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Report Highlights Sorry State of Tanzania’s Media Economy: Falling Revenues, Tech Challenges, and the Rise of ‘Comedic’ Journalism

The report reveals that 77 percent of journalists in Tanzania earn less than Sh500,000 and 56 per cent lack contracts for periods ranging from one to six years.

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Dar es Salaam. The committee tasked with assessing Tanzania’s media economy launched its report today, June 18, 2024, during a conference of government information officers at the Mlimani City Conference Hall in Dar es Salaam, revealing a sorry state of affairs, including low pay, inadequate investment, and new challenges due to technology.

The committee, inaugurated on January 24, 2023, by Minister of Information and Communication Technology Nape Nnauye to evaluate the economic state of Tanzania’s media, was led by Tido Mhando, former CEO of Azam Media, along with nine other experts from various media sectors in the country.

The report reveals that 77 per cent of journalists earn less than Sh500,000, with 56 per cent lacking contracts for periods ranging from one to six years. Only 38 per cent of these contracts include health insurance. Shockingly, some journalists receive as little as Sh2,000 per story.

Several factors contribute to the media’s declining economy, including media owners’ limited business management capabilities, technological shifts in the sector, dwindling advertising revenues, a shortage of skilled journalists, taxation policies, and restrictive foreign ownership regulations.

Comedic journalism

The report highlights a notable trend in Tanzanian media toward entertainment, sports, and comedic reporting. According to media stakeholders, this shift stems from years of media crackdowns.

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“Due to the challenging legal and political environment faced by the media in our country, outlets now find themselves self-censoring when it comes to stories promoting public accountability,” Mhando, a veteran Tanzanian journalist, said at the function.

“Consequently, media content increasingly focuses on entertainment, romance, music, sports, drama, films, and talk shows, with little societal value,” he added. “This type of journalism poses two significant harms: it undermines journalism that prioritises public accountability—an essential element in society—and cultivates a generation less inclined to critical thinking due to superficial content.”

He continued: “We are witnessing what some call ‘comedy journalism’ where jokes and light-hearted content have become commonplace, largely due to journalists’ fear amidst a historically difficult environment.”

Mhando explained that while there has been a notable shift since the coming of President Samia, there are officials in the government who still rely on the use of force and threats to journalists.

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President Samia Suluhu, receiving the report, also highlighted another concern in Tanzanian media—insufficient news analysis.

“When we read the news, even in newspapers, there’s minimal analysis,” the Head of State noted. “Most content merely reports facts rather than analysing them. We seem to lack news analysts. Our news reporting lacks depth.”

President Samia also noted that the media might be shying away from serious content due to commercial interest and not just historical fear.

Impact of technology

The report underscores the impact of technological advancements on the news sector, which has further eroded revenues from traditional models. 

For instance, between 2020 and 2023, three newspapers collectively reduced their annual circulation by 4,229,823 copies, resulting in a market loss of Sh4 billion. The report also urges the sector to prepare for the advent of Artificial Intelligence (AI).

READ MORE: Practitioners Express Cautious Optimism for the Future of Media in Tanzania

“The rapid growth of Artificial Intelligence technology is evident across various sectors,” Mr Mhando presented. “It’s crucial to begin discussing AI, its opportunities, and challenges in the information sector to establish guidelines for its implementation.”

Responding to concerns about declining newspaper revenues, President Samia called for introspection within the newspaper industry.

“Newspapers aren’t selling because readership has declined,” she analysed. “How many newspapers do we have in the country? There are numerous newspapers and magazines, and now we read them online.”

“When I wake up, I can access newspapers from Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda online,” the Head of State added. “I no longer buy physical copies. Those in the newspaper business should assess whether to continue or adapt.”

The committee recommends that the government revise laws to permit up to 75 per cent foreign ownership of media to attract more investment. Additionally, they propose removing VAT on paper used for printing magazines and addressing outstanding debts owed to media organisations. 

Media owners were urged to devise new revenue strategies.

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One Response

  1. Talk of corruption or cheque book journalism
    Both public and private sector giants indulge in paying editors millions in order to get positive coverage. Talk of their breakfast meetings with editors who are also taken on foreign trips

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