SPREADING THE WORD, SLOWLY

Mozambique 2016 | TELECOMS & IT | REVIEW: MEDIA

Mozambique's media landscape is dominated by state-led outlets, which have the resources to offer large coverage. Unsurprisingly, given widespread illiteracy, radio is the primary source of news and information for most Mozambicans.

Over the years, progress has been made to develop a robust and free press in Mozambique. Between 1975 and 1990, all media in Mozambique was the monopoly of the state. It wasn't until the 1990 Constitution and the subsequent Press Law of 1991 that opened the way for media variety. The media landscape is still dominated by state-led outlets, and although independent media is often underfunded, the presence of such outlets, in particular the plethora of local radio stations, is a welcome sign.

The Constitution protects media freedom, and according to Freedom House's 2015 report, “The current regulator framework for media, administered by the Government Information Bureau, is in need of updating and remains vulnerable to political influence. In particular, there is an urgent need for a legal framework regulating broadcast media. Mozambique's press law almost exclusively addresses print outlets, creating a troubling legal vacuum." According to them, the press status is 'Partly Free' and received a score of 44 (0 best, 100 worst).

The right of citizens' access to information is guaranteed by Section 48 of the Constitution, as a fundamental right, stating that “all citizens are entitled to freedom of expression, freedom of the press and the right to information." Information freedom guarantees in the Constitution were further developed in the Press Law of 1991, and has not bee changed since.

In terms of administration, media in Mozambique falls under the Department of Information (GABINFO), which is a subordinate institution under the Prime Minister's Office. The Supreme Council of the Media (CSCS) is the constitutional body responsible for ensuring standards about the right to information and editorial independence are upheld.

In towns and cities television is common. The state-run television station Televisão de Moçambique (TVM) is the only domestic television channel that has a nationwide reach. The private network STV consistently tops the ratings but other channels such as Socio TV, Portuguese state television's African service (RTP Africa), and Brazilian-owned TV Miramar are popularly watched.

Mozambique's TV broadcast industry is comparatively small compared to its size and population, and is limited by how many people it can reach. It is a vicious circle with investment requiring financing from advertisers who want to advertise with channels with the largest reach. Nevertheless the market entrance of pay-TV operator DStv and other private channels are increasing competition and innovation in the market. However, the fact remains that few people, especially in rural environments, have televisions.

Radio is still the primary source of information for the majority of Mozambicans, unsurprisingly seeing as private radio stations have far more opportunity to open and operate. Although, from a legislative point of view there are few legal provisions to support the development of community media, there are numerous private FM stations based in rural areas broadcasting to small, local audiences. Many such radio stations were opened with support funding from UNESCO or similar international aid organizations.

It is difficult to find statistics about the number of radio stations, and even statistics from the department of information are uncertain. Since the Press Law of 1991, the way has been opened for a diversified investment structure in local radio, and most of the investment in the industry is local. One challenge, in terms of funding, is securing advertisers, who tend to concentrate on stations that offer access to large broadcast footprints, such as Rádio Moçambique.

Like with television, the biggest reach is owned by state-run Rádio Moçambique, which receives roughly half of its operating budget from the government. The station is based in Maputo and has the largest audience. It is seen as the most influential media outlet in the country, covering 11 regional services. The station offers programming in at least 18 languages. In June 1994, RM was turned from a state-owned entity into a public-service broadcaster. RM collects additional revenue from advertising as well as license fees levied on vehicles and radio sets.

In the radio industry, ownership can largely be divided into three categories: private commercial; religious community-based; and community-run. Most of the community-run stations are joint initiatives between the state and the community, while other projects have been supported by the UNESCO Media Project, which has been present in the country for decades now.

Due to high levels of illiteracy, print media is uncommon outside of urban centers. Noticias is one of the main dailies and has a government shareholding, and is seen as pro Frelimo. The Diário de Moçambique is a private daily, as is O País, and there are two popular private weeklies: Savana and Canal de Moçambique. Noticias and O País are published in Maputo, and Diário de Moçambique is published in Mozambique's second largest city, Beira.

Social media is becoming a growing part of Mozambique's media industry landscape. According to Global Stats.com in 2015, 96.13% of social media usage was through Facebook, Pinterest ranked second with 1.35%, and Twitter third with 1.12% of social media usage share.

Where other African countries have seen a dramatic growth of local film production, Mozambique is someway off developing a Nollywood-esque industry. The biggest challenge is access to funding, with few advertisers to back production for studio-based programs.

With the government focused on more pressing sources of revenue such as developing transport infrastructure, supporting agriculture and monetizing the country's huge gas reserves, it will be up to entrepreneurs and enthusiasts to really develop content and push the media production industry.
At the end of the day, Mozambique offers a media market at the early stages of development. News media is one of those industries that is adversely affected by poor economic trends, especially rising inflation, and the increasing cost of living.

Another issue that makes it difficult for local news to validate itself is the lack of information. Much relevant information is difficult to come by, as is the case in many new countries, which do not have data collecting infrastructure.