PEOPLE within and beyond Tanzania who place much premium on service delivery have certainly been deeply shaken by the recent revelation that 90 per cent of local broadcasters lack professional qualifications.
The revelation was one of the highlights of the 2017/18 budget estimates that Information Minister Dr Harrison Mwakyembe tabled in Parliament in Dodoma last Friday. Broadcasting is a critical component of the electronic media, which, alongside the print wing, constitute the media.
The media, in turn, is characterised as the Fourth Estate - one rung below the triumvirate composed by the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary.
That important placement makes the media a very important sector indeed. By extension, the men and women who operate under its auspices MUST be exemplary public service providers.
We have capitalised the word ‘must’ above deliberately, to drive the point compellingly home. For, in discharging their role – via information, education, and entertainment – excellence as the final product is compulsory rather than optional.
The public is largely trustful of what they read in newspapers, hear on radio airwaves, and watch on television screens. It means, then, that under-performance, by way of, for instance, misinforming or confusing the public, is bound to be highly disastrous or deeply disruptive.
Professional training coupled with fresh entrants striving to master the craft, and seniors mentoring juniors – is an insurance policy against misconduct or shoddiness. The staggering 90 per cent of unqualified broadcasters translates into the public being conned.
The problem stems largely from the negative perception that broadcasting is a career associated more with the presumed sweet voices and good looks of entrants, and less anchored on sound professional footing. Sure, a commanding voice and screen presence are fundamental, but these must be coupled with training, practice, and constant improvement.
These are among elements that, as an illustrative case, made listeners so deeply endeared to good old Radio Tanzania Dar es Salaam (RTD), and which have to a considerable extent been infused into the current Tanzania Broadcasting Corporation (TBC).
Erosion of professionalism was one of the negative by-products of liberalisation. It is manifested, partly, by the emergence of broadcasters-bydefault - young men and women who are essentially chatter boxes who belong to the social functions MC (Master of Ceremonies) category.
Now that the species has been discovered, and by extension its employers, remedial measures must follow, to spare the listening-viewing public of the disservice to which it has been subjected for quite a long time. It’s a date guess, however, that, the information minister’s exposure is the latest, and not the last tip of the iceberg.
It comes close on the heels of the exposure of nearly 10,000 public servants who had forged academic certificates. The net against service providers of suspect credentials must be cast wider.