free newspapers have a strong impact on younger audiences. "Free newspapers added energy to our industry," he said. "They encouraged a lost younger generation to read newspapers, and this was positive." Audience research across European cities where free newspapers are available shows that readership among 15- to 24 year-olds is 50 percent higher for free dailies than for paid-for dailies.

Newspaper readership is highest in Iceland, where 96 percent of the population reads a daily newspaper, followed by Japan (92 percent), Norway, Sweden and Switzerland (82 percent), and Finland and Hong Kong (80 percent). Japan is the leader when it comes newspaper sales, with the average circulation of its newspapers at 461,000 – an enormous total. Austria comes second with an average of 162,000 per title.

But bigger isn't always better, said Mr Riess, noting the worldwide circulation average is about 17,000 per newspaper. "Newspapers are about communities, either of geography or of interest," he said. "It is in satisfying these communities that newspapers can still flourish."

Advertising Expenditures by Media

Television continues to be the world's largest advertising medium, with a total ad expenditure of 180 billion US dollars in 2010. Newspapers were second with 97 billion, followed by internet (62 billion), magazines (43 billion) and radio (32 billion).

But newspapers are lagging behind both television and internet when it comes to growth trends, and internet is outpacing both, the survey found. Internet advertising grew 22 percent year-on-year in Asia in 2010, compared with 11 percent for television and 3 percent for newspapers. In Europe, internet advertising rose 14 percent from 2009, compared with 9 percent for TV, while newspaper advertising fell 1 percent.

In South America, internet advertising rose 31 percent year-on-year in 2010, compared with 19 percent for television and 6 percent for newspapers. In North America, internet advertising was up 13 percent and television 8 percent, while newspaper advertising fell 9 percent. Internet's share of the advertising market has surpassed newspapers in the United States, and will reach newspaper levels in Europe and Asia very soon.

Newspaper Revenues

Newspaper advertising revenues took a big hit in the global recession, but the decline slowed in 2010. Globally, newspaper advertising revenues declined 23 percent over five years and only 3 percent last year.

In North America, newspaper advertising revenues were down 17 percent for the five-year period but increased 1 percent last year. In Western Europe, they were down 12 percent over five years and up 2 percent last year. Eastern Europe saw advertising revenues fall 3 percent over five years and 3 percent last year. In the Asia Pacific, newspaper advertising revenues were down 1 percent over five years but up 4 percent last year. In Latin America, the revenues declined 23 percent over five years and 3 percent last year.

Mobile vs. Internet

Which offers a better business model for newspaper companies – internet or mobile? Again, it depends on the market, said Mr Riess, and there are wide variations around the world.

In Russia, for example, mobile penetration is 130 percent compared with 30 percent for internet, so clearly mobile offers better opportunities. The same goes for India, where 60 percent of its 1 billion population has mobile telephones. In the United States, where the penetration of both mobile and internet is high, both platforms offer opportunities.

The internet advertising model has been well-established, but most of the revenue goes to search engines – 65 percent to Google alone.

On the mobile platform, the paid-content model is well-established, since users accept monthly contracts, pre-paid phones and paid-for apps. But here too, new players – Apple and the mobile operators – take a large share of the revenue. "If we're not careful in the newspaper industry, they will take away our business," Mr Riess said.

"But this world isn't easy, it isn't either internet or mobile, there will be different ways to use these channels and there will by hybrid ways – like tablets – that will use both the paid content and the advertising models. Every company has to look at its target group and readership, and this group defines how best to reach it. And this has to be reconsidered constantly."

WAN-IFRA, based in Paris, France, and Darmstadt, Germany, with subsidiaries in Singapore, India, Spain, France and Sweden, is the global organisation of the world’s newspapers and news publishers. It represents more than 18,000 publications, 15,000 online sites and over 3,000 companies in more than 120 countries. Its core mission is to defend and promote press freedom, quality journalism and editorial integrity and the development of prosperous businesses.

