Media Convergence in Sierra LeoneAugust 16, 2015
It is important here to consider the fact that much difficulties and disagreements had arisen in defining the notion of media convergence. Most theorists agree that in general terms convergence means ‘coming together of two or more things’, however a variety of different arguments have been put forward in an attempt to define what exactly does coming together means.
On the one hand, convergence can be viewed as ‘coming together with different equipment and tools for producing and distributing news’. On the other hand, defines convergence as the ‘flow of content across multiple media platforms’, suggesting that media audiences nowadays play a crucial role in creating and distributing contents, and convergence therefore has to be examined in terms of social, as well as technological changes within society.
Before internet journalism, the term convergence referred to the three media of newspaper, radio and TV converged under one roof operating as one entity. And I would want to focus more on this original definition that we have in Sierra Leone.
For that matter, I would like to look at the two we have under the leaderships of Philip Neville and Anthony Junior Navo. These two media Entrepreneur had a dream sometime ago that they have finally actualized. Today we have Standard Times converging with Star radio and TV under one roof and CEO Philip Neville at Mammah Street. The other we can find at Tower Hill called AYV Newspaper, radio and TV under the leadership of Junior Navo.
Going back, the term “convergence” is often used to describe the synergies between technology, media, and information that are changing societies worldwide. The word is used in conjunction with journalism and media to help us understand how the Internet and broadband wireless devices have shifted control from the source to the receiver. This means that the power to decide what is seen, read, or heard is increasingly in the hands of the consumer.
Television, radio and print media have been bitter rivals for decades, with the Internet recently joining the battle. Besides an effort to add consumer service, these traditional enemies have combined for many reasons. Most importantly, convergence has allowed media outlets to trim the bottom line. It has also increase the visibility of each organization to the public, a form of advertising. Ultimately, the collaboration has given more credibility to all companies involved.
In Sierra Leone, we can thank those entrepreneurs who have developed the three main media organizations in the country. The persons that have developed a “One Stop Shop” by building a reputable newspaper, radio and TV Stations have converge them into one powerful entity to give the consumer quality reading, listening and viewing.
Philip Neville and Junior Navo have set the pace and they have shown Sierra Leoneans that they have what it takes to compete and give us our money’s worth.
Looking at the advantages of the three media tells you why converging them together will bring more profits and accolades for the Entrepreneur.
The oldest form of media still has much to offer in a converging world. Most importantly, it is used to support the other types of media. Almost all television or radio news programs are written first, and then read aloud to the audience. Print is also the most Internet-friendly form of content because it requires significantly less loading time than audio or video clips. Print is truly the building block of converged media. In addition, print stories usually provide the most detailed accounts of events because they are not constrained by time, like television or radio segments. Print is also believed to be the most credible form of media. Studies have shown that it is the main source of news for the educated public. Finally, print publications have the most loyal audiences, who are more likely to visit a converged website than television viewers or radio listeners.
This second-oldest form of media is often overlapped by television’s capabilities. However, radio offers features television does not. Other than the Internet, it is the most interactive medium. Listeners can call and comment on a program while it is still in progress. Television does this as well, but much less frequently. Radio hosts, or personalities, also achieve a higher level of audience loyalty than most television reporters and are considered by many to be more credible. The audio capabilities of radio, which are also shared by television, can add sound clips to a converged news story and help bring it to life. Radio sound clips are also useful because they have a smaller file size than video clips with sound, which allows for the web page to load faster.
In today’s media, television is the most dominant form. It combines aspects of print and radio with the clarity of video. Instead of just reading or listening to what happened in a story, television viewers can see it as well. With proper editing, television is the most compelling and attention-grabbing medium. It is designed to hold the viewers attention for short periods of time and seems a perfect fit for today’s fast-paced world. In a converged website, television can offer video clips of events that show the audience what happened in the accompanying story. The 24-hour television news cycle is also well suited for covering events at all times of the day, which is a challenge for radio and print. Finally, television, the most popular medium, has the greatest visibility and can be a powerful tool in promoting the converged website.
So bring all three together and using the internet also has put these two men above the rest by using the same staff and credibly sending out the news on time with pictures and sounds as well as details it in the newspaper. Well done Philip and Navo, your dreams are changing the face of the media in Sierra Leone and very soon you two will have the power to decide politically and economically what the country needs. If you don’t believe, check Rupert Murdock, Leo Kirch, Silvio Berlusconi and Time Warner Company. These people are shaping their country’s future and they all have had a very big say in who rules their respective countries.
Today all serious news organizations have a Web presence and a “Web-first” strategy. Although live broadcasts are still preferred for major events, it is becoming more common for stories to first appear on the Web site, then re-purposed for either broadcast or print. As audience media use changes, so also the economics are morphing into something different from past generations.
Therefore, convergence forces us to reconsider the most basic question of all: What is a journalist? Generally, educators might suggest that journalists are a particular kind of content creator. Journalists are experts in gathering and presenting information for the public good. They are experts in message creation strategies including the use of language, story structure, and organization. Journalists can see through puffery and jargon and able to weave statistics, personal observations, and the experiences of others to create dramatic and interesting accounts that can deeply impact others.
