Ivory Coast to move towards Public Service Broadcasting
Posted on 24th April 2011
Elizabeth Smith, Chair, Commonwealth Media Group and Consultant, Transforming Broadcasting
It is welcome news that the new Ivory Coast President is planning big changes for the state broadcasters. This follows turbulent times for the media during the fighting over the legitimacy of the President. The new Ouattara government has said it will prosecute some journalists for their part in the Gbagbo regime’s propaganda operation, according to Reporters Without Borders. During the conflict, the media was very polarised, with many abuses in reporting.
A hopeful sign for the future is that President Ouattara wants to ensure all journalists can work freely, said the Ivorian ambassador to France, Ally Coulibaly. He told Reporters Without Borders that the new Government will respect media freedom. "We won’t make the same mistakes as the previous government,” Coulibaly said. “We know what is expected of us. President Ouattara wants to ensure all journalists can work freely.” He added that big changes would have to be made in the state broadcaster Radio-Télévision Ivoirienne (RTI), which has become a propaganda organ in recent years and was not performing its public service role.
If the new Government is seriously committed to transforming their state broadcaster into a full Public Service one, then they are at the beginning of a long and arduous road. Given the political will, however, the transformation is achievable and would be of enormous benefit to the population.
The key task is for officials to draw up new draft legislation about broadcasting, and open up a consultation process. This should allow time for interested parties to respond with suggestions about the legislation, and for the drafters of the bill to take these into account. It will be essential for the new legislation to devise ways of maximising the independence of the new PSB, and of giving it a ring-fenced form of income that does not put it in the position of being at the mercy of the Government for its funding. The other area of crucial importance is to introduce a process for the appointment of DGs that takes into account their professional competence rather than their political affiliation. The use of an independent Broadcasting Regulator to supervise broadcasting, rather than the Ministry of Information is also an essential step on the road to PSB. To those experienced in this kind of transformation, none of this is rocket science. In other comparable situations, outside consultants have offered useful roadmaps and this is what is now needed as the first step.
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