A Trend Analysis of the Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation (EBC): Practicing Propaganda or Development Journalism
Gezahgn Berhie Kidanu*
Jigjiga University, Ethiopia
- *Corresponding Author:
- Gezahgn Berhie Kidanu
Professor, Jigjiga University
Tel: +251 (0) 929253954
E-mail: [email protected]
Received Date: Jul 11, 2017; Accepted Date: Sep 21, 2017; Published Date: Sep 29, 2017
Copyright: © 2017 Kidanu GB. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which
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Global Media Journal
Ethiopia location in east Africa, has a long tradition in writing, however the history of its media development is not to exceed a century. Through a change in government like many other countries of Africa there is a change in ideology and a strategy in different development platforms. The media in this case have become a focal target for different governments. The existing Ethiopian people’s democratic front (EPRDF) claims that his media philosophy is development journalism. However, critics coming intellectuals and political analysts suggest the state media practicing propaganda. Hence, at the aim of this research was examining this paradox. In doing this mixed methodology was a more appropriate way of investigation. Data was also gathered from reporters and an editor through the interview. Content analysis along with semi-structured interview was employed. Thus, in this research, the sequence is from QUANT to QUAL and it devoted the quantitative piece visible emphasis. Finally, the findings showed that the Ethiopian broadcasting corporation (EBC) is reporting highly propaganda than development journalism elements.
EBC; Development; Grassroots;
Participation; Propaganda; Journalism
Located in the Horn of Africa, Ethiopia occupies a vast area
of land – 1.127 million square kilometers; the rural population
constituted 84 percent of the total. At 2012, the total
population was estimated to be 94 million .
Ethiopia has the greatest share of the population with the
mainstay of the economy in agriculture. Food insecurity,
gender inequality, illiteracy, disease, conflict, civil strife, unwise
policies, lack of access to information, propaganda, censorship,
intermittently blocking and jamming opposing voices, etc. are
some of the main challenges and history of Ethiopia [2-4].
Following the political change in 1991 and the coming to
power of the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic
Front (EPRDF), there have been several successive policy
changes with regard to media, free market economy, and
agriculture development programs. The government has
introduced various development schemes such as the
Extension Program to increase agricultural production and
productivity, Federal and Regional Food Security strategies
premeditated to increase food and agricultural production, the
Growth and Transformation Plan, etc.
Correspondingly, Ethiopia strives to grow and to join the
category of middle income countries. The national government
has come up with various schemes as “no country is without
some general development goals or without an overall
development perspective, but the ideological and economic
methods and means of reaching the goals may be quite
different” . To achieve overall national endeavors, the media
also has to play its part by providing credible and plentiful
information that elicits everyone for action. It is now time to
analyze how the media is contributing to and working for the
country’s development process.
As in most developing countries, in Ethiopia to media has
been under government control. The control becomes stricter
when it comes to audiovisual media. No wonder all successive
establishments in Ethiopia has kept the lone audio-visual
channel Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation (EBC) under
prying scrutinizing gaze and control. Obviously, the medium’s
role is often smitten with what the government plans and
implements. Discussing development journalism’s revival in
Ethiopia, Skjerdal  came up with a general conclusion that
the journalists favor development journalism as a professional
framework. However, the concept gets confused and murky
with the ambiguity in the role of development journalism as a
concept and its practice, lack of clarification in its scope and
political inclination of the state media. Rampant public
ignorance, apathy, and subdued political will have also
stonewalled the mission when the intellectuals and theorists
have attempted to interpret the framework into actual media
In studying the practice of development journalism in
Ethiopia; its challenges and opportunities, Negeri  surmised
that problems such as professional constraints, lack of shared
journalistic values, poor confidence, conspiring with corrupt
elites and low status of their profession alongside external
influences and socioeconomic constraints and political
influences have been among many problem areas confronting journalists in their work. While their observation and findings
were vivacious, both Skjerdal  and Negeri  have not come
up with a scrutiny of the content - news, feature, or
documentary, etc. that EBC is broadcasting, their work mostly
remaining confined to Ethiopian newspapers and print
medium, and overall media operating in the country.
Predetermined to fill this gap, this research is a comprehensive
analysis of the news items on EBC in the light of the sourceactor-
orientation development news indicators . Besides,
the everyday practices of television will have to be re-thought
if 4 it is to show a more consistent commitment to the
problems of the Third World.
This research worked to answer the following questions:
• How frequently are grass-root institutions or/and ordinary
individuals used as the main source of news?
• How frequently are grass-root institutions or/and ordinary
individuals used as the dominant actor in the news?
• How frequently does EBC orient news emphasizing on
harmony, process, ordinary people’s participation,
empowerment and impact?
