Africa Is Looking To The Future. So Is Its Journalism – John Momoh

Channels Television  
Updated June 22, 2018
Speech By John Momoh At The 2018 IPI World Congress
File photo: Chairman, Channels Media Group, Mr John Momoh (OON)

 

 The 2018 World Congress of the International Press Institute (IPI) continued in Abuja on Friday with the Chairman/CEO of Channels Media Group, Mr John Momoh, delivering a speech.

In his address, Mr Momoh said that the daily news has undergone a transformation. This is because Africa looks to the future just as journalism.

Read the full text below;

It’s an honour and privilege to be here this afternoon, to share this hall with you and to share

my thoughts about the future of journalism. To say that these are extraordinary times for the news industry, will be an understatement. These are incredibly phenomenal, and prodigiously extraordinary – times.

You don’t have to be a news junkie to notice that your daily news has undergone a transformation. There’s a complete disturbance, a complete disordering, a disarrangement, and indeed, a disarranging of the way we do our business.

We now have new markets with new set of values that now threaten existing markets. You call it a Disruption. I choose to call it, an Upheaval; an upheaval caused as you well know by the internet, which has now turned journalism upside down – making it more participatory, social, diverse and partisan.

We now live in a world where Journalism is being transformed, in the ways that news is produced, distributed, and used. New tools, and new practices, are affecting the ways we produce information.

New facts are being unearthed on a daily basis; we now have more audience feedback being integrated into our news production; more voices being heard; and more diverse perspectives are being presented on the same news stories.

Invariably, more stories are now available and archived, and searchable for longer periods of time. More people are now engaged more actively with the goings-on in the world—by taking photos, making videos, commenting on blogs and sharing the stories that matter to them.

Television newscasts now include amateur videos, covering events like the Arab spring or the African migrant crisis. Such videos, with their shaky cameras and people’s unguarded reactions, have much greater immediacy than professional footage.

Twitter, the microblogging service, has been integrated into coverage of events, no less the ongoing FIFA World Cup in Russia. At no time in the history of journalism have citizens become more engaged in reporting their own stories; as the man on the street assumes the role of a news reporter.

In essence, Streaming Video is changing every existing relationship in the TV value chain. Gone are those the days when right holders rely only on broadcast networks to air their content, and when networks rely only on Pay TV to deliver their content to viewers at home. Look around you, and you’ll see the new kids on the lock – the Digital Titans, all with their fangs out, ready to devour you – Facebook, Amazon Prime, Netflix, And Google.

For the print, the story isn’t different. Most newspapers have now migrated online, necessitated by the decline in readership, and unable to keep up with up-to-the-second news that are now available on the computer or on your phone applications.

And since they now put all of their content online for free, then there’s no incentive for readers to buy the print version. And so advertising revenue has been greatly undermined, making news reports a commodity, and blurring the boundaries between previously distinct news organisations.

The internet has overturned newspapers’ traditional business model, just as it has, for the broadcast industry.

There’s still no fool proof formula for turning digital news into profits. Paywalls, freemium/premium models, a la carte micropayments systems, are all being tried, which leaves newspapers at the mercy of the FANGs. In the meanwhile, newspapers and their websites have continued to slash their staff strength.

Social media, which many had hoped will be a saviour with its open access and extensive reach, has actually compounded the problem of journalism, by rewarding speed and sensation, over accuracy.

As one writer puts it, while it is true that “if you’re first and wrong, you are not first”, those who are making money from fake news, don’t really care. Fake news content, is now reported to generate more user interaction, than real journalism.

All these experiences – fake news, new business models and the growing realisation that platforms are not just platforms, have resulted in a perfect storm, which shows that we are really, at an inflexion point as an industry.

Now, some say this is a crisis of journalism; Perhaps. But we see it as an explosion of the profession, and an opportunity toward better journalism.

We believe that journalism is more alive today than ever – one that is going through a multiplication of both forms and content, at an amazing speed.

As the President said last night, “Good Journalism Matters”. Therefore, if we are in the business of gathering information, interpreting, and spreading it, then we certainly have more means, now more than ever before, to do so.

Because just as the internet has demolished old ways of doing things, it has also made new ones possible. And there lies, the opportunity.

Good journalism requires that we should be thorough, accurate, fair and transparent. Although the lines separating each of these principles are not always clear, nevertheless they are a useful way to approach quality journalism.

Africa is the continent of the future, and I hasten to add that Nigeria is the trigger to make this so. The forecast for the continent is for strong growth for the next 25 years; at an average annual rate of five percent.

Compare this to Western Europe and the US, which are forecasted to grow real GDP at +1.5% and 2.5% respectively, and the picture becomes clearer.

A rising middle class will increase the target market for mobile phones, DTT and pay TV, just as growing urbanisation will further accelerate this trend.

One billion people in sub-Saharan Africa are expected to have mobile phones by 2023. Digital TV Research forecast the number of pay TV subscribers to more than double in the next 5 years with estimated pay TV penetration of 16% of households by 2020.

As someone said, it is easy to predict the future of journalism. In five, ten, even 15 years’ time, people will still be hungry for news. The one thing that will remain constant in the picture, is good content and good quality journalism.

What is changing, is the way that businesses distribute content, and consumers access them, plus the nature of relationships all along the supply chain. So, do not waver brothers and sisters.

For according to the pioneering computer scientist Alan Kay, “the best way to predict the future, is to invent it”. So, for journalists and broadcasters, the best way for us to invent the future is to invent, adapt and innovate, to stay ahead of the curve.

So, the ball is in your court. Go forth, and invent the future.

I thank you for listening.