Survival of the fittest, or of the fastest?
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CTA. 2000. Survival of the fittest, or of the fastest?. Spore 85. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
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Regulations affecting the media have been liberalised to a large extent in many countries, and are expected to become so in more hesitant countries. This offers opportunities for more diversity of information, but only as far as finance and funds...
Regulations affecting the media have been liberalised to a large extent in many countries, and are expected to become so in more hesitant countries. This offers opportunities for more diversity of information, but only as far as finance and funds will allow, whether they come from income generation on the media marketplace, such as through advertisements, or from external support and partnerships. If liberalisation has weakened extension work and rural information programmes, and now threatens the financial basis of development communication, what are the prospects for proven pioneers like women working in rural video? Chido Matewa talked to ACP journalist Piet van der Akker. Press laws still have a firm grip on how the media can operate in Zimbabwe. Chido Matewa for one eagerly awaits a wind of change in this respect. But she is someone who just sits and waits to see that miracle happen. As director of the Africa Women Film Makers Trust she is actively involved in reaching out to women, in particular in the rural areas of her country. Video screenings of productions established in cooperation with rural women have proved a powerful tool in reaching out and in empowering. The co-productions of video and village women have covered such key issues as health, reproductive rights, credit and savings, food production and security, and land. The fact that so many productions have been genuine joint partnerships between the communication specialists and the local community illustrates that communication at the grass roots level can work most effectively. Not that the work of the AWFM is unique: Zimbabwe s media landscape is dotted with initiatives like the work of Chido s film trust, and is often regarded with keen interest by communication initiatives throughout southern Africa and beyond. But the overall picture of Zimbabwe media landscape is characterized by stiff laws which give the government full control over radio, television and print. Chido Matewa expects that this pattern will also change drastically in Zimbabwe, in the relatively near future. For the coming five years she predicts that there will be a mushrooming of numerous new publications and the proliferation of radio and television ventures, some of them with a rural focus. After all the government, according to Chido, has to give in to the demands for pluralism in mass communication. She is not sure however what new situation will emerge, since when the laws of the market place replace or complement the law of the land, other considerations of viability and success will come into play. 'There is more to success than simple financial viability.' First of all she points to the fact that the current economic situation of Zimbabwe will make it extremely difficult for new media to start up, let alone to survive. So Chido expects a coming and going of newspapers, radio and television initiatives all entangled in fierce competition to capture an audience. And, adds Chido, this battlefield for the favour of media consumers will then become an exclusively urban one, since it is only the urban market, if any, which can generate income for the media to survive. She does not immediately see how the sixty-five per cent of Zimbabwe s population which lives and works in the rural areas will be able to prosper from the liberalisation in the media domain. For that reason Chido hopes that external agencies will be in a position to continue with assistance for media focusing on rural development issues. She hopes that despite the harsh economic conditions which prevail in today s Zimbabwe there will nevertheless be room for the growth of independent radio, in rural areas as well as urban (see Spore 84). As far as Chido s film trust is concerned, she fervently hopes that external support agencies will not abandon their support to the video screening workshops which have grown so popular among rural women. There is, it could be said, more to success than simple financial viability and this has to be remembered in the development of long-term strategies for rural communication.
- CTA Spore (English)