Learn more about WAN-IFRA at or through the WAN-IFRA Magazine at

Inquiries to: Larry Kilman, Director of Communications and Public Affairs, WAN-IFRA, 96 bis, rue Beaubourg, 75003 Paris France. Tel: +33 1 47 42 85 07. Fax: +33 1 42 78 92 33. Mobile: +33 6 10 28 97 36. E-mail:

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

AMI-SPI partnership boosts bid for strong, diverse African media

NAIROBI and GRAHAMSTOWN – Rhodes University’s Sol Plaatje Institute (SPI) for Media Leadership, the convener of the Africa Media Leadership Conference (AMLC) in the past nine years, has teamed up with the African Media Initiative (AMI) to strengthen their common goals of working to create sustainable, diverse and pluralistic African media.

The two organisations also seek to provide a range of platforms and learning initiatives so that African media become “learning institutions which continuously seek to improve their performance to audiences and markets by providing high quality and ethical management and management systems and editorial and advertising content”, AMI and the SPI announced today.

They will work to create and promote “greater collaboration among African media” and with other news organisations across the world that share their vision and goals. They will also collaborate on a range of programmes, including media management and leadership research and training.

The SPI, the only university-level institution in Africa and the developing world offering high level editorial and business management training programmes, has hosted the annual, pan-African AMLC in the past nine years, providing a critical platform to African media leaders to network and discuss key common challenges facing their companies at a time of rapid change brought by digital channels
such as the internet, mobile phones and social media networks. For nine successful years, the AMLC has been funded and organized in close partnership between SPI and KAS Media Africa, the sub- Saharan media programme of the German Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung.

AMI seeks to strengthen the media, from an owner and operator perspective, so that the media can play its full role in promoting social development, economic growth and in empowering citizens to hold governments and other institutions to account. Since 2008, AMI has organised every year the African Media Leaders’ Forum (AMLF), the largest gathering of African media owners and operators, to discuss and seek practical solutions to issues of common concern among themselves. Earlier this
year, KAS Media Africa and AMI announced a strategic partnership beginning with the hosting of a joint annual media conference on the African continent later this year -under the banner of the African Media Leaders Forum (AMLF).

“Given that both the AMLC and the AMLF were focusing on similar issues, it made better sense that both organisations joined hands, strengthened their reach and impact and leveraged on their combined economies of scope and scale,” SPI Director Francis Mdlongwa said.

“We at the SPI are delighted to see the birth of this common-sense partnership, which will make it possible for Africa to speak with one voice on common issues.”

AMI Chief Executive Officer Amadou Mahtar Ba said: AMI is delighted to enter into this partnership with a leading learning African institution. The media community on the continent at large and African media owners and operators in particular will directly benefit from this new endeavour. In a context marked by serious challenges to the media industry worldwide, AMI and the SPI will work together to help African media leaders to seize the real opportunities in this digital age.”

The joint efforts of AMI, SPI and KAS media Africa mean that from this year onwards there will only be one pan-African media leadership conference, which will be hosted under the aegis of the AMLF.
This year’s summit will be held in the Tunisian capital Tunis on 10 and 11 November.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Formative Target Audience Research: A Case Study of Five Community Radio Stations in SA

This 138-page research document, published by the Sol Plaatje Institute for Media Leadership, shares experiences and lessons in community radio listenership research, challenges and successes as a way of allowing other community radio stations to learn from these efforts. The report includes a literature review of research conducted on the subject of community radio in South Africa, results of a survey undertaken with radio stations and focus groups with stakeholders, as well as five case studies of community radios. According to the publishers, insights from audience research processes can be used for marketing purposes to advertisers and for making informed programming decisions.

The study found that few stations participating in the survey had ever conducted their own audience research, or had accessibly written audience research available to them. Few stations had taken initiative to use other accessible sources of information to gain insight into the issues facing their communities. Some stations had conducted research around health programming, had used community mapping, or have accessed government demographic or statistical information.

The report includes the results of in-depth research with five radio stations, which uncovered challenges and successes related to three key areas: management, programme content, and listener interaction. According to the study, programme managers have multifaceted roles which extend beyond their role of managing and developing content, and include ensuring that capacity building of presenters also takes place. Managers were concerned with lack of commitment from volunteers stemming from a lack of basic stipends or very low stipends. Few stations had a structured process for selecting presenters and volunteers; they also often lost presenters to higher paying commercial and public broadcasters.

The study found that most presenters are selected from ordinary community members with little or no radio training or from students doing internships; thus the station is responsible for providing training. Some stations rely on knowledge sharing between colleagues, others turn to training opportunities offered by other organisations. At one radio station, Bush Radio, training is a core aspect of the station's activities, and trainees are formally trained and mentored.

