by Chi Ibe
YNaija spent the “leap day”, 29 February at the BBC, Bush House in London celebrating the co-operation’s 80th year of world service.
As part of the celebration, BBC Focus Africa joined other BBC programmes to broadcast simultaneously and live under a big tent in the Bush House premises. The programmes focused majorly on discussions that reflected the past 80 years broadcasting and the changing media landscape. The issues were straight forward: did the world still need an international broadcaster? What is the role of the BBC ? What stories should be covered, and the voices you should hear? What values and ideas do we all share, and are these the same as our audience?
To answer these questions the BBC through BBC Africa Social Media Producer, Miriam Quansah, invited top online journalists, web editors and bloggers to guest the programme. The theme was the “role of social media in news reporting and if it makes the BBC relevant or irrelevant to the African audience”.
Guest editors, South African Sean Jacobs who is an assistant professor of international affairs and chair of the media concentration in the Graduate Program of International Affairs at The New School in New York City and Nigerian Tomi Oladepo, PHD student from University of Warwick studying emergence of the digital media in Africa tackled the issue spot on.
They both agreed that the BBC had to move from reporting stereotypical news that portrayed Africa in a negative and ‘dark continent’ light because the continent had moved on and was catching up with the rest of the word in business, technology and even entertainment.
Jacobs and Oladepo said there should be more programmes reflecting Africa’s new ideas and wealth creators. Jacobs co- edits a blog called ‘Africa is a Country’ ( http://africasacountry.com/). The blog describes itself as a media blog that is not about famine, Bono, or Barack Obama. “For that, go to Newsweek,” it reads. Oladepo on the other hand last op-ed on Celebrating-Progress Africa – “Citizen Journalism in Africa: Is it the Messiah?”
To tackle the issue at hand, YNaija editor, Rachel Ogbu said the BBC could pay more attention to the online public spheres where Africans had embraced as the new way of sharing and receiving news as opposed to the local media which has been a one way exchange of information with viewers on the receiving end. “On YNaija, young Nigerians are exposed to contemporary issues as they are trending and have the opportunity to join hundreds of other enlightened youths to discuss, debate and deliberate on those issues first hand…it’s a whole new way of civil engagement and we are embracing it,” she said.
Oladepo said contrary to what is reported in the Western media with Africa represented by children in torn clothes, Africa has moved on from that image with more people connecting to the Internet, working in skyscrapers and linking with the latest mobile phone technology. Even in fashion, Oladepo says Africans are just as fashionable too. Oladepo feels the BBC talks down to its audience and wants citizen journalism to be at the heart of its story instead.
But just as the growing social media trend in Africa was lauded and the emergence of the citizen journalist was hailed, a few skeptics believed the effect of citizen jornalism shouldn’t be over glorified and if not regulated, social media as it is could be abused, eventually become a curse and not a blessing at all. Dr Joseph Obe, associate lecturer Goldsmiths, University of London believes there should be some form of guideline in order to preserve the credibility of the media profession.
The programme was presented by Peter Okwoche and Bola Mosuro.