Television Access: Intersection of Race, Class and Politics: 3

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…….during news hours mainly to find out if they would recognize someone they know on the news. Since television used to be the medium of the whites, people are happy to recognize a face they know (a family member or friend) on television. Namibians regard television access as a yardstick of success. By appearing on a television talk show such as “Talk of the Nation” the individual source is perceived as one of the few who have joined the rank of the eminent personalities in the Namibian society. Presenters of these programs are perceived to be very powerful people who hold the gate-keeping key to television accessibility. Conclusion The study has unearthed information intended to answer the research questions that explored whether television access in Namibia is related to the social class, race, and political status of the information source. Each subsequent research question produced volumes of data that in the absence of replicated studies about Namibia, was difficult to interpret. Each of the question presented new chains of intersections that would lead future scholars to consider whether the study could have been designed differently. For example, although politics is the single most important access-related factor, its intersection with class in the context of Namibia presents new interpretation problems. This point is correctly captured in a remark made by Kae-Matundu Tjiparuro, one of the interview respondents who said that “the Namibian political elite is essentially the economic elite” (p.95). The implementation of the English language policy in Namibia had created new public access problems. According to Brian Harlech-Jones, “English is a very small gate through which only the chosen few enter into the limited resources of the country.” The fact that English has become the language of parliamentary debate in Namibia clearly manifests its intersection with politics. What the study intended as an exploration of the intersection involving mainly three variables (class, race and politics) has led to the conclusion that television access in Namibia is influenced by multiple contextual factors that can be studied separately or jointly. Race (compared to politics and social class) is no longer perceived as a major television access-related factor. The over-representation of blacks on television in the last few years is not perceived as an attempt at reverse discrimination. Instead of making it a race or political issue, the white community is more concerned about its implication to advertising (Quantum Research report, 1995). Media practitioners did not fully perceive government as being fully committed to freedom of information. However, this view is disputable because there have been no reported cases of media repression in Namibia since independence. Television and press reporters and editors are themselves not very committed to pluralism, particularly when it comes to reporting political parties. The future of journalism in Nami-bia is clouded by the problem of political partisanship. This study represents a small, but important step in the process of understanding the role of television in post-apartheid Namibia. As time is changing and new dimensions are unfolding in Namibia, the purpose and functions of public television broadcasting will always need to be critically reassessed. If the objective of the NBC television is to provide a balanced picture that reflects the ethnic, political, cultural, and social plurality of the country, the issue of access should be at the heart of the policy debate. If the NBC management does not see access as a top priority, then the giant step has yet to be taken to bring the majority of the people into the communication process. Vitura Kavari, the then Acting Director-General of the NBC is right in his assessment that the future of public broadcasting is in the hands of media practitioners. The importance of a study like this to that future is implicit in the fact that it contains opinions and frustrations expressed by media practitioners themselves. Therefore, the results of this study represent the first real attempt to examine those frustrations and opinions more critically. Key Recommendations The Namibian government must develop a transparent system of regular press briefings on major policy questions and issues of national concern. This will eliminate the practice by some government officials to provide information only to reporters who are politically loyal to the ruling party. The press briefings must be openly conducted by an officially appointed press secretary, just like the USA’s White House Press Secretary, who is professionally trained in the field of mass media, articulate and very well informed about government policies. According to the present structure of the Namibian government, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Public Broadcasting and Information should perform this task. The Namibian government must accept that an atmosphere for good governance and incentives for foreign investment will not result from a hostile relationship with the local media, a war that government cannot win. Since the Namibian media is highly politicized, it tends to focus on political problems much more than developmental issues. The government is doing fairly well in the field of economic planning, health, housing, public safety, animal protection, human rights and rural development. Therefore, government officials should be aggressive in influencing the public opinion agenda to focus on these areas than spending time battling with the media. Furthermore, the government must encourage the initiatives of the business community to launch a commercial television channel. The existence of an alternative national channel will give the government the opportunity to fully commit public broadcasting to national development. This will also encourage media competition, which in the long run will lead to quality programs, diversity, pluralism and more program choice. Policy makers in Namibia must consider the establishment of a national institute for media training, research and technology (NMITRT) as the only alternative to improve the deteriorating standard of journalism and to conduct research on media technology. The government could benefit from the institute’s emphasis on the teaching of development communication (particularly rural communication) as one of its priorities. The institute’s emphasis on development communication will justify its funding by foreign development agencies. UNAM is definitely not the right institution to host such body because of its financial crisis apart from the need to focus on research and academic programs. As far as the media-government relationship is concerned, Namibian journalists must first identify their main concerns before delegating office-bearers of the Journalist Association of Namibia (JAN) to meet with government representatives to ease the tension. As an example, the Botswana Journalist Association (BOJA) has effectively used this approach to reduce the government-media hostility. JAN could also team up with government in advocating the establishment of NIMTRT. Namibian journalists will have the opportunity to receive formal training in order to understand elementary journalistic principles such as objectivity, ethics, neutrality, and theories of journalism. Although one of the objectives of Namibian journalists might have been to test government commitment to free speech at this early stage of independence, the current hostility between media practitioners and government officials should not eclipse the increasing demand of ordinary citizens for equal access to the Namibian press and television. (Footnotes) – Playing Circle is a Zambian produced “unsophisticated” comedy that makes a mockery of bribery, adultery, theft and nepotism in the African culture. It is a very popular program among the black audience, while it is disliked by whites for being “too African.”

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