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 "Production is one of the biggest challenges facing Broadcasters in the era of Covid-19"

The African Union of Broadcasting’s Chief Executive Officer, Grégoire Ndjaka made the statement at the end of the AUB & UNESCO Hybrid Seminar which took place in Dakar, Senegal from 27th to 28th July 2021, under the theme: “Handling Covid-19 pandemic in the Media in Africa”

What are the biggest challenges facing broadcasters since the outbreak of Covid-19?

One of the challenges facing broadcasters since 2020 is production. Indeed, audiovisual production is done through close contacts. The journalist has to make appointments, interview people, record them and broadcast the production. How then do we produce in this period when sanitary conditions require a real change of attitude? How do we reach out to people to gather information when science recommends distancing? Therein lays the whole problem. Of course, information technology provides solutions, but technology does not solve everything.

The other challenge is financial. Countries have experienced curfews and other restrictions that have hindered their economies. Resources have dwindled and this has led to difficulties because we cannot produce without money. So, journalists have real problems at this level. However, during these difficult times, the African Union of Broadcasting initiated in partnership with Trust Africa, UBiz News and other important partners, mega-productions such as the WAN SHOW or the Charity Concert which allowed members to reinforce their content capacities. But more efforts have to be done.

What strategy should be put in place to help the media recover?

What is important for a broadcaster is the antenna. When the antenna is doing well, then everything is ok. But for the media to do well, we need content. At the level of the AUB, we have revitalized our Network of Content Exchange (AUBVision). We are in the process of pooling efforts across Africa. Today, when a program is produced by a TV Channel and sent to the AUB, this program is then uploaded on our Network of Content Exchange which in turn, puts it at the disposal of other Channels, members of the Network.

Was collaboration easy between Governments and Media Professionals during these hard times?

Governments were also in distress. No government or person anticipated the arrival of the corona virus (SARS-COV2). The situation took the entire world by surprise. At one point, everyone panicked and I think that's what proves that we are human. Everyone panicked at first when they heard of the virus. But governments subsequently reacted to the situation. Today, we want to congratulate them for the valuable solutions provided to their populations and urge them to bring in more support because the Pandemic is still hitting hard.

We also note that in the first hours of the arrival of the virus, the media lacked resource persons, in particular experts to interview...

This is normal. In fact, Covid-19 experts did not exist, simply because this is an unprecedented situation. We had to start ex-nihilo. When the virus was declared in Africa in March 2020, nobody knew what it was. We were all in doubt. Even the journalists present at the Seminar made us understand that they needed the tools to unravel the mystery and go further in their quest for perfection.

Since the outbreak of Covid-19, a lot of false information have circulated. What is the answer of the AUB?

We are all witnesses of all what is going on across the globe regarding the pandemic. A lot of false information are disseminated on social media. It is understandable. At times those who share those inaccurate information are ignorant. Sometimes the fake information are aired by mainstream media. Not only did the fake news interfere with the work of journalists, but they also bring what is called "noise" in communication. Among those who spread fake news are many ignorant people who think they are doing the right thing. If we take the great debate on the use of chloroquine, we realized that even very high-level scientists did not have a clear idea about it. There was a lot of non accurate information on wether to use it or not to cure Covid-19. This proves that even scientists themselves were skeptical and were looking for suitable solutions.

Furthermore, the issue of disinformation and Fake News is a real threat to the profession. This preoccupation justifies the present Seminar. There was a Module on this topic which was broadly discussed with participants, under the control of our two experts, Mr Emmanuel Wongibe and Dr Mactar Silla. For the well-being of our profession, we are in constant struggle against false information.

You also announced the creation of a Network of African journalists on issues related to Covid-19. To whom it is addressed?

As Director General of the AUB, I am convinced a network of African journalists against Covid19 is a laudable initiative which must remain open to all journalists involved in the fight. We learn new things every day about corona virus: sharing experiences, being connected constantly and exchanging ideas through regular training in order to ameliorate the quality of our media coverages for the good of our populations. That is credo of our Network.

Interview conducted by Irene GAOUDA


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