Economics of the 4th Estate in Zimbabwe.
The economic relationship between discharging duties in an ethical way while at the same time maintaining integrity as well as competitiveness amongst Zimbabwe’s media proffessionals is daunting.
Armed with improved technological skill sets, new graduates from polytechnics, private colleges and universities have not only added the much needed diversity but the seemingly overwhelming numbers of jobseekers and limited opportunities.
Ways that would generate revenue for journalists and media houses continue to close. Advertising is the main revenue generator for media houses and newspapers with sales of printed hard copies racking in a few dollars to help run the business and or pay workers.
Many have lost jobs while others have taken to starting something of their own for survival. The political philosophy of, “eat what you kill” only serves to emasculate the non-equity scribes to hunt for survival at the expense of ethics and professionalism.
Fact of the matter is, the 4th estate is in a financial quagmire which is compounded by the prevailing harsh economic situation in Zimbabwe.
I will not therefore, be surprised if in what I’ve to write evokes no orderly discourse which can invite any exordium, as darkness continues to fall on Zimbabwe’s socio-political economy, the equal sharing of proceeds from the media industry need something more than, ‘eat what you kill’ mentality.
The three arms of the state have turned a deaf ear on the fourth arm, thus prompting an outcry by consumers of news, various organizations including government ministries, due to the mass exodus of media proffessionals to civic society organizations and or out of the country for greener pastures.
How possible is it that media professionals discharge their duties, get paid without any challenge or delays so as to build a culture of trust and reliability? Further, government can assist through adequate funding, grants and advertising for the 4th Estate.
With that in mind, the advertising criteria should also be improved to fit into the current digital economy, which also has given marginalized communities opportunities to access news and current affairs digitally. Many are accessing news through mobile phones and items that need advertising only come out in print newspapers thus creating a monopoly as well as an uneven playing field for media practitioners and in the process infringing the rights of millions accessing information digitally.
Mobile network operators ought to give a certain percentage of their profits to the media from the millions they are directly and indirectly making through the work of poor members of the fourth estate. Just like any organization, the media has overheads and one would be eager to know how they manage to sustain amid continuous hardships.
Brown envelopes exchange hands such as in the recent case of state broadcaster ZBC news senior reporter, Tendai Munengwa where it is alleged he attempted to extort money using privileged information. Preety much sounds like a case of “scratch my back and I will scratch yours.” They all love, laugh and express gratitude when coverage is given. Some even buy drinks and share lovely moments with journalist, in a way soliciting for media space.
The state broadcaster gets funding from treasury while the rest of media practitioners are left without financial support to assist them in discharging their duties fairly and in a balanced and credible manner.
Further, the media needs a wholesale approach and practical change so that those who run, do so responsibly and reward well all that work with them.
As the nation readies for the crucial harmonised elections towards the later part of the year, the safety of Journalists must be guaranteed.