Boom time for African media

Tamara O’Reilly

Research into Africa’s media landscape has shown that new technology and innovative thinking have allowed the continent’s broadcasters to attract larger and more diverse audiences than ever.

Of the 17 different markets surveyed by Balancing Act and Intermedia, key findings were that there has been an explosion in the number of radio stations, the volume of advertising has increased and free-to-air (FTA) TV channels in countries such as Kenya and Tanzania attract the bulk of viewers and advertisers in those countries.

The countries surveyed were Algeria, Angola, Burundi, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

Indigenous radio flourishing

A number of radio stations, specifically those broadcasting in local languages, have mushroomed across Africa.

One such example is Uganda, where there are now over 150 radio stations, with 69% of them catering for audiences in 38 different languages. While both television and radio are distributed in developed cities, radio is the dominant medium in rural areas, which suggests that there is a direct correlation between electricity and television ownership.

Radio is so popular that it’s listened to in cars, in public transport, shops and homes, and in countries where deregulation of the media has occurred, several radio channels have emerged in a short space of time.

According to the report, overall advertising spend on television has increased slightly in some countries and declined in others. It was also found that where the state-owned broadcaster competes in an environment with four to five other FTA TV channels, it becomes the least popular broadcaster or stays just ahead of the last FTA entrant.

State interference in the media is still prevalent across the continent, whether it be content dictated by the government, journalists being pressured to censor their work or broadcasters being owned by ruling parties. In cases where content is controlled by government, audiences were found to be less trusting of the news than they would be otherwise.

The growth of radio and TV ownership varies for each country, but it was found that in countries where economic growth is above the global average, ownership of radio and televisions sets increases by 17% a year.

As more and more Africans move to other countries within the continent, broadcasters are also keen to provide them with content from back home. Although this is usually done via satellite, accessing television via the internet seems to be the preferred method among youngsters not living in their native country.

Despite the fact that cellular phones are more accessible than the internet, television using this device has been slow to catch on, as the technology needed for this has not yet been supported by many cellular service providers.

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