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study for RVHP
Brett Davidson, Idasa
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This study was
commissioned with the aim of providing the Regional Hunger and Vulnerability
Programme (RHVP) with current, incisive information about media
opportunities to support delivery of the RHVP Communication Strategy.
arrangements, use and impact at regional level
There is a general
lack of detailed media audience research in the countries of the
region, but broad-stroke information has been gathered from a range
of surveys. Notable amongst these are the Gender Links Southern
African Gender and Media Audience Study conducted in 2004 and 2005
and the regular Afrobarometer survey on attitudes to democracy conducted
in fifteen African countries.
Radio is by
far the most accessible and most used medium in the region and remains
the most important source of news for 51% of southern Africans.
Radio is also most likely to reach audiences in their own language.
Television comes second, with 34% relying on it as their primary
news source. Only 14% of southern Africans turn to newspapers first
for news and information, while Internet use is negligible except
among elites (1%).
The media sector
in the region is undergoing change. The power of television is growing,
and in recent years there has been a rapid increase in the number
of television sets in several countries. However television is still
the medium most likely to be subject to strict government controls.
Digital satellite television has gained widespread currency among
elites. The past decade has seen community radio take on increasing
importance. Community radio stations, while often under-resourced,
have the advantage of being close to their audiences both physically
and culturally, and broadcast in local languages and dialects. There
are notable differences between urban and rural dwellers. While
rural folk are overwhelmingly dependant on radio and often only
have access to the state broadcaster, urban dwellers have access
to, and use, a wider variety of media.
for developing or implementing media activity
There are essentially
two options facing any organisation seeking media exposure - gaining
free coverage by strategically engaging the news media on the one
hand, or paying for content in the form of advertising and advertorials
- sponsorship of tailor-made educational/entertainment programming
on radio and television - on the other.
of free publicity and exposure requires a modest budget, while paying
for media space is far more expensive. Free publicity carries an
additional advantage besides being relatively inexpensive - it often
carries far greater credibility as it is perceived to come from
neutral or objective sources.
In order to
gain free media exposure, it is necessary for an organisation to
understand how the news media operate and how issues move through
the media. Key techniques are:
- making press
- holding press
- staging newsworthy
in radio and TV talk shows,
- placing opinion
articles in newspapers, and
background information and briefings to journalists.
and annual dates can be used effectively as 'hooks'
for gaining media attention.
It is important
to think carefully about the best medium and outlet to target, depending
on the desired audience, as well as the aim of the communication.
It is also important to bear in mind that each type of medium has
different characteristics. Radio is immediate and interactive, television
has great visual and emotional impact, and print is the medium of
record and can be kept as reference material.
It is important
to bear in mind that the media should not be utilised simply to
convey information or persuasion from the RHVP to 'target audiences',
in a one-way process. The media can be effectively used in order
to stimulate debate and discussion, and to gather information and
opinions from key stakeholders.
proposals for RHVP activity
Based on the
existing Communication and Advocacy (C&A) strategy, the following
initial objectives are suggested:
awareness of RHVP and its objectives,
- Create awareness
of the problem: that traditional humanitarian responses to hunger
have not addressed the underlying causes of vulnerability,
the quality and quantity of journalism with respect to issues
of hunger and vulnerability, and begin to build public 'literacy'
with respect to these issues,
- Begin to
stimulate and facilitate public debate and deliberation (in the
media) around the issues of hunger and vulnerability, food aid
and its alternatives (such as cash transfers),
- Begin to
get the voices, perspectives and concerns of vulnerable groups
into the media, and thus into debates/deliberations on the issues.
should be linked directly with the communication objectives.
are provided based on the objectives proposed above. These are:
- Media launches
to introduce the programme in each country.
- A conference
or one-day workshop with high profile guests/speakers.
sympathetic government officials/ministers to address the issue
in their speeches and public appearances.
- Hold small
media briefings for selected groups of influential journalists.
- Issue press
releases linking your issues to key events and issues already
in the news.
- Use thematic
days to begin to draw attention to RHVP's concerns.
quality and quantity of journalism:
interaction, emails and short seminars/panel discussions, RHVP staff
should aim to persuade editors why:
- Hunger and
vulnerability deserve increased coverage, when so much else is
competing for attention.
- Hunger and
vulnerability are likely to be of interest to their target audiences
(along with some ideas on how to make these topics interesting).
can be educated on the issues through briefings, seminars and workshops,
and plain language 'toolkits'.
facilitate public debate and deliberation:
Here the aim
is to create the 'space' in the media for public discussion.
There are a number of techniques that could be used to achieve this
- Submit articles
to editorial pages of newspapers.
- Write letters
to the editor drawing attention to the issue, in response to news
- Call in to
discussion programmes on radio and television and raise key issues
radio and television stations to hold discussion programmes on
issues of hunger and vulnerability and the best way to address
- Work with
one or two community radio stations in each country to hold a
series of deliberative discussion/call-in programmes. This can
be done in conjunction with the use of listener groups guided
by discussion booklets.
It is important
to monitor whether communication objectives are being met. This
can be done in a variety of ways:
to a range of media, and monitor available websites of newspapers
and broadcasters. Keep cuttings or print-outs of articles relating
to your key issues, or quoting RHVP spokespeople and documentation.
- Request copies
of radio and television interviews and programmes where RHVP is
covered or represented, or make recordings of these when aware
of them ahead of time.
- Hold focus
group discussions with listeners of local radio stations to assess
their levels of information and attitudes.
an organisation such as the Media Monitoring Project (MMP) to
monitor media coverage of your issue or to help you set up your
own media monitoring capability.
studies and contact lists
The study provides
several brief case study examples organised under the following
the agenda and getting into the news,
audiences and building media capacity,
Links to sources
of further information are provided. The study also provides several
recommendations for potential partner organisations and a detailed
list of key media contacts is appended.
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