The public media’s mandate, which includes highlighting the daily struggles of the country’s most downtrodden – especially in rural areas – is negatively affected by underfunding, a top media executive said.
Dr Audrin Mathe, CEO of New Era Publication Corporation (NEPC), said the country’s public media are not run on profit-making principles and therefore rely on funding by the state to carry out their mandate.
Presenting a paper at a conference hosted by the University of Namibia last week, Mathe said the public media are primarily mandated to effectively report on developmental matters.
Stressing the vital role of the media, Mathe said: “The media play a role to ensure that those in Gam and Tsumkwe are heard.”
By so doing, the media ensure that the plight of Namibians in those remote areas reaches government for possible remedies, he addd.
To hammer home his concern about underfunding, Mathe said NEPC – which publishes New Era and Kundana newspapers – receives an annual government subsidy of N$13 million.
This is despite the fact that profit-making is not part of the corporation’s mandate, a situation that sometimes makes it difficult for the company to fulfil its functions.
Presenting a paper on “The role of media and development communication for poverty”, Mathe said the media industry also does not possess authoritative skills to report on poverty.
He observed that poverty-related stories often do not enjoy prominence. “Most development and poverty stories don’t make headlines,” he said, adding that news is often sourced from Windhoek, therefore leaving remote areas uncovered.
As an internal policy, New Era strives to have 60 percent of its content from outside Windhoek, as part of the strategy to ensure all regions enjoy wide coverage.
In order to generate more news related to poverty, Mathe urged opinion makers to talk more about the subject. “The less you talk about poverty the less it will make headlines.”
The appropriation bill must also accommodate poverty-related interventions in order for President Hage Geingob and his government to win the war he declared on poverty, the NEPC boss said.
“Poor people are in the majority when it comes to casting their votes and once they have cast their votes they are often forgotten.”
In the main, Mathe argued that despite the obvious challenges, the media remain at the forefront of promoting transparency, accountability and good governance.
He concluded that poverty alleviation is a fundamental social right that all stakeholders, including the media, should strive to contribute to.