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How radio broadcasting is taken for granted!

EVERY year we celebrate Radio World Day. The electronic medium remains the main source of information and news for many people in the world despite the emergence of the social media.

We still recognize and appreciate the outstanding work that was done by renowned inventors such as Guglielmo Marconi, Thomas Edison, John Flaming, Edwin Armstrong, David Samoff to mention but a few. You simply cannot mention radio without linking it to these great men!

They played a superb role in the invention of radio and broadcasting industry that we enjoy today. As I mentioned, despite the emergence of the social media, radio broadcasting has remained a believable and trusted media of mass communication.

It brings people together and communities from all walks of life to foster positive dialogue for change and counters evil in our communities. When well planned, radio programming builds tolerance and surpass the differences separating groups by uniting them under common goals and causes.

In the 60’s and 70’s the then Radio Tanzania Dar es Salaam (RTD), played a crucial role in uniting Tanzanians, addressing education, agriculture as well as health concerns in the communities. Despite all its beauty and achievements, things have fallen apart. It’s simply distracting and inconsistent.

Once taken seriously by listeners, viewers, owners, editors, producers, as well as advertisers, radio broadcasting in the country today seems to have lost its sense of direction. Those behind the microphones tend to drive personal agenda before listeners and viewers interests.

Ad-libbing-the unscripted comment- has characterized much of what we hear and see in broadcasting presentations than was ever before. Boldly put, wallowing counts more than content in most broadcasting programmes! As such it has been difficult to follow broadcasting programmes be it on radio or television.

Quality and serious programmes such as news bulletin, news real, discussions and features have become less serious and irritating to listen and/or watch. In the heydays, broadcast programmes such as news bulletin were professionally prepared, edited and aired by broadcasters who had developed character and persona in the industry.

Advertising was not part of such programmes as it is the case now. Today, it’s hard to tell the difference between a serious and less serious program in both television and radio. Producers have deliberately decided to bombard listeners and viewers with series of nonstop adverts and announcements instead of feeding hungry listeners/viewers with news and important information.

As I was watching a news bulletin in one of the television station recently, the producer (I believe under influence of the owner) decided to provide huge space to advertisements instead of news in their evening news bulletin. Sadly, the adverts just came in immediately after two news items were aired.

You can then guess the number of adverts that popped up in a 30 minutes news bulletin. Seriously, I lost both focus and interest of watching the programme. The Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA), content committee must look into this and provide directives to reverse the situation.

If the trend is left unchecked, viewers and listeners will be stressed by adverts which, in most cases, they are less interested in. In recent days, for instance, it is difficult to know when the presenter is working as a presenter and when s/he performs as an advertising character.

Most presenters present things they are less conversant with, they lack the attributes of a good presenter and often read things they don’t understand. I believe seasoned presenters such as Mzee Jacob Tesha are confused by what is going on in the industry today. For as it is now, it’s all about wallowing sexual issues only!

So if you are good at it and presto you are behind the microphone! The once respected and trusted media of mass communication has been reduced to a mere street ‘yoyoyo’ noise maker media. Many critics, such as the late Mzee Ali Moses are of the view that broadcasting has lost its glory. To elucidate, iconic names resurfaced.

The likes of the late David Wakati, Michael Katembo, Dominick Chilambo, Julius Nyaisanga alias Uncle J were mentioned by Mzee Ali Mohamed. Seasoned female broadcasters were also mentioned. These are Mama Edda Sanga, Betty Mkwasa, and Kristine Chokunogela to mention but a few.

Boldly put, the then Radio Tanzania Dar es Salaam squad stole the show. The presenters and programme production managers worked in a team and produced programmes that touched the lives and interests of the audience of our time.

Popular programmes such as “Majira”, “Wakati wa Kazi”, “Karibu Mgeni”, “Salaam na Muziki”, “Mkulima wa Kisasa”, “Mama na Mwana”, “Tumbuizo Asilia”, “Michezo”, “Pwagu na Pwaguzi” to mention but a few were all thought through and professionally produced.

The signature tunes (sic tunes) of these programmes were creatively blended with catch words that have stood the taste of time. Frankly speaking, the programmes were ear catching and the reason for this was by no means mystery! Broadcasting principles were followed and adhered to.

The script was anything but a roadmap to programme production. A presenter at that time, was not allowed to get into the studio without an approved script from the producer, editor or shift leader. Programmes were well penned, edited, approved and rehearsed before one went on air.

As a result both broadcasting stations and presenters commanded much respect from the audience. In Kampala-Uganda, the late Francis Bale was a household name at both Radio Uganda and Uganda Television. In Kenya we had Mzee Odhiambo running a popular programme called “Je, Huu ni Uungwana? on KBC.

All these presenters-cum-producers produced both ear-catching and screen captivating programmes! Undoubtedly, the programmes were breath-taking and rich in content! Presently, the industry has employed many presenters and producers but to everybody’s dismay programming has dwindled!

I am aware of the fact that the times have changed and that many listeners and viewers prefer getting information and news in flexible and easy to follow formats. I am also aware of the advancement in technology but broadcasting principles remain!

Whether we receive our news packages in ‘infotainment’ formats or ‘traditional’ formats the basic principles have to be observed.

Issues of accuracy and truthfulness, impartiality, pluralism, fairness, right to privacy, transparency and accountability not withstanding social values are unforgotten or unknown principles to the young stars. Honestly, it is depressing to hear a presenter wallowing on a topic or subject s/he is less conversant with! Have a great ‘Sato’ comrades.

Jacks Meena, Freelance Media and Communications Consultant. E-mail:jmmeena@hotmail.com +255 655 280 355/754 283 557

Author: Jacks Meena

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