DW Akademie spent a year working closely with the Zanzibar Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) as it began introducing reforms. The project has now wrapped up and Regional Coordinator André Surén reflects on the changes.
"Jicho la Habari" is a new radio program that is broadcast once a week in Zanzibar - reaching listeners even in the island's remotest corners. The name of the program says it all, translating loosely as "Information for the people."
Zanzibar. The word alone sounds dreamy, and that's how this vacation island in the Indian Ocean appears to be: dream-like. At least on the surface. But scratch a little deeper and you'll find poverty, inequality and a lack of opportunities for many who live in this semi-autonomous, federal state belonging to Tanzania.
That's why "Jicho la Habari" focuses entirely on issues affecting the local population. The show is one of the new program formats developed by ZBC together with support from DW Akademie. It takes a closer look at a variety of needs and concerns felt acutely by locals, such as the rising cost of food and gas, and shows how these issues impact their daily lives. Human rights issues also get a great deal of coverage.
But there's no room for political reporting, even though the Zanzibar Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) is state-owned and for decades was seen as a government mouthpiece.
Focusing on people's concerns
"ZBC staff are working intensely with the new program formats" says Surén, DW Akademie's Regional Coordinator for Southern Africa
The question behind DW Akademie's Zanzibar project "Serving the Public" was whether a media outlet controlled by the Ministry of Information would be open to changes. And if it were, could it start focusing on audience concerns in a relatively short space of time?
The answer was yes. ZBC was highly motivated, largely because DW Akademie had for many years been building trust and laying foundations for successful cooperation projects. ZBC clearly wanted DW Akademie to be involved in its transformation process, and as a broadcaster aiming to serve the public, it made numerous resources available and showed a high level of commitment and diligence.
We offered coaching and consulting to members of middle management and introduced them to a variety of new skills, including organizational planning and human resource management. ZBC developed an organization chart where responsibilities were clearly laid out, which helped improve workflows.
We also assisted ZBC journalists and technicians in the production of another new program, this time for television. "Mitaani" ("A Look at the Neighborhood") asks the audience to get involved, focusing on the island's diverse population and interests. It enables minority groups to voice their concerns, and takes a closer look at issues important to citizens, such as ways to tackle high unemployment.
The courage to change
The project received enthusiastic backing from Hassan Mitawi, the broadcaster's director general, and Said Ali Mbarouk, the minister for information, culture, tourism and sport. Together with the heads of the regulating authority and the Journalism and Mass Media College, the men traveled to Germany for a week-long fact-finding tour. They were curious to look at possible ways to develop Zanzibar's media sector further. As a result of their trip, they are now planning to put in place a federal press conference somewhat similar to the one in Germany. It is an important step towards transparency and increased public participation.
DW Akademie was active in other areas as well, advising the regulatory authority on the issuance and review of licenses for both state and private media.
In the interests of sustainability, we also worked with the island's journalism faculty and helped develop more effective workflows. We conducted a number of train-the-trainer workshops for university lecturers and shared ideas on how to introduce more practical elements to the program.
The goal is to prepare up-and-coming journalists for their careers and to help them focus on topics and stories that truly reflect the needs and concerns of people today. Another long-term goal is for students to do internships with various media outlets early on in the program so that they will have contacts in the branch by the time they graduate.
While we wrapped up the project at the end of 2014, we're optimistic that management will be able to continue with the changes we developed and introduced together. And we're confident that "Jicho la Habari" will continue to go out on the airwaves - reaching even the remotest corners of Zanzibar.
The long-term project "Serving the Public" supported reforms at the Zanzibar broadcaster and was financed by Germany's Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).