Programme content and structure varies widely across different stations, although presenters generally develop their own programmes, select topics, conduct background research, and deliver the packaged content during their time slot. The study found that presenters who spent time preparing had less difficulty on-air, and presenters who work with producers also seem to deliver well-structured programmes.

The research also found that some programme slots are bought by local government departments and the private sector. The problem with government content is that some radio stations are unable to get local departments to respond to questions about service delivery. Presenters do not open their lines for calls from the public, or listeners are advised to stick to the topic when calling during programmes with local government guests. Similarly local businesses whose service is poor or questionable refuse to be interviewed by station staff on their business practices. This can result in self-censorship, as presenters do not want the station to lose advertising.

According to the report, presenters find obtaining fresh ideas for their programmes, especially those relevant to locals, as a challenge. In terms of sources for news and programme content, research and community participation is important to understand community networks and enable presenters and journalists to identify relevant sources.

In terms of audience interaction, all five radio stations visited mentioned the lack of resources to conduct research and community participation forums. However, some have set up simple feedback mechanisms. Some methods used to obtain feedback are SMS, telephone, suggestion boxes, bluetooth, social networking systems including Facebook or Word of Mouth Forum, and on-air programmes. Direct community participation methods include outside broadcasts and in the case of one station, a small research survey.

As stated in the report, some key activities are taking place to counter some of these challenges. These include partnerships and exchanges with other radio stations to facilitate capacity building, cut costs, and access news that would otherwise be difficult to come by; and using new technologies - for example Bush Radio broadcasts off an iPod linked to their transmitters when they experience power failures.

Author: Johanna Mavhungu, Cathy O’Shea

Contact Information:

Sol Plaatje Institute for Media Leadership (SPI) Rhodes University P O Box 94 Grahamstown South Africa Tel: +27 (46) 603 8851Fax: +27 (46) 622 9591
SPI website

Friday, July 22, 2011

Rhodes’ SPI goes to the Seychelles

By Howard Thomas

VICTORIA, Seychelles -- Seychelles was the scene of ground-breaking media management training in July by Rhodes University’s Sol Plaatje Institute (SPI) for Media Leadership.

The resources of the Institute were shipped to the Seychelles Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) for a tailor-made management development of senior management tiers of the broadcaster.

The training covered human resource management, leadership, advertising, marketing, budgeting, broadcasting regulation, media ethics and the role of editorial independence in a media company’s survival.

Particular emphasis was placed on programme management and scheduling and, at the request of the SBC, audience psychology and audience research were designed to their specific needs.

Running the course on site was a departure from the SPI’s usual training methodology. “To take advantage of economies of scale and of geography, we have almost always held our courses at the Institute for our course participants who come from across Africa,” SPI Director Francis Mdlongwa said.

“Because of this, our training programmes’ methodology has tended to be a mix of case studies and patterns and simulated role plays and scenarios to try to re-enact real-world conditions and experiences.

“But in the case of the SBC and some institutions which we are also serving, the training has been directed to their specific needs and applications and hosted on location for maximum impact. It is certainly far better to train within the context of and with direct relevance to the prevailing conditions of our customers and partners, who also give us their input on the training they need.”

Seychelles, a palm tree-lined archipelago in the Indian Ocean off the coast of East Africa, has the highest per capita GDP in Africa and has progressive social development programmes. The islands are also the playground of the jet setters who are used to every digital luxury.

The SBC is well aware that, as a public broadcaster, it cannot be left behind by the current digital revolution. It asked the SPI to develop the training to the SBC’s specific needs and conditions, with special reference to the migration of broadcasting to digital terrestrial transmission and how to tackle the rapid growth of cellphone and other digital media.

SBC head of learning Pat Matyot said the SBC needed the training to drive the broadcaster into the new broadcasting environment. “As a broadcaster, we need to respond to the changes in our society before the digital era overtakes us,” he said.

Content trainer Howard Thomas said: “Training broadcasting is only of use when the training is designed specifically to the needs of the learning broadcaster. Digital is not just a challenge to broadcasters – it presents different challenges to different broadcasters. There are too many differences between cultures, economies, audiences and broadcasters for generic training to be of much use.”

