Media Yearbook points at downward trend

16Feb 2019
Felister Peter
The Guardian
Media Yearbook points at downward trend

MEDIA stakeholders have raised concerns over a downward trend of news coverage standards suggesting the need for measures to improve content quality.

They were speaking in Dar es Salaam yesterday during the launch of the ‘Yearbook on Media Quality in Tanzania’ prepared by the Media Council of Tanzania (MCT) and Spurk Media Consulting Ltd.

Generally,  the report indicates that quality of media reporting in both print and electronic media are not to standard due to various reasons including insufficient sources and infrequency of own initiative stories.

The report showed that 36 percent of the picked 1,886 sample units have one source. In print media, 72 percent of news stories are driven by official calendar while 83 percent of feature articles are triggered by media’s own initiative.

MCT panelist Theophil Makunga suggested that to ensure quality of contents, media houses should establish special desks with specialized reporters.  He was of the view that media houses should conduct research to know the kind of news to publish at a given moment.

For instance, he said, political news in print media sell much a year after and before general elections.

Another panelist, Dr Samwilu Mwaffisi said the standard of news coverage has gone down compared to previous years. “Most media houses are urban oriented; there are a number of issues and places that are completely not covered.”

In a presentation—‘Reflecting on media reporting quality in Tanzania,” media consultant Pili Mtambalike raised concerns over decreasing investigative articles in print and electronic media outlets. 

She linked the trend with some existing national laws such as the Statistics Act, 2015 which restricts journalists from using secondary sourced data in articles.

Swiss Ambassador to Tanzania, Florence Tinguely Mattli said media outlets are going through difficult times due to censorship.

 “Media houses are suffering financially because of online platforms. This is not only in Tanzania but around the globe,” the envoy noted.

The first edition of the ‘Yearbook on Media Quality in Tanzania’ launched last year was well received by stakeholders, development partners and the government, she pointed out.

Ambassador Mattli said the report serves as a mirror for self-reflection for journalists and editors since it provides a constructive basis for improvement in the media.

Presenting findings of the research, Christoph Spurk said that quite often media outlets in Tanzania cover economic issues (29 percent). The issues are related to infrastructure, oil and gas, transport and telecommunications.

He said 28 percent of the news is on development issues, 16 percent on social problems, conflicts, human rights, gender and good governance. Accidents account for 12 percent while 11 percent of content is based on   policy issues, elections, national security and political debates.

The report asserts that media houses cover big cities, up to 56 percent of   news items published. Dar es Salaam had 33 percent of the tally, Dodoma (5.10 percent), Mbeya (2.40 percent), Arusha (7.30 percent), Tabora (2 percent) and Mwanza (1.6 percent).

Spurk noted that 23.20 percent of the news items in print media have one source while 76.80 percent had two or more sources. About 37.60 percent of stories aired on national radios had one source while 62.40 percent had more than two sources.

There were relatively few female sources in most of the news items, with print media having 9.80 percent female sources in its news items, while national radios had 10.90 percent such sources. Community radios had 21.80 percent of female sources.

He said that while publication of root causes gives media users comprehensive information on a subject, it is mostly seen in print media (37 percent) while national radios do it by only 15 percent.

Spurk said articles that are critical to the government were around four per cent of total news items in the print media.

It is vital for media houses to come up with policies that will help increase the number of stories originating from their own initiatives.

This would help to improve performance levels in professionalism since it is still on the lower end, the report added.