WHEN the Minister of Information, Culture, Arts and Sports, Dr Harrison Mwakyembe, was winding up estimates for his 2017/2018 fiscal budget on May 5, 2017, he uttered a statement that really shocked some of us.
The cause for that stun was based on the minister’s statement that 90 per cent of broadcasters employed either by TV or radio stations throughout the country have not undergone the basic required journalism training, to enable them secure employment in such posts.
The daze made me gaze around to authenticate what Dr Mwakyembe said and later on I said to myself – there is need now for our electronic media to look back and make bold decisions that shall make them employ only competent and trained staff as broadcasters.
The minister’s statement was based on some periodic surveys which had been conducted by the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) in broadcasting houses that established such a mess in newsrooms.
Indeed, this remains as one of the biggest challenges facing broadcasting journalism in the country, but unfortunately, some of us in the media fraternity had not noticed that fact, otherwise we would have raised the alarm.
In his speech, the minister noted that the TCRA had been conducting routine surveys to monitor broadcasting quality of service, specifically probing the state of studios, newsrooms, libraries, in-house policy on producing and broadcasting programs, professional qualifications of journalists and employment contracts. As most of us know, there are more than 100 radio stations registered in this country as well as a good number of TV stations.
Though the owners know that they should employ only the qualified staff, the trend has been the opposite, where one secures a job simply because he/she can read and write, with an added advantage of having ‘good voice’.
There is an example to cite here and that is a mess noticed in poor handling of interviews, both in radio and television stations, vividly shown some few days ago during the Karatu bus accident that claimed lives of more than 30 pupils of the Arusha-based Lucky Vincent primary school.
For those who followed that live broadcast, some broadcasters were heard complaining why the Mount Meru hospital authorities had barred them from entering the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) to interview three survivors of the accident, who were receiving treatment in that regional hospital.
Another journalist was seen struggling to interview parents who had lost children in that accident, a move that disappointed some spectators, wondering where this ‘journalist’ had gathered courage to approach those bereaved parents.
There have been complaints from viewers and listeners about the competence of some broadcasters, especially those running soap opera programs, which at times evade one’s privacy and had victims of such invasions known their rights, the stations would be fined millions of shillings, and at times banned.
The nation is currently in the process of reviewing certificates of its employees and about 10,000 workers with fake certificates have recently lost their jobs, simply because they didn’t possess right credentials, to enable them serve the country in the relevant offices they were occupying.
For a country to achieve high level of development, trained personnel are hired to execute different responsibilities as per the priorities of the nation, and employing a broadcaster simply because he/she can read and write is wrong, and this should always be discouraged.
Dr Mwakyembe has already said that 90 per cent of the broadcasters do not have professional qualification – So what? Is that enough? What should the media fraternity do to reverse the situation?
As stakeholders, should we make an ad hoc visit to all radio and television newsrooms to order owners fire, with immediate effect, all broadcasters who do not possess the required qualifications?
Is there a possibility of letting the same Media Houses keep the same employees, on condition that they are given some training on broadcasting to enable them know do and don’ts in their profession?
What if some of them scored Division Zero in their national four examination results – Can they still be maintained simply because they have attractive, lovely and soft voices which attract listeners and viewers?
My quick survey has indicated that so far, it is only the national broadcasting house – the Tanzania Broadcasting Corporation (TBC) which usually takes into consideration the professional qualification before one is offered job.
You are not a journalist, you cannot be employed by TBC as broadcaster. At TBC, a broadcaster should first be a trained journalist as a prerequisite and other qualifications follow after that.
In various facebook and Whatsup groups where I am a member, I have always advised media houses in Tanzania to borrow a leaf from some neighbouring countries, which to me have better qualified staff in that field compared to ours.
Whether we like it or not, there is a need to do something as a step towards strengthening quality of our Broadcasting Houses, because they play a key role in the nation’s development.
Dr Mwakyembe has already told us that we have untrained group in broadcasting – What is the relevant and quick step that we should therefore take as a sign of transforming our broadcasters into professional employees? Your response, is the action to be implemented with immediate effect.