It is not news to say that Rwanda’s media industry has come under various forms of attack by its stakeholders. While it can be said that the media industry faces serious challenges, at the moment, this kind of observation will lose meaning very soon.
While other sectors of the economy have seen what amounts to a miraculous transformation, changes in the media have been slow. This is evident from the low levels of investments the media industry has managed to attract in the last 10 years. Statistics indicate that other sectors of the economy have received huge amounts of investments such as the multi million dollar investments in the telecoms or banking sector.
The media has not attracted anything close to a fraction of what these other sectors have. However, it can be said with some level of certainty, that there is light at the end of the tunnel. The local media industry is attracting the attention of investors. There is serious realignments currently ongoing within the industry, not withstanding its current state. Some discerning investors are now eying opportunities that can be partaken to make a difference.
This means that there are new companies springing up with the intentions of sprucing up news coverage in Rwanda. With the entry of new players, naturally, the industry will wake up and re-adjust accordingly. Competition is healthy in that it levels the playing field and those who cannot shape up are naturally shoved aside by the rigours and abrasion that competition offers.
One of the areas that Rwanda’s media industry has lacked for so long has been its inability to offer in-depth analysis of issues facing the society, especially within the right context. This situation has meant that critical issues within the society have largely been under-reported or in most cases mis-reported altogether.
A case in point is the story of investments in Rwanda. Those of us in the media focusing on investment reporting have been paying glowing tribute to the good work Rwanda Development Board (RDB) has been doing in bringing in investors.
But we also know that the story should not end there. The question is- what happens once an investor hits the ground running? Do they face hurdles? If so, what kind of hurdles do they face? How can such hurdles be minimised? Who takes responsibility for lapses in serving investors? These are equally serious issues that impact on transformation currently unfolding. If an investor is unhappy and we do not talk about it, then how can we correct ourselves as a country while moving forward?
When new entrants, such as Nation Media Group, move in to take up positions within the local media industry, naturally news reporting will never be the same again. Public institutions among them RDB that is responsible for wooing investors, should now gear up for increased forms of scrutiny by the media industry, something that never used to happen before.
While one can say that in Rwanda we do not seem to have the level of rot that can make sensational news elsewhere, what is certain is that news reporting and dissemination would improve after the entry of new players. If that happens, then public officials should gear up for higher forms of scrutiny.
If anything, the media have to perform the oversight role in society. Previously, Rwanda’s media industry was equated with failure to rise to the occasion of taking up such a role in a robust manner. Now that there are realignments happening in the media industry, the sector will surely take up its rightful place in the ongoing transformation.
The author is an editor with The New Times