Twaweza’s media framework partnerships are an attempt to strengthen media by creating incentives that reward quality and diversity, rather than reproduce input-driven approaches such as training journalists that have had mixed success at best. The Twaweza approach seeks partnerships with large media companies on a win-win basis, at the intersection of the media house and Twaweza interests, so that they are not seen as externally imposed. With each media company, about 12-15 different programs are identified and specific targets are set for improvement of each program (e.g. the nightly news, a weekly interview program, a daily magazine). Targets cover aspects such as ensuring triangulation of sources (e.g. not just reporting what the Minister said, but asking independent experts and citizens), expanding citizen voice and rural coverage, increasing use of evidence and data, and strengthening investigative journalism.
The partnership terms are such that Twaweza provides the media house with independent tips, studies and data, and links to credible sources of information. The media house uses these where it fits with editorial standards but is under no obligation to use them. The content of the programs cover issues of topical interest that matter to citizens. Twaweza’s funding amount varies with the level of improvements measured against mutually agreed targets; the better the media house does, the more funding it receives, up to a maximum amount. The idea is to both enable and ‘nudge’ the media house personnel to make the necessary changes to improve quality, where at times significant changes can be achieved with relatively small tweaks in approach and sharper supervision. The broadcasters also carry Twaweza’s public service announcements (PSAs), such as the Ni Sisi spots that draw on advertising techniques and humour to engage the public on serious service delivery, public accountability and citizen action issues.
Because of its wider reach, emphasis was placed on electronic media (radio and TV).In Tanzania, partnerships were agreed with Sahara Communications (number one in radio, number three in TV), and discussions were underway with two other groups. In Kenya partners included Royal Media Services (the largest media conglomerate with 9+ radio and 2 TV stations) and the Nation Media Group (East Africa’s leading media company). Combined, these three media houses likely reach over 25 million citizens every day.
Because this partnership approach is unusual, it has taken longer than anticipated for media partners to ‘absorb’ the concept fully and for both parties to work out effective working relationships. Course corrections have been made during implementation, including spending more time to orient media house program staff, establishing better information sharing mechanisms, and clarifying monitoring tools. While challenges remain, already there is clear evidence that several thousand hours of programming time have been improved, and that the level of coverage is steadily expanding each quarter. Creativity has increased in several cases. Information is better sourced and more evidence based. A greater diversity of opinion is broadcast. Importantly, we sense that we are beginning to influence a more quality conscious style of program development and management within media, though more time is needed to confirm this.
In going forward with the large media partnerships, we will need to set up a better mechanism of brokering information and data, and at times working to make it more accessible (it is not as easy as sending the report or introducing media to a researcher). The independent and systematic verification of progress will also need to be strengthened. A new frontier to be explored involves supporting partners to improve the web content and synergies across media platforms.
While the primary focus was on electronic media, newspapers were also supported. Notably, Twaweza’s Uwazi unit provided interesting comparative pairs of facts that were published daily on page 2 of The Citizen and Mwananchi newspapers in Tanzania, and a similar arrangement is being explored with The Star in Kenya. These and other papers were also provided with news tips, often from our engagement with research and policy bodies, that led to the publication of at least 30 stories, often on the front page.
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