IMC Outlines Recent Research Findings as well as Successes

Engaging Editors…

By Brima Sannoh             

During a snap engagement by the Independent Media Commission (IMC) at its Conference Room, on the 19th December, 2022, the Chairman of the media regulatory entity, Dr Victor Massaquoi, intimated editors, from the print and electronic media, about key findings of a recent research they conducted as well as some of  successes that the institution achieved  in the past 10 months amidst varying challenges they faced and still continue to face.

Present during the engagement were the Executive Secretary of the IMC, Khalil Kallon, Commissioners, Newspaper, Radio and Television Editors.

The IMC Chairman maintained that within the ten months he has been in office, they conducted a research/inspection related to Media Poverty in full display and as a team they were able to generate knowledge of what currently obtains within the media landscape in the country.

He revealed that the main objective of undertaking the professional and technical exercise was to physically visit, engage and collect data, interpret, analyze and draw conclusions with recommendations for possible action.

Dr.  Victor Massaquoi furthered how, as an institution, they wanted to know the existing operational state of media houses stating how the study was limited to newspapers, radio and television.

He also revealed that the pre data collection activities included review of existing data while employing specific theoretical frames to interpret the data collected.

“Media management, Governance and Broadcast theories were reviewed and applied,” he added continuing how the 2020 IMC Act was reviewed and its mandate analyzed and applied.

According to the Chairman, the tentative findings are valid and reliable by every empirical measure. He started by saying they observed/identified weak governance system in almost 70% of the media houses. He maintained that the absence of or non-functioning of boards perforates the ability to provide policy oversight by a competent body hence established key challenge during the research.

He continued that the current crop (over 65%) of managers of media houses have very little training or previous practical management experience, that 70% of the stations, for example, are in relative poor management state needing serious oversight, training and investment.

“Over 90% of the radio stations, especial those in the rural areas (dubbed community radio stations), lack critical spare transmitters, sandwiched by poor “Earthing” thus any technical anomaly would lead to silence,” he disclosed adding that over 75% of the newspapers and magazines are one reel away from closure.

Dr Massaquoi informed that newsprints are expensive and other management and production processes are cumbersome.

He said the inability or unwillingness of consumers to pay for TV content is badly draining resources and affecting the production of quality content.

Quoting, Wilbur Schramm, he said that if the media is poor it is reflected in its content and the drivers of professional outputs.

He told Editors present that many other small but important findings, bordering on capacity building, investment, tools, equipment and ownership, licence, registration and more, have been identified

In drawing conclusions and suggesting recommendations, the IMC Chairman said the responsibility to ensure that the media operate professionally and observe ethical compliance lies with the IMC and with the support of SLAJ.

He revealed that their yearly data collection exercise is deemed appropriate as it helps the IMC, SLAJ, Media Houses and by extension the people and the Government to know what obtains.

Proffering recommendations, he said, there is need to facilitate the development and training of governance structures of media houses, intensify media monitoring to ensure governance and management function, suggest ways media houses should  address management issues through training ,speed up investment in media houses for example, International Fund for Public Interest Media.

He also mentioned the need to encourage media houses to go digital by producing consumable online content that comes with financial benefits for sustainability. He added that in line with the provisions in the 2020 Act, the IMC must ensure key provisions are enforced ,support given to media houses and that Government must , as a matter of urgency, improve the financial and material support for the IMC to do its work, especially now that elections are edging near.

In terms of some of the successes, he stated, the holding of a staff retreat in Bo where they assessed IMC’s operations, identifying 16 major challenges.

He informed how in March 2022 two of its members of staff and one Commissioner benefited from a comprehensive training programme in paralegal studies organized by the Judiciary through the Judicial and Legal Training Institute of Paralegal Studies organized by the Judiciary with support from the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), that the Commission has developed over half a dozen project proposals and concept notes of which three are in the pipeline.

He also talked of the IMC conducting a number of trainings and seminars for practitioners to enhance their capacity highlighting how they embarked on media counselling which took the form of conducting a one-on-one media counseling engagements with troublesome media houses, he talked about how the Commission has negotiated with the Chief Justice and Attorney General to speed up IMC cases and assign a legal officer to the IMC cases saying  they have done it now amidst other successes which he outlined and also categorized as successes.

He concluded by that the Independent Media Commission has the potential to grow and live true to its mandate but stated that all that they need are new office space, vehicles, staff and financial support.

On his part, the Executive Secretary of the IMC, Khalil Kallon, intimated that the Commission has gazzetted the Revised Media Code of Practice and Election Reporting Guidelines  which two documents will be laid in Parliament this week  to be debated and finally enacted. He informed that prior to that countrywide consultations were made during which media practitioners made salient contributions adding that a validation of the documents were also done. He also revealed that the Commission has also reviewed the Advertizing Code of Practice which will be taken out for consultations and validation early in 2023.

The engagement with Editors was climaxed with a question and answer session during which clarifications on certain issues were also made.



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