The Institute is now planning to roll out training on change management in handling the new digital broadcasting environment throughout the continent.

Mdlongwa said: “The institute has always been at the forefront of learning innovation – right from the decision by Rhodes University to start the Institute in 2002 to address the critical but neglected disciplines of media management and leadership.

“These emphasize a critical need for media managers to understand the key economic, social and political factors that define their operating environments and how human beings work and behave in different conditions as pre-requisites for achieving sustainability for their firms.

“With technology increasingly defining our lives, it is imperative that we, as an institute, quickly face up to the challenges of media innovation in a rapidly shifting landscape. We certainly do not claim to know all the answers on the best way forward in our ‘age of discontinuity’ because, as Gianfranco Poggi pointed out years ago, a way of knowing is also a way of not knowing as our knowledge as humans will always be partial.”

Friday, June 17, 2011

Google ranks best in industry salaries — They’re also hiring

By Christopher Lazley

In the digital revolution, few companies carry as much clout as Google. Although its physical headquarters can be found in Mountain View, California, the Google ideation is more than anything an approach to life, a way of doing things, a signifier of innovation of technological initiative and, according to yet another survey released recently, a very nice place to work, too, despite the bad fudge brownies.

The survey, conducted by Payscale, reports that Google employees earn on average about 23 per cent more than their industry counterparts in other companies. The average Googler earns US$141 000 per year , and while it’s tempting to think of an HR ethic solely in terms of pay scales, the true value of the Google organisation is its own brand of off-beat corporate culture.

In January this year, Google awarded all its employees a US$1 000 tax-free bonus as part of an incentive scheme to discourage staff from defecting to principal rivals such as Facebook. It also provides a host of less traditional amenities like gourmet meals, massages, exercise equipment, video games, billiard tables, and snack rooms. The company is clear about the need to catalyse new modes of thinking in an ultra-competitive market segment.

Just recently, Mashable reported that Google is now embarking on its largest hiring scheme to date. In an interview with Bryan Power, a people operations manager who oversees all of Google’s hiring in North and South America, it was made apparent that there’s no one-size-fits-all policy about staff recruitment and retention. “Google knows the world changes quickly,” said Power, “and we need people who can adapt and take on different challenges. A lot has changed in the last five years, and the next five years will [change] too. We need people who can adapt and take on different challenges.”

Power says that some interviewees will even arrive in board-shorts and T-Shirts, but manage to impress the company with their sharp intellect. Others, decked in their sartorial best, just weren’t prepared. Part of Google’s corporate philosophy, in fact, is that “you can be serious without a suit.” In this way, it has tended to make some pioneering steps toward fostering truly creative throughout that stretches the more traditional mold of corporate doppelgangers in grayscale suits and black briefcases.

One of the challenges that some multinational corporations face is trying to attract an industry-leading workforce amidst competition from ostensibly more attractive companies like Google. Who doesn’t want free lattes and recreation during working hours? It’s critical to keep in mind that no single company is perfect.

In an anonymous staff survey thread at Google, one employee said, “A common problem [at Google] is that it’s easy to become spoiled by all the perks. Several offices have developed distinct cultures of entitlement, and people whine about the quality of the fudge on the free brownies. It’s embarrassing to be around people who’ve become like spoiled children.”

Other staff pointed to patent management-line problems and inefficiencies. Google seems as plagued by staff politics as almost any other organisation out there. So while you may regard Google at the holy grail of your career (and perhaps in some ways it is), they aren’t the working man’s utopia. They’re damn close though.


