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Practitioners Express Cautious Optimism for the Future of Media in Tanzania

They describe the future as “bright” but emphasise the role of the quality of the content produced, the leverage on available technologies, and conducive legal and regulatory framework as its conditions.

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Dar es Salaam. Media practitioners in Tanzania believe that the so-called fourth estate in the East African nation does have a bright future, but they express such optimism cautiously as the prospect will depend on several factors, including the quality of the content produced, the leverage on available technologies, and the conducive nature of legal and regulatory framework.

They expressed their views during a panel discussion to reflect on the future of media in Tanzania, which The Chanzo organised on Saturday as part of its Digital Freedom and Innovation Day, which the Dar es Salaam-based multimedia company organised to discuss the relationship between freedom and innovation.

The discussants, including media entrepreneurs, did not share the pessimism expressed by others that journalists might be replaced by content creators. They pointed out that people will continue to depend on journalists in their attempts to understand the world, adding that the media’s future will depend on how they treat such dependence.

Fredrick Bundala, alias Sky, the founder and chief executive officer of an online media platform Simulizi na Sauti, or SNS, said that the future of media in Tanzania is “very bright,” pointing at people’s growing interest in quality media content as a force that will always create a demand for journalism.

Bundala believes that very soon people whose households are connected to unlimited internet services will be streaming online media content through their smart TVs in their homes, expressing confidence that far from running away from the media, more people will be going to them to learn what’s happening in their country and the world.

READ MORE: Bakari Machumu: Discussion on Media Viability ‘Seriously Needed’ in Tanzania

“The future is nothing but amazing given how people currently interact with media content,” Mr Bundala, a household name in Tanzania’s broadcasting journalism, explained during the discussion. “The number [of monthly engagement] is inspiring and surprising at the same time.”

Bundala’s views come against the backdrop of a huge national and global debate about the future of media. Several stakeholders are worried that journalism, as it is currently known, will somehow disappear and be replaced by something else. Social media and unsustainable revenue models have been mentioned as likely factors driving this transformation.  

In Tanzania, a ministerial committee is currently investigating the economies of the country’s media with the aim of convincing the national government to develop a strategy to secure the outlets’ future. Some companies, including Mwananchi Communications Limited, which publishes Mwananchi and The Citizen dailies, are embracing digitisation to secure their future existence.

READ MORE: Clash of Generations: Veteran Journalists  Question Media Integrity of Young Peers

Mr Bundala believes that the secret to the sustainability of any media in Tanzania will depend entirely on the content it produces and how it responds to its audience’s needs and interests. He believes that a media outlet is bound to fail without investment in producing good content.

“I see people establishing media houses with fancy offices and modern equipment,” he said. “But I tell people, without investing in good content, those projects are bound to fail. It calls on all of us in the industry to take the issue of what we feed our audience very seriously for without that they will go away to find platforms that suit their interests.”

READ MORE: ‘Licensing Requirements Cause Self-censorship Among Media Practitioners’

Maphosa Banduka, co-founder and chief operations officer of Nukta Africa, a digital media and technology company, stressed the need for media outlets to leverage available technologies, arguing that several technologies exist that would improve and enhance media operations. 

“Technology provides a wide array of tools through which a particular media outlet can reach its audience but also monetise its content,” Ms Banduka said. “There are analytics that let you know who exactly are your audience, something that allows you to improve the content you produce so that you can remain relevant to your audience.”

Apart from the need to improve the quality of the content produced and journalists’ ability to leverage technologies, practitioners believe that improving the legal and regulatory environment is also necessary for the future of media in Tanzania.

Mr Bundala, for example, mentioned licencing requirements for online media as a challenge for many others to join the field, urging relevant authorities to consider lowering the conditions prescribed for one to qualify for a licence. 

“The government has lowered the licence fee, but several conditions remain in place, like having a business licence, tax clearance,  college certificate, and business company, among others,” Bundala complained. 

READ MORE: Zanzibar Reiterates Commitment to Come Up With New Media Law

“I think these requirements need to be re-examined to ensure that more and more people can establish online-based media outlets,” he advised.

Digital Freedom and Innovation Day
The Chanzo is hosting Digital Freedom and Innovation Day on Saturday April 20, 2024 at Makumbusho ya Taifa.

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