The government of Zimbabwe has been urged to subsidize community media so as to help cushion against financial challenges in the wake of disasters like Covid-19 that negatively affect their operations.
The call was made by Community Newspapers Association of Zimbabwe (CNAZ) chairperson Matthew Takaona who said the Covid-19 pandemic has negatively affected the day to day business of most if not all community newspapers.
CNAZ chairperson pointed out that the community newspapers are playing a critical role to the community in this Covid-19 pandemic and would require all the support the can get.
He told TellZim News that with Covid-19, the printing of newspapers became a challenge since there was no collective response but rather individualistic.
“Printing of newspapers became a challenge during Covid-19 and as community newspapers we encouraged each other to shift from print news to digital platforms.
“As community newspapers we however encouraged each other to migrate from print to digital news platforms,” said Takaona.
Apart from shifting from print to digital news, community newspapers engaged big advertisers like the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) to advertise with community newspapers to gain more revenue.
“To gain more revenue in the Covid-19 pandemic we engaged big advertisers like (RBZ) to advertise with community newspapers and they agreed to advertise with us,” said Takaona.
“ However Covid-19 brought a change to media platforms and it forced advertising revenue to drop because most advertisers were scared of using these digital platforms,” said CNAZ Chairperson.
Takaona said despite the fact that community newspapers managed to move from print to digital news, it remained a challenge to access digital news as it is very expensive for the majority.
“Community newspapers have successfully shifted from print to digital news but the challenge that remains is accessing digital information which prove to be expensive for the majority hence our readership was affected,” said Takaona.
He however highlighted that Covid-19 did not only bring harm to community newspapers, but it came with some advantages especially digital news.
“It has not all been doom because the shift from print to digital news has proved to be an advantage to community newspapers because printing was very expensive, for example 80% of a newspaper’s revenue would go towards printing.
“With print news, community newspapers faced transport cost challenges in the process of distribution and even going to and from Harare for printing,” said Takaona.
“There are two compartments of newspapers in Zimbabwe namely the community and national newspapers. The community newspapers deal with issues that have to do with the community and the national papers concentrate on national issues. Thus the community newspapers are playing a very critical role in the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Takaona.