The Public Media and Women Power

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Farayi Munyuki This week, the Minister of Information and Broadcasting Ms Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah announced new changes she has made to the boards of the Namibia Press Agency (Nampa) and New Era. In both boards, she deliberately ensured that the presence of women was effective and not just cosmetic as has been in other boards. Nampa is to have a woman chairperson for the first time in its 16 years of existence. Not only that, but female board members are in the majority. That also goes for New Era. The exercise was not to create a women majority in the boards but to fill them with people of high integrity and those committed to the development of public media. The new boards have the daunting challenge to turn public media into profit-making institutions. And that will be a tall order for them. In Africa and other developing countries, public broadcasting services have never really operated profitably. It is inconceivable that they could, judging by the services that they are called upon to perform. Big advertisers shun them for they are seen as carriers of governing political party voices. The kind of advertising that one sees on one of the privately owned radio stations cannot be seen or heard on NBC television or on its airwaves. There is a need to reorganise the marketing departments of some broadcasting services if they are to win the confidence of big advertisers. Besides, there is also a need to sensitise some parastatals on the importance of advertising in their “own media” without necessarily shying away from the private media. For the public media to get the support of the advertising industry, they must be seen to be thorough in their work and dedicated to their cause. In the matter of circulation and rates in the print media, they are beaten hands down. Their advertising departments are pathetic and poorly managed. Running a publication with less than 65 percent of adverting will not do them any good and will not entice advertisers to seek to buy their empty spaces. The public media will need to have to go, on a monthly basis, on supplements on given topics. We are now in the agriculture season and this is the time to come up with agricultural supplements on farm implements, seeds and fertilizers. Then the Christmas supplements on what the shops have for consumers. The new boards that have now been ushered in will do themselves good if they concentrate on matters of policy and allow managements to complement their decisions. When a tussle develops between the board and management, then the good advice of the ministry should be sought. As the minister was upbeat about having women in control of the public media, one hopes that changes that the public has been clamouring for are now on the way. As for the men, they have themselves to blame. For 15 years they have been holding the wrong end of the stick. Rather than see the changes from a gender perspective, the minister wants people on the boards who can deliver irrespective of their gender. The time has come for the media to show that it is committed to development and good governance. It is time that the media should not only show that the pen is mightier than the sword but that it can be a catalyst for development. Let’s see what the new boards can deliver. The challenge is in their courts. The age of women power has now descended.

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