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African TV Executives Seek To Claim Their Place In Global Media

posted 19 Mar 2013, 08:16 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 19 Mar 2013, 08:31 ]

Television producers meet in Madagascar to share ideas on how best to best tell their own stories while dealing with limited resources and an ever-changing media environment.

 ANTANANARIVOMADAGASCAR  (REUTERS) - Eight African television stations and private production companies recently met to push for stronger representation in the international media space.

Gathering in AntananarivoMadagascar at the 3rd annual African Television Day - an annual event aimed at providing a platform for the continent's top television industry players to share and exchange ideas, they reviewed the state of the industry, its challenges and sought to find ways to improve content.
Previous editions took place in 
Burkina Faso in 2011 and Cameroon in 2012.

Macatar Silla, president of the Association of Private TV Producers and Stations, the organization behind the initiative, said there is a need to create an avenue for Africans to be better represented and tell their own stories.

"We wanted to show that there is a need in Africa to have a common policy in place and put our funds together. Although it's difficult and because state televisions have so many constraints, it is up to private television stations to come up with their own plan, because they have more flexibility. It's also an opportunity for us to showcase that Africa, despite the little funding at our disposal, compared to other private television stations in the world, we can have our own experiences and be on a level where we can offer some original and interesting content, to a greater audience, which will allow people to get to know more about what happens on the continent," he said.

The African Television Day is also an opportunity to broadcast programs and documentaries that promote and celebrate the artistic and cultural heritage of Africa, including shows that cover different topics and challenges that the continent faces.

The programs were broadcasted live for seven hours, to an estimated audience of more than 120 million people across the continent, organizers said.

For Malagasy producers and TV professionals the event provided an opportunity to develop their skills and gain some exposure beyond the shores of the island country.

"I have never received any formal training, because there is no school here inMadagascar that offers training in broadcasting. But I was lucky because I got the opportunity to work with some foreign professionals, a person who trained me in my field and that's why I am here. My dream is to one day set up my own production house, which will hopefully change the face of the industry and the type of stories we tell here in the country," said producer and television presenter, Alain Rakototvao.

Clemence Rabary, a popular television presenter for one of Madagascar's privateTV stations, RTA, said it was a career development opportunity. Although she is a household name in Madagascar, the event gave her the first chance to address a larger audience.

"This is the very first time I have presented anything on TV, which has been broadcasted on an international platform, so I am very excited about it," she said.

Seleven Naidu, General Director of RTA TV station said there was a significant appetite for more African content told by Africans.

"I think that Africans have come to the realisation that they need to see more of their stories and themselves on the screens, and have their own stories told. Today, it has become a reality, where we see a growing number of African TV producers and production houses that are doing some amazing work. I think that little by little we will be able to fill in this void, and create an image with an African brand," Naidu said.

Although the industry has made substantial progress, with more than 600 televisions stations on the continent, Silla said there was still a long way to go as it continues to overcome the financial constraints associated with running private media operations.

Many private broadcasters still rely on internationally produced African and western content.

Africa's private media owners also still struggle with political or state interference, and repressive laws in some countries, making it difficult to maintain their editorial integrity.

Silla says the key for growth lies in political will to grant greater press freedom, as well as more collaboration amongst industry players to find new avenues for funding so they can remain viable in a competitive industry.

"If Africa wants to assert itself, if we want the battle for development, we need to have clear policy in broadcasting, as well as political and cultural will that will allow us to develop, in the spirit of togetherness and shared ideas, which is what we need in this industry," he said.

Experts say there is need to ensure that as the industry evolves with new information and communication technologies, journalists on the continent need training to improve their professional capabilities while still having a competitive edge to play their role