There are, perhaps, as many notions of “media convergence” as people who use the term. I want to base my arguments on three basic principles:
Firstly, the public increasingly wants to access quality news and information at any time through any and all media that are convenient or appealing to them.
Secondly, the audience for news and information is less passive than it used to be. Many people, especially younger people, want to create, respond to and interact with media. This desire has led to emerging “citizen journalists.” Full-time journalists need to accept this power shift and take advantage of the opportunities it presents.
Thirdly, Convergence training should not be “a mile wide and an inch deep.” Young journalists will not be equally adept at all storytelling styles and skills, but each student will have the opportunity to focus in on their desired field. Each student can still be effective in their desired field while understanding and taking advantage of changes in the media landscape.
What big brother Philip Neville and Junior Navo have done should be commended and we must support them when they actually take off from the ground after test transmissions.
I have known Philo as he is fondly called for more than two decades, and he had harboured this dream for a long time. He started talking about opening up a TV station beginning of this new millennium and he was saying it and many people thought it was a joke. But this man had dreamt it; He has toiled over it and had fixed his eyes at the finish line.
So also is Junior Navo who started talking about a TV station to me some five years ago, today these men are no more dreaming but they have put their dreams on the ground for all to see. I am sure their next dream is how to dominate and control the media world in West Africa and beyond.
One question that needs to be asked, however, is whether or not these recent developments are beneficial for the society and the industry itself. In other words, whether or not media convergence presents more opportunities than challenges to both media producers and consumers.
One of the areas of particular concern when examining positive and negative consequences of media convergence is media ownership. Nowadays the power to control media industry is concentrated in the hands of private owners and relatively small number of big media corporations. For example, companies, such as Kirch, Raiuno, Time Warner and Sky Group. These are TV, radio, newspaper and film industry companies owned by individuals in Europe and the United States.
It is just the same we are seeing now in Sierra Leone where Junior Navo has developed the AYV TV, newspaper, radio and film industry. Philip Neville has developed Star radio and TV plus Standard Times. These are Sierra Leoneans who believed in Convergence and they have put it to operation to give the consumer quality.
On the one hand, it may cause the decline in the diversity of material offered and result in a tendency that voices of those lacking economic power will not be taken into account. On the other hand, it is argued that market driven media owned and controlled by big media corporations ‘can actually improve the value of the service, the flexibility of topics and the competence of the contributors’ as well as the enabled technological developments, has changed the elitism of media professionals and create new general awareness.
Drawing on the definitions of media convergence outlined before, it can be argued that one of the ways of understanding media convergence is in terms of interaction between old and new forms of media. I can explain it more clearly using the example of television industry and its development over the years. The idea of transition from analogue media to digital stands at the core of media convergence debate. The term ‘analogue’ is used to describe something ‘that resembles something else’; therefore signals transmitted through television can be seen as being analogous to the light and sound of the actual scene.
In the case of analogue media, each form was separate and independent from the others due to the need to use different ‘materials, properties and apparatuses’. With the introduction of digital code however, the situation changed rapidly and has opened new possibilities for media creation and convergence, for example, new forms of interaction between producers and consumers.
Media convergence is an ongoing process that should not be viewed as a displacement of the old media, but rather as interaction between different media forms and platforms. Media convergence should be viewed as ‘cooperation and collaboration’ between previously unconnected media forms and platforms.
This is what these two media Entrepreneurs have done converging the dominant media in the country into one entity and using the same workers across the board, which brings stability and easy access to get the news out within the shortest possible time.
Instead of having different news crews for every medium, one converged media operation can use the same reporters and staff to produce stories for radio, television, newspaper and Internet mediums. By combining each medium’s resource, a converged operation can increase the quality of its product. As a result, satisfaction of customer is increased; this leads to a larger audience. From the public’s standpoint, the increased convenience of information provided by converged stories, using the media a better experience.
I will continue to praise them for their dreams that they have actualized and the quality they have brought to the media especially the TV, as we all can attest to the fact that the clear vision we enjoyed have awaken our national broadcaster to sit up if they want to be counted.
AYV and Star are the pride of Sierra Leone today and we are proud of our brothers for taking such bold step in bringing convergence to Sierra Leone and in the process training many presenters to be professionals that we can compared with those in the sub region.
I know by the time Sierra Leone goes digital, both TV stations would have done so much that it would be very easy for them to develop a package of five or more channels that we will start paying for and they will be armed with quality programmes that all Sierra Leoneans will enjoy.
I duff my hat to them and I hope and pray that they will not relent but continue to dream and make the sky their limit. But they should remember that media convergence bring many challenges. Audiences complain about information overload and they can be overwhelmed and find it difficult. Furthermore, the rapidly changing of technology has obstructed audience’s activities.
But while the future of converged media seems very bright, its proprietors will have to ask themselves some questions: Will the new technology that is anticipated be as revolutionary as people expect? Will the investment in convergence be profitable enough in the short term, or in the long term? What competing technologies should be utilized in order to produce the best media? Will converged media be successful in a world marketplace?