Sol Plaatje Institute for Media Leadership (SPI), Rhodes University, South Africa
Are bloggers journalists? Are they operating ethically by upholding the rights and limitations of media freedom? If not, should bloggers be regulated by statutory boards? These and similar questions framed some of the key debates of the just-ended Africa Media Leadership Summit.
Meeting under the overarching theme of “Sustainable Media Business Models in the Digital Age”, delegates to the Africa Media Leadership Conference (AMLC) heard testimony of successful digital media business models already being run by some of their peers in Africa.
They also examined a range of challenges thwarting the sustainability of media and journalism on the continent, especially the lack of appropriate training and skilling among journalists and media managers, and poor editorial content, and suggested practical solutions on how to address these.
The conference was in broad agreement that African media needs to take advantage of social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter and mobile phones in serving their audiences, some of whom are increasingly deserting traditional print, radio and television and calling for greater transparency in the way journalists and media companies fulfil their public service roles.
The annual conference was the ninth since being established in 2002 by Rhodes University’s Sol Plaaatje Institute (SPI) for Media Leadership and the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS), which funds the series which rotate from one African country to another each year.
SPI Director Francis Mdlongwa said of the Dar es Salaam summit: “The conference was a huge success, perhaps the best so far, as evidenced by the feedback from most participants. Editors took away several useful lessons and concrete new business models, which they obviously will need to adapt to their own environments.”
Frank Windeck, head of the organisation’s Sub-Saharan Media Programme, commented: “We had a good impact on participants. The discussion between the bloggers and the regulator shows how important regulatory frameworks are. Future conferences could discuss further the political implications of the blogosphere and the role of the regulator…”
NOTE: The conference, co-hosted by Rhodes University’s Sol Plaatje Institute for Media Leadership (SPI), and Germany’s Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS), was founded in 2002 to promote high-level interaction among Africa’s media chiefs. The conference meets annually in an African country, and past AMLC summits have debated timely topics such as “Managing Media in a Recession” (Mauritius, 2002); “South Meets East: Strategic Challenges for African Media” (Nairobi, Kenya, 2006); and “Learning from the Future: Africa’s Media Map in 2029” (Accra, Ghana, 2009).
Interviews and further comments on the conference can be obtained from: