The majority of the press and radio institutions in Africa were built on European models. Hie indigenous African press, however, evolved as a political instrument to spearhead the struggle for independence in the late 19S0s. Even after three decades of independence, European and American influences still pervade the news media.
Most of the news media in Africa depend on five major wire services for foreign news – Reuters, United Press International (UPI), Associated Press (AP), Tass and Agence France Press (AFP). Wire services such as China’s Xinhua, the Rome-based Inter Press Service (IPS), and the Pan-African News Agency (PANA) also transmit local and foreign stories that get disseminated in African countries. For news about themselves and the outside world, Africans are largely dependent on European correspondents and news services, principally Reuters and AFP”.
In addition to their traditional functions – to inform, educate and entertain – the news media in the developing countries of Africa have an additional responsibility to promote social, political and economic development. African governments use, and will continue to use, the mass media for establishing national unity and modem economic and social institutions. It has been argued that the media’s pro-development role is necessary to hold together the fragile new nations.
Entertainment carries with it cultural and ideological messages which are equally as powerful as the more obvious ideological content of news and current affairs programs. Although private newspapers and magazines exist in Africa, African governments normally own and control the major mass media. “The media in Africa and in many other less developed areas of the world,”.
Two decades ago, William Hachten pointed out in his book; Muffled Drums: The News Media in Africa that the continent “is least endowed with news resources: fewer newspapers, periodicals, fewer broadcasting transmitters and receivers, and fewer cinemas. These scarce news media serve the few educated elites, usually 10 per cent or less of the people, who are clustered in the cities”. Towards the end of the 1980s, the African press today stands last among the earth’s regions, handicapped and muffled by lack of facilities, underdeveloped training institutions and, far more often than not, inordinate political or bureaucratic controls.