If there are sectors that have witnessed significant growth over the past decade, the broadcast industry is at the forefront. A country with only a few state-affiliated broadcasters for long witnessed the proliferation of dozens of radio and television broadcasters in the decade.
Despite the phenomenal growth, however, the Ethiopian broadcast media industry remains challenging both for new entrants and to those that have stayed for relatively long period of time in the industry. The determinants of the challenges can be seen from three perspectives: human resource, technical and marketing perspectives.
The leadership and journalists in the industry constitute people who really lack the knowledge, skill and exposure of running and working in a media house. It is dominated with ‘professional cadres’ who practice without intellectually questioning the past, present and future. The leadership, in particular, hardly understands the sector they manage. They, for example, view television and radio podcasters as one and the same. This shows that there is a need for leadership that can nurture the dynamism in the sector.
In addition, leadership in broadcast media lacks the wisdom, knowledge and skills to understand the motives and aspirations of people who engage with the media as practitioners and informants. It also lacks the necessary tools and know-how to grab the future that holds a lot of promises, opportunities and challenges. However, their poor capacity to design strategies and pursue plans to modernize their respective institution with skilled human resource and strong financial capacity will distance them far from the dream of a robust media.
Practicing journalists are overwhelmed by the hectic day to day productions. As a result, they totally ignore the big picture in their personal and professional development. In many cases, various productions and programs have identical characters. This shows the lack of innovative approaches in the industry.
Professionalism is a huge gap in almost every sector now. Practicing broadcast media journalists are not exceptions. Planning a duty is often spontaneous, practices are customary and evaluation of performances does not even cross the minds of practicing journalists. With the absence of all this indicators, professionalism has gone out of the window.
Globalization has made the latest and finest broadcast technologies available almost throughout the world. An emerging broadcast media in Ethiopia can enjoy the latest production and transmission tools and gadgets in the industry equal to the media in the developed world. This indicates that the technical inputs do not have a significant effect in the practitioners and quality of products in the sector anywhere in the world.
So where is the gap? The gap goes back to the technical personnel in the broadcast media. Observations in the Ethiopian broadcast media indicate that field production are done with a better performance and standards. The technicians from photography and video-grapy training institutions have contributed in supplying quite enough and competent number of field technicians for the sector. The missing link in this aspect is in getting creative directors in studios and production rooms. Indeed, most studio camera directors and production managers lack the skills and at least the aspiration for excellence. Every technician seems married to old tricks and is seen nailed with the minimum possible syndrome.
Studies indicate that a production of a two minutes news feature for television may cost up to ETB4,500. If one plans to produce a 20 minutes field report that requires travel to the regions, it costs an average of ETB45,000. Though the case with radio production is far below this, production of quality radio program bears significant cost.
A major and growing characteristic of the broadcast media programs is the ‘disappearance’ of very good content after getting acceptance among viewers/audience. This seriously affected marketing prospects in the media industry. The marketing of broadcast media is therefore affected in two sides. The marketing practice in the industry lacks professional approach, while the perception of the media consumer has narrow span.
In broadcast media, instead of the station, it is the program that is marketed and sold because viewers have different options among various stations. So they tune-in to various stations to listen or view the program they choose. As a result, though media level marketing activity helps, it is the program level marketing that wins in the copied programs or one that resembles other programs in another station and truly lack an identity of their own are critical bottlenecks for marketing activities in the industry.
Ghana has more than 360 Television stations for a population that a bit higher than a quarter of Ethiopia’s population. However, Ethiopia doesn’t even a tenth of Ghana’s television stations. However, keeping these television channels functioning has yet emerged as a new set of challenge after the introduction of the proclamation that prohibits the advertisement of alcoholic beverages in the broadcast media. Unofficial data indicate that about seven hundred million birr used to be spent in broadcast and outdoor advertising annually by breweries and other alcohol drink suppliers. Taking this figure into considerations, each media house has lost more than ten million birr in advertising revenues. Bridging the shortfall require a great deal of strategic leadership and innovative marketing.
Now, marketing management in Ethiopian broadcast media is really a very tough and demanding responsibility. It requires playing well in organizational politics and engaging in stiff competitions with a much stretched plan.
As an alternative source of revenues, the broadcast media is now expanding to online platform to generate additional revues. Though figures are inconclusive, even conventional media houses are seeing the online platforms, such as Youtube, not only as channels of transmission but also as means of revenue generation.
Working with the civil society and public organizations seem to be options paused for the media marketers and leadership at the moment. While the former is a potential that has proved itself as a viable partner for the media until the 2008 Charities and Societies Proclamation dried its finance sources and narrowed its operational areas, the latter is often criticized for its bureaucratic hurdles.
8th Year • July.16 – Aug.15 2019 • No. 76