Monday, June 13, 2011

Why most startups fail… and here is how not to

By Brett Commaille

Every couple of days we hear about a new start-up jumping onto the public stage with much fanfare. After that they’re a bit like a pimple in the middle of your forehead — every time you open your eyes it’s all you see.
But then one day, for no specific reason… it’s gone.
“Anyone know what happened to whatchamacallit?” After some enquiry, we’ve got a handful of rumours with a bucket of spin. All we know is: “it’s over”. Truth is, most of the time, it’s one or more of the same basic reasons.
There will always be those special individuals who find exceptional ways to kill their business — like setting fire to mom and dad’s garage and destroying the code (and backups). But the majority of startups fail in far more mundane ways. Being in the venture capital game for a number of years, I’ve seen it all. Here’s a number of key reasons I’ve seen startups fail… and here are some ways to avoid them:
1. Not understanding the user: Your plans are based on what you think the user wants, and maybe you even have a few buddies who thought that was cool. Make sure you take the time to find out exactly what the user wants and how they like doing things. Be careful about telling them how they should act, this usually backfires.
2. To in love with the tech: You love adding features — “Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could also let them Skype with the dead?”. You’re building an elephant, but haven’t tested any of it. Maybe users only need the trunk. Keep it to the core and market-test before you go wild on features. Getting this wrong has massive knock-on effects.
3. Launching to slow: If you’re building that elephant, you’ll keep holding back on the launch until everything is perfect. So it’s never fully ready or tested and now the competition has hit the market with a good basic solution. So keep it lean, get to market fast and add functions as user demand warrants it.
4. No real sales strategy: Capturing 20% of the market is not a strategy! Who will the first customers be? How do you reach them? What does it require to close the deal? How many sales people do you need to do this? What will the sales number look like based on all of this. Brush past this and you will have drastically overestimated your revenue.
5. Market too small: It’s easy to pick a niche that doesn’t seem too challenging. Remember you may face competition, even in that niche, and end up with a potential market which is just too small to support a sustainable business. Make sure your market is big enough and growing.
6. Basic copycat: Enter the many thousand Groupon clones around the world. Working international concepts have been launched successfully locally, but only if you’re the first to do it locally. Doing this into a busy market because you see the current players making tons of money is a sure recipe to burn cash and stay small. I learnt this far too well, having launched a super cool sunglasses brand … one of hundreds in the market (just before a recession too – damn!). We sold some of course, but the big boys in the market sold millions. Might as well have sold Chappies on the Metro. Be different, not “the same but better!”
7. Fast burner: You ramp up your costs as you grow a big developer team to match those massive revenues you expect. The revenues don’t happen and you’re suddenly burning money faster than a new MP planning Gala dinners. Again, get into the market with the basic product and start generating revenue. When the conversion metrics show you’re getting it right, then you can grow the spend.
There are more reasons why startup businesses fail, but these are the most important. Bear them in mind and you may avoid some of the most common pitfalls. Of course, the easiest way not to fail, is to not start. Fortunately you’re not scared, (else you would have closed your browser after seeing the word “start-up”) — and now you’re just a little a little more likely to make it.
Good luck!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Southern Africa: What has gender got to do with media freedom?

