No case study: Whither the coal face for viability of Southern African media?
No case study:
Whither the ‘coal face’ for viability
of Southern African media?
Head: Journalism/ Senior Lecturer: Media
Cape Peninsula University of Technology
World Media Economics and Media Conference
8 May 2018
SADC Region: Context
• Region influenced by history of European
mercantilism, colonialism, neo-colonialism and
• Several states transitioned
from military, monarchic or
one-party rule to multi-party
rule but vestiges of
authoritarian media regulation
still influences operating
• Case research on SADC tend towards low hanging
fruit. Selected media companies generally have
features and structures like those in developed
• Preference towards research on high revenue,
listed commercial orientated media to the
marginal focus of other media entities (non-
profit, community, state) that contribute to
fortunes of an integrated mediascape.
• Selected cases often do not represent the ‘coal
face’ of struggles of Southern African for viability.
• Challenges of organisations at coal face
are maniple including:
– Limited investment
– Low circulation titles additionally hampered
by struggles with distribution
– Low GNI per capita to support
– Urban and elite orientation for newspapers
• Challenges of organisations at coal face are
– Limited access to investment/finance.
– Newspapers are low circulation titles additionally
hampered by struggles with distribution
– Limited range of advertisers
– Urban and elite orientation for newspapers
– Lowest literacy in sub-Sahara Africa. Only 65% of
youth can read and write.
– Low GNI per capita to support commercial growth
• Starting pay at McDonalds in USA is USD10
• The price of a newspaper in Zambia (USD1)
was same cost as loaf of bread (Banda 2010)
– Backsliding of democratic and market
reforms, assistance e.g. Malawi government
reinstituted tax on newsprint which had
been zero-rated since 2011; registration of
journalists introduced in Angola and
– Laissez faire regulation reduces media
viability in some countries by issuing more
radio licenses than market space can bare.
– Digital migration only in Malawi, Tanzania,
Namibia and Mauritius
– Declining media assistance grants and
increasing focus on digital media assistance
– Internet penetration low. Mobile Internet
access is mainly used but 3G networks are
patchy and expensive
– Digital revenue is not a significant contributor
to revenue. Wan/IFRA report, Financially
viable media in emerging and developing
economies, reported 36 per cent of the print
newspapers in emerging democracies
reported no Internet revenue in 2013
Comparative analysis of data price bundles 2017 (SADC).
Source: Independent Communication Authority of South Africa 2017
Mobile and 3G coverage is also a limiting factor
Internet access as percentage of population
(ITU May 2018)
• United States 87%
• Germany – 89%
• Zambia – 41%
• Zimbabwe – 40%
• Tanzania – 38%
• Swaziland/eSwatini – 32%
• South Africa – 54%
• Namibia – 31%
• Mozambique – 17%
• Mauritius – 63%
• Malawi – 10%
• Madagascar – 7%
• Lesotho – 28%
– State media compete head-to-head with
commercial media for advertising revenue
– State media often cumulatively has largest
audience and national footprint
– Government advertising often tied to political
– Critical media (and advertisers supporting them)
subject to ‘flak’ resulting in chilling effect
– Media philanthropy and media assistance
remains a consistent but unsustainable source of
income for some media
You can’t change what you can’t measure
• National research usually conducted by
companies outside of the country including
IPSOS, AC Nielsen, Plus 94 and Ask Africa.
• National capacity for market measurement
needs to be developed and adopted
• PAMRO runs AMPS in less than half of Africa’s 54
• Patchy and inconsistent measurement of media
and markets limits prospects for intelligence
driven media buying, planning and innovative
and responsive programming, pricing,
• Researchers need to take a serious look at
operating context for media development
and sustainability of independent, mass and
networked media through more
representative case studies
• More inclusive focus needed on all
components of media ecosystem (state,
public, community, commercial) as well as
other elements needed for development e.g.
policy, audience measurement, ethical
regulation, media literacy, media education.
• Cage, J. 2014. Economics of African Media. Harvard University. Downloaded from:
• Mdlongwa, F. (ed). Revenue generation for robust African media. Konrad Adenauer Stiftung.
• Mdlongwa, F & Lethlaku, M. 2010. Harnessing Africa’s digital future. Konrad Adenauer Stiftung.
• Schiffrin, A. 2017. Media Capture and the threat to democracy. CIMA.
• So This is Democracy. 2016. MISA.
• Dragomir, M & Thompson, M 2014. Digital Media: Making News, Breaking News. Open Society
Foundation. Downloaded from:
• Plessing, W. 2014. Developing Media Diversity: Baseline Study of State Support of Independent
Media in West Africa, South America and Scandinavia. Konrad Adenauer Stiftung.
• Wingfield, A. 2016. Africa’s 2016 factors for success. BizCommunity. Downloaded from:
• Moholi, F. 2016. Influence of government advertising on print media
content in Lesotho. Wits University. Downloaded from:
• De Waal, M. 2014. Inside – the Independent Media Report. Oresti Patricios
ORNICO. Downloaded from: http://website.ornico.co.za/wp-
• Gicheru, C. 2014. The challenges facing newspapers in sub-Sahara Africa.
Reuters institute for the study of Journalism. Oxford University.
Downloaded from: https://studylib.net/doc/8755722/the-challenges-
• Friedrich Ebert Stiftung. 2017. African Media Barometer: Zambia. FES