Thursday, 28 April 2011

What do you mean "media convergence"?

I think while a lot of fuss is being made and has been made about the issue of media convergence in the Caribbean, there is a need for it to be disaggregated according to the key constituencies – media enterprises, media workers and media consumers.

The main advantage of convergence to media owners and managers, based on precedents I know of, simply reflect the use of a smaller group of journalists to produce more content. The bottom line has been that for the price of, say, a radio newsroom, media owners and managers hope to use the banner of media convergence to receive more radio, television and even print content.

The advantage of all of this to media workers would include improved marketability within the context of this trend through the acquisition of a more intimate acquaintance of mass media across disciplinary platforms. Today, for example, more journalists are aware of or have worked across media disciplines throughout the Caribbean. Journalists who started out in the print media now do radio and television and vice versa.

However, the combination of enforced convergence in the newsroom and new technologies – smart phones, digital media, online media – means that journalists are now routinely expected to produce much more than they have in the past. In days past, the newspaper was put to bed and that was that. Today, for example, online versions of newspapers are updated at anytime.

Output has however increased in a situation not reflected by upgraded industrial relations practices. Trade unions, where they exist in the media (and media are under-represented by trade unions as a sector), are not in tune with recent developments and work contracts are routinely discussed in the absence of such a consideration.

Media consumers have benefited through the increase in productivity. However, because of the exploitative nature of the process, there has not been a corresponding increase in quality. More has not necessarily meant “better.”

We must however conclude that media convergence is not an aspiration, it is already a lived reality. But our media and other social institutions have not responded to engage questions related to its impact on media workers and general quality of content. This is the responsibility of all constituents to address for the sake of a free press and a free society.