This 3 May marked 20 years of the Windhoek Declaration on Promoting Independent and Pluralistic Media, which was endorsed by UNESCO and the United Nations General Assembly in 1991. This endorsement ultimately led to the creation of 3 May as "World Press Freedom Day".
In 1991, heavy state control characterised much of the African media landscape. Following the Windhoek Declaration, things began to change. Acknowledging that media freedom is a necessary condition for democratisation, many African countries mainstreamed this into their constitutions in the first decade following the Declaration. At the Windhoek +10 conference in 2001, the right to press freedom was extended to include broadcasting freedom, which was brought about through the adoption of the African Charter on Broadcasting. The Charter in turn fed into the influential Declaration of Principles of Freedom of Expression, as adopted by the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights of the African Union.
However, the media landscape envisaged in the Declaration of 1991 is still far from being realised. This is due to various new laws and bills which ultimately threaten freedom of the media. For instance, in February 2011 the Malawi government enacted the Newspaper Ban Law which allows the information minister to ban publications deemed contrary to the public interest. In South Africa, a Media Appeals Tribunal was tabled in 2010 and, if approved, will be tasked with overseeing complaints brought against the press, which until now has been self-regulatory. These laws and others continue to infringe on the freedom of the media and undermine democracy.
The Declaration also addresses other pertinent issues such as freedom of information and expression, free flow of ideas by word and image, independent and pluralistic press, repression of media professionals, and establishment of associations that safeguard the fundamental freedoms in the Declaration and training of journalists. What strikes me when I read the Declaration today is that it puts women and men in the same bracket of media freedom.
Whereas media freedom has been understood to mean the absence of political censorship, there are many other ways in which citizens may be denied the right to be heard. As noted by the 2006 Gender Review of Media Development Organisations, women's voices may be excluded from the media. It is thus important to look at media freedom in a way that takes into consideration "gender-based censorship" which ultimately disempowers, silences and makes invisible certain people in society.
My point is that whilst the Windhoek Declaration has in many ways been successful at changing the overall African media landscape, the focus in the next decade should be on how citizens, both women and men, can be empowered by its provisions. This can only be realised if the Declaration clearly articulates the different ways media freedom impacts women and men.
Interestingly, the 20th anniversary of the Windhoek Declaration takes place when the 2008 SADC Protocol on Gender and Development is closer than ever to coming into force. The Protocol brings together and enhances international and African commitments to gender equality by setting 28 targets to be achieved by 2015. Specific provisions on the media include achieving parity in decision-making (rapid strides have already been made in the political realm); giving equal voice to women and men; challenging gender stereotypes; sensitive coverage of HIV and AIDS and gender violence. The Protocol also calls on the media to mainstream gender in all laws, training and policy.
Gender equality is entirely consistent with freedom of expression. Nothing is more central to this ideal than giving voice to all segments of the population. When women comprise about 52% of the population, but only constitute 24% of news sources (according to the 2010 Global Media Monitoring Project), censorship of a very real kind exists. The 2010 Gender Links Gender and Media Progress Study (GMPS) found that there has been a marginal increase in the proportion of women sources in Southern African media: from 17% in the 2003 Gender and Media Baseline Study to 19% in the GMPS.
These findings beg the question of what we really understand by freedom of expression, democracy and citizen participation. While more blatant forms of censorship may be subsiding, our media daily silences large segments of the population, notably women. Gender disparities in the news occur because of a lack of diversity in media ownership and "armchair" journalism, which results in the media seeking out a few voices of authority: often men.
Further, the media often applies double standards to men and women. Women are objectified and their physical attributes highlighted in ways that do not apply to men. The explosion of tabloid media has perpetuated these stereotypes.
Gender equality is implicit in the notions of a "pluralistic press"; "reflecting the widest possible range of opinion within the community"; "the fulfilment of human aspirations"; "freedom of the press" and "freedom of association" as espoused in the Windhoek Declaration. But the failure to state this explicitly has led to gross gender disparities in the media.
The Declaration encourages the establishment of professional associations that safeguard various freedoms. These associations should include women's media associations. Media development organisations have the opportunity, through the work they do, to lead by example in showing that gender is intrinsic to free speech, citizen participation, and progressive media practice and content.
Thus after 20 years of the Windhoek Declaration it is time to acknowledge these silent forms of censorship that daily occur in the media. The debates on mainstreaming gender in the declaration should be taken forward so that the next decade can see a region that truly exemplifies the freedoms espoused in the original document.

Saeanna Chingamuka is the Manager of the Gender and Media Diversity Centre. This article is part of the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary series on gender and press freedom.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Print Media -- Self-regulation

By Reg Rumney

The proposal for a Media Appeals Tribunal last year caused a lot of agitation among the Press. Journalists have tended to see it as a way of controlling the bad publicity some individuals in the ANC and the Alliance have received.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Modern Media Culture

By Howard Thomas
Are we making too much of modern media culture?  Sure we are obsessed with consumerism, and certainly shopping has replaced politicians.  There are no serious magazines in South Africa, and even the Financial Mail has had to resort to a whole lifestyle section.

But is this new?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Radio VOP Exposes State Propaganda through Professionalism

By John Masuku
HARARE -- Radio Voice of the People (VOP) has just celebrated 10 years as the voice of the voiceless citizens of Zimbabwe and is marching ahead much stronger and more focused on telling the story of Zimbabwe as it is and in countering widespread propaganda from state-dominated broadcast media.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tough times for SA community media

By Steven Lang

GRAHAMSTON, South Africa -- Grocott’s Mail, like most other community newspapers in South Africa, has been going through a rough period for the past two years or so. No exact figures have been produced, but it has been reported that up to one third of community newspapers in South Africa have had to close since 2008.

There are two main factors undermining the financial viability of these newspapers -- the economic downswing that has affected almost the entire planet and the growing importance of online media.  The economic crash, precipitated by large scale bankruptcies in the United States, has adversely affected spending on advertising across all media, but has had a particularly devastating effect on smaller businesses that do not have cash cushions to soften bumpy landings.