Zim media under economic, political siege

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Harare, June 2016 – ZIMBABWE’S media companies are struggling for survival in a deteriorating economic environment characterized by far-reaching technological disruptions, lack of alternative funding models, a hostile political climate, ethical challenges and corruption creeping onto the profession, an editor has said.

Delivering the Bornwell Chakaodza Memorial Lecture at an event organized by the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe at a local hotel in Harare, Zimbabwe Independent editor Dumisani Muleya said the media was under siege from a plethora of troubles, with the economy as its biggest threat.

In a paper, titled Media Sustainability in the Current Environment, Muleya also said that although there had been incremental gains in the media reform campaign process, serious problems remained as shown by retrenchment of journalists, slashing of salaries and delayed pay, as well as threats and arrest of media practitioners.

“Current business models in Zimbabwe and elsewhere are being challenged by the new ways people communicate and consume content, thanks to hi-tech innovations,” Muleya said.

“The convergence of media and entertainment on cyberspace – the so-called information and data superhighway – and telecommunications has triggered disruptions and accelerated changes in consumption and advertising distribution patterns.

“The media upheavals, triggered by a revolution in technology, are transforming, fundamentally and irrevocably the operating environment, as well as nature of journalism and its ethics. So our media ecosystem and the terrain itself has now become a chaotic landscape evolving at a fast and furious pace.

“The political economy of the media has changed dramatically. Media organisations are now struggling as audiences migrate online, while advertisers lag behind – creating a disequilibrium which brings instability in relation to the supply, demand, and prices of media products.”

*The Bornwell Chakaodza Memorial Lecture is named in memory of seasoned and deeply respected journalist Bornwell Chakaodza, who was the deputy chairperson of the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe Board. Following Chakaodza’s untimely death in 2012, VMCZ instituted the annual memorial lectures in his honour in which leading media professionals and academics will be invited to speak generally about his shared vision.