Friday, 15 July 2011


I have met individuals who do not watch television or read newspapers. Others say media is a waste of time; that it is propaganda by those who own the world; control our minds and sell us stuff we don’t like.
Some say they admire former President Nyerere for delaying television in Tanzania.  For young people born post 1990, television is obvious but not us who grew up under Ujamaa and experienced television late.
A few days ago an old school mate visiting London touched on the same subject:
“Remember when we first saw television in Nairobi in 1971? At that time we hated Ujamaa and Nyerere. Now looking back the old man was right. How can a peasant living in a village thatch without enough food and electricity afford a television set?”
Yes. Arguments against television vary.
Powerful billionaire media chief, Rupert Mudoch

“A study found that 60 per cent of youngsters would rather watch television or play computer games than venture outdoors,” reporter Arthur Martin of Daily Mail, explained.
Distaste for television is contrasted by those who love treating it like status quo, their living rooms decorated by latest boxes. When Panasonic 150 inch Plasma was announced in 2008, one caption read: “There is nothing like it in person.”
There are those who leave television on twenty four hours; regardless of whether something worth watching is on or not. The fact that electronic pollutants are filtering through the house as they sleep or eat does not matter.  Health experts recommend switching off the telly while eating. An American blog called Get Healthy Clark County Org says “eating whole watching television is mindless eating” because one’s attention is not on the meal.
Like all things created by humans, newspapers and television depend on their usage. The basic purpose of television and newspapers is to educate, inform and entertain. The media could have stayed in hands of educational and government institutions or religious bodies, i.e.  churches, temples and mosques. But it was born in the era of big capital. Crafty investors saw advantages of making cash by mass scale advertising while governments profits through licensing fees.  
 We are living in the era of information technology.  Power makers are media moguls and barons, like Australian born American billionaire, Rupert Murdoch. Rated thirteenth most powerful individual in the world his media empire is considered second largest globally.
In 1969 Mr Murdoch bought London’s News of the World, the Sun and Times. Since the closure of News of the World last week due to corrupt and illegal claims his credibility has been questioned. This oldest English speaking Sunday newspaper was born in 1843 and thrived on exposing scandals, crime and infidelities by the rich and famous. It has been closed down after it became known that its journalists were hacking into Royal family members, ministers and relatives of those who died in Afghanistan, July 2005 London bomb victims and three murdered girls, Milly Dowler, Jessica Wells and Holly Chapman.  It has been alleged that News of the World hacked into the phone of former Prime Minister Gordon Brown. His bank statements were checked and medical records of his ill son revealed as a result. Claims that News of the World paid police to reveal confidential information have been reported. The scandal has been hot news.
Early this week press reports speculated possible closing down of all Murdoch UK newspapers.  These charges will also affect his American ownership. News Corporation, his company employs 51, 000 worldwide and is reported to have had made £20 billion profit last year.
London’s Independent Monday columnist, Mary Ann Sieghart, described Mr Murdoch a bully feared by politicians and governments. “Until now few MPs’ have dared individually to stand up to News International for fear they would be done over by News of the World,” she wrote.
Murdoch is said to have wielded power over Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair. Stamping that power has been a major event this week; it has equally become a lesson that Mwalimu Nyerere would have loved. He knew what media power meant and handled it accordingly by only allowing few newspapers (Daily News and Uhuru) and no television.

Published in Citizen Tanzania Friday, 15th July:

Some allege it turns us into fat, obese vegetables. Today’s children (from wealthier classes or rich nations of course) spend more time glued on television screens. Last week a London paper wrote how very few children can climb trees these days.

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