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Highway Africa Post 2: Public Media in Africa

First speaker = Peter Schellschmidt (Head of Friedrich Ebert Foundation’s Media Project for Southern Africa)
– Future of state owned newspapers and news agencies in Africa has largely been neglected.
– Big issue is funding vis-a-vis editorial independence.
The rest of his talk was very dry.

Second speaker = Tawana Kupe (Head of the School of Literature, Languages and Media Studies at the University of Witwatersrand).
– Historically, Africa has never enjoyed public media.
– Public media is needed to promote sustainable democratization and socio-economic development.
– Public media often only media that can serve ALL.
– Public media nees independent governing boards.
– Private financing is the wrong way to go e.g. public media that relies on advertising – content will not be diverse and there is no accountability back to the citizen.
-challenge is falling between the state and the market and varying degrees of govt control and the struggle to give a voice to all.
SABC is a good example of the way to go but not the best example, they still have things to fix. Interestingly enough, Botswana which is considered to be a great example of democracy in Africa has totally state-controlled public media.
– The content tends to be voices and megaphones of govts, quality and independence of news, failure to address citizens need.
– What is to be done? He went to quickly and I couldn’t type fast enough – basically funding should be primarily public funding, more accountability to citizens, independent governance etc.

Third speaker = Arlindo Lopes, Secretary General designate of SABA – Southern African Broadcasting Association
This guy was the worst kind of conference speaker, the kind you find at U.N., AU, and NEPAD type meetings. He basically read a dry speech. Nothing worth blogging about.

Q&A Session:
1. What models should be used in thinking about public broadcasting?
Tawana: We should not look elsewhere e.g. BBC – Africans should be innovative.

2. Who should lead the agenda of public media?
Tawana: We are in an age of political laziness – citizens want rights, but we don’t want to do our part to keep democratic space open. Citizens /Civil Society should do their part to keep the democratic space open and drive the agenda, don’t cede power back to the State to drive the agenda.

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