by Charmaine Ngatjiheue
THE media sector has not been spared the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak.
As the country enters the extended phase of the national lockdown, the media is also feeling the pinch of a stagnant economy.
Namibia still has 16 confirmed coronavirus cases, with six reported recoveries.
Media experts concede that although the Covid-19 pandemic worsened the situation, a bleak outlook has already been on the horizon for the sector as a result of technological advancements.
Speaking at the Covid-19 Communication Centre in Windhoek last week, leaders in the sector urged the government to provide the media with a stimulus package or offer a tax break or subsidy.
New Era Publication Corporation chief executive officer Christof Maletsky said the media is negatively impacted by the pandemic and the government should look at providing relief. He added the pandemic could stimulate innovation and alternative ways of remaining operational.
“We now know media is essential, and I hope the finance ministry looks at some form of stimulus package, or a tax holiday for media houses. We are also calling for some form of loan to help the media disseminate news efficiently. We are sailing unchartered waters,” he said.
Maletsky said opportunities the media can embrace is becoming evident on digital platforms and through e-papers, adding the sector needs to relook its business model.
He expressed his appreciation of journalists, who are at the front line of reporting on Covid-19 in Namibia.
“We have realised we can’t do this without journalists. We need to support them and respect what they are doing,” Maletsky said.
Namibian Broadcasting Corporation director general Stanley Similo said the media’s current reality is not only due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but also to improved technology.
“We have seen people can work on their smartphones. What it says is we need to know what type of content our audience wants, because if you cannot talk to that, you become redundant,” he said.
Namibia Media Trust executive director Zoe Titus said the pandemic is a watershed for the media and that journalism needs to adapt.
She said a special fund for journalists should be set up, because of the important role they play in the industry. “Journalists need to organise themselves, consider how they would do the job better in future and consider job security and the skills they need for journalism in the future. Journalism is often an ungrateful job, and I want to thank journalists for their service,” Titus said.
Journalists who spoke to The Namibian said if the media is included in the government’s stimulus package, editorial independence should not be compromised. Freelance journalist Tiri Masawi said the current issue is whether the media is able to monetise online content and able to appeal to advertisers in the same way they did with printed media.
“There is also a need for media houses to change the way they work after Covid-19. Desktop journalism isn’t the way any more after this. It is now time to be versatile,” he said.
Journalist Jemima Beukes said journalists should have been included in the stimulus package from the onset. “It is an open secret that reporters are one of the most exploited groups in the labour market.”
She added it is unfortunate that local media has not set up a union yet. According to Beukes the future will not be kind to desktop journalists.
“No editor will waste money on reporters who spend the day typing press releases or propaganda from press conferences,” she said.