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AUB at the TRT World Forum

The 2022 Edition of the TRT World Forum held from 9th to 10th December 2022 under the theme: "Mapping the Future. Uncertainties, Realities and Opportunities."

Representing the Union, the AUB's CEO granted the below interview in the sidelines of the Superpanel Discussions held at the Hilton Istanbul Bomonti Hotel and Conference Centre.

1- How long will newspapers and professional journalism survive? What are your comments on the claims that the need for these services will soon disappear with the effect of developing of technology and digitalization?

Newspapers and professional journalism will survive. Major media groups such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, Le Monde etc. have gone digital. Most of our newsrooms have lost half of their staff and the numbers keep dropping.

In 2004, one thousand eight hundred (1,800) Print Media Organizations had to shut down in the United States out of a total of 3,000 and their numbers keep decreasing.

Most of the newspapers that have survived are struggling financially, many of these are trying to catch up by moving to digital platforms. And this led to the collapse of the advertising market.

Newspaper revenues from advertising have fallen from $71 billion in 2000 to $14 billion in 2019.

Digital revenues have not been able to compensate for this loss. According to a study conducted by the News Media Alliance, Google alone have generated nearly 5 billion dollars in turnover thanks to the content of press publishers who were not however paid in return.

According to a survey by Knight Foundation, the number of American subscribers to the written press has fallen from 57% to less than 30% currently. This suggests that the print media crisis is not over. The worse is yet to come.

Print media and professional journalism will certainly not die. They will survive, because there are nostalgic people who still want to have their newspaper in hand. In recent years, we have also noted a shift from tabloid print media to luxury newspapers with more colors, better layout, quality information, etc. In short, the newspapers editors are struggling to hold back despite the storm.

2- What kind of transformation has gatekeeping undergone in the digital age? Is there still the practice of gatekeeping and if there is, will it continue to do so in the future?

By moving from newspaper to the digital press, the profession of gatekeeping (journalism) has also undergone profound changes.

Nowadays, it is difficult to imagine a media professional not knowing how to manipulate a computer, to collect information on digital platforms, to track down the fake news that has settled on social networks and to animate thisseething press on digital platforms.

The way of presenting information has changed. We no longer have very long articles running on several pages. More and more journalists produce short articles with instant information more focused on breaking news.

With the advent of the internet, a new press has seen the daylight. Which makes some people say that the press has not started a new chapter but rather another history of the press is being written. This involves the use of new tools: social networks, HD, streaming, smart TV, the Internet...

In close to ten years, Internet users and readers have taken control of information. They are no longer passive followers but actors in the process of gathering, treating, broadcasting/publishing the information they consume sometimes, to the delight of journalists who receive more and more free and effortless information that was once considered confidential.

3- Many newspapers, which started to broadcast in a hybrid way by building their websites or operating online, quickly became ad-intensive pages. Some offer online subscriptions and fewer ads, but most have reached advertisement saturation, irritating and alienating customers. How do you see these practices? And what effects do they have on digital environments?

If these practices are unpleasant for the reader, it must be said that the information has a cost, and this cost must be borne by someone. (Somebody must pay for it).

The world is always on the hunt for new content and who has the information has the power. Faced with the proliferation of fake news, readers and Internet users tend to return to the platforms and social media pages of traditional newspapers. There, they have the guarantee that the information has been processed according to professional standards of collection and verification before publication. It is therefore necessary to adapt either to the untimely interruption of advertising which pays for the Internet user to have free access to content or to take out a subscription for easy reading without advertisements.

4- The global circulation of news and media content has been flowing from west to east, north to south, dominated by big agencies and multinational media. Will digitalization put an end to this disproportionate and hegemonic configuration? Or are we facing an era of digital injustice where big Tech Companies create new monopolies?

If digitalization did not put an end to this disproportionate and hegemonic configuration of the circulation of information from north to south, from east to west, it has nevertheless democratized it.

We earlier that anyone can post any information nowadays, including confidential information.

But the daily practice of the circulation of information remains the prerogative of the big agencies and the multinational media. They have the human and financial resources, much better, they use piecemeal content provided by the average Internet user or the average media to boost their flow of information.

Their material, financial and technical capacity just gives them the possibility of making the information viral in a very short period and because this information comes from these multinationals, it seems credible and yet, like all the media, these big groups are dependent on those who pull the strings in the shadows.

They can thus sell their ideas, share their vision of the world. This was also the case with the Covid19 with the media hype which made the rest of the world believe that the vaccine was a necessary step to overcome the pandemic.

We now know that this consideration was wrong. Although in some countries we are at the 5th dose of vaccine administered, we are still recording peaks of coronavirus contamination. Moreover, the Supreme Court of the United States has just made public a judgment which stipulates that the vaccines administered to the populations of the world were not real vaccines.

There is, it is true, a threat of monopoly from the big technology and media companies. But there will always be the counterweight.

At the African Union of Broadcasting, we want to be that second way by collecting and making available information from Africa by Africans on our various platforms.

This is the main mission of our Center of Content Exchange in Algeria. With this center, we have the ambition to restore the balance, to show Africa, the real one, to the rest of the world and why not, to gradually erase this image of a poor continent where war, disease, disasters reign, that the western media stuck to us.

The African Union of Broadcasting wants to sell the positive Africa, the Africa of intelligences, the Africa of builders, the Africa of innovation.

Studies have shown that the African intellectual diaspora is in great demand all over the world. At Mercedes in Germany, for example, a significant number of thinkers of new prototypes are Africans.

In France, in the medical profession, nearly 40% of doctors are of African origin, according to the country’s National Order of Doctors.

In the worlds of sport and culture, the African diaspora is playing an essential part. Proof of this is the FIFA World Cup currently being played in Qatar, where players of African origin shine in most of the big teams.

In the world of arts, African artists are at the top of their performance. This is the case of Manu Dibango, of late memory, of Richard Bona who reigns over the guitar in the United States (Many guitar manufacturing companies have their guitars tested by the Richard Bona before putting them into circulation), famous singer Youssou N 'dour, we also have Lupita Yongo in the movie industry, etc.

The reflection is open on the methodology to put in place in order to reverse the hegemony of Big Communication Groups.At the AUB, we are contributing to these efforts along with others across Africa.

Istanbul, December 10, 2022


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