• Whose values are projected in the news?
• Are there influences or pressures that confront the
journalists while producing the news? If so, what are they?
Research Methodology and Strategy
One so clear-cut approach to study media is to study its
content and there are several important methodological issues
involved in content analysis research . To answer the
questions raised, sampled EBC news has been analyzed in
detail and with care. Data is also gathered from reporters and
an editor through the interview. In this study, analysis of
development news practices in EBC, content analysis and
interview are used because these research methods are
preeminent to study the practice and spot possible influences
behind the content respectively.It is generally in the combined
approach that the study relied on for the interview is
employed aside of content analysis. Positively, this helped to
get unquantifiable data which hugely added to the
comprehensiveness of the research. In combined methods, the
researcher will be confronted with a decision to make on the
QUAL and QUANT order and whether one alternative needs to
be provided greater relevance .
Hence, in this research, the sequence is from QUANT to
QUAL and it devoted the quantitative piece visible emphasis.
The statistical finding served as an input in when interviewing
the journalists to get the “why’’ of the quantified results. The
use of such combined methods to investigate the same subject
improves the accuracy of the findings; provides a fuller and
more complete picture of the thing that is being studied; and
compensates strengths and weaknesses of each method
Subjects of the Study and Sampling
The subject of the study is bi-annual news produced by EBC;
from October, 2012 to March, 2013. The time span is selected
for the purpose of its timely nature, availability and
manageability drive. News hours were decided purposively as
the 38 researcher wanted to work on the prime time
transmissions; 7:00 pm and 2:00 pm. Priming have proven to
be robust across contexts and populations  as cited in
Druckman ; good thing, news that is broadcasted in other
hours are often a repetition of the prime time.
Five days were selected for each month based on systematic
random sampling, where the “N” th number were taken from
each stratum. The total sample of 30 days produced 465 news.
A quantitative study was used first because this provides
“background information that researchers use to guide their
selection of the individuals who will participate in subsequent
qualitative research involving interviews” . Afterwards,
two Reporters and an Editor were engaged in an in-depth,
semi-structured, tape-recorded interview and were
purposively taken. The criteria for them were: firstly, the
Reporters and the Editor should have worked in EBC for the
last six months where the samples were taken. Secondly, it is
due to area availability since many journalists spend their time
covering news away from their office. Besides, it is intended to
gain workers’ reasons for the result incurred from the
Data Collection Methods and the Unit
Content analysis along with semi-structured interview was
employed to gather data.After analyzing the samples touching
the development news indicators, the data collected through
interview served to know the influences on the news
production. As Schlesinger  argues “analysis is likely to be
fruitful when conducted in the light of a number of theoretical
assumptions, the most relevant of which concerns the
relationships between ideology, politics, and the economy
within a certain system of production” (p. 363).
In quantitative applications of content analysis codes tend
to be pre-existing conceptual categories having to do with part
of a discipline's conceptual apparatus .
To measure development journalism principles and
practices effectively and adequately, the source-actororientation
approach proposed by Xu,  and equally used for
this paper covers 12 indicators of development journalism
under three categories:
(a) News sources,
(b) News actors and
(c) News orientation.
The measurements, news actor, news sources and news
orientation, are mostly used appropriate units of content in
Each news was taken as a unit of analysis. Each news is the
individual thing, the subject of the study or what is being
studied. Unless it is a foreign news or sports news, all other
news items were included as units. The foreign news was
excluded because the news is a mere translation of what
international broadcastings and agencies wrote. So, it is not
the description of EBC; it would be judging foreign media.
Sport theme is also not part of the analysis because it is now
dragged as its own.
Result and Discussion
This part outlines the findings of the content analysis and indepth
interview. Initially, the figures are presented in tables
and percentages. This included details of the number of stories
analyzed to measure the indicators employed. Subsequently,
both quantitative and qualitative findings are examined and
discussed in relation to theoretical aspects. The patterns,
differences and trends within the news are discussed together
with reporters’ reasons.
An authentic source-analysis brought that 13.54% of the
dominant sources in news stories as grass-root institutions and
7.74% as ordinary individuals (Tables 1 and 2).
Table 1: Analysis of news sources.
||Number of stories (n=465)
|Development journalism indicators
Analysis of news actors is given in Table 2.
Table 2: Analysis of news actors.
||Number of stories (n=465)
|Development journalism indicators
The figures for indicators in news orientation showed
diverse results, 21.29% for emphasis on solutions, process
48.38%, government partnership 83.87%, impact 32%,
participation 9.67%, empowerment 8.38%, consensus 5.8%,
and checking function 7.74% (Table 3).
Table 3: Analysis of news orientation.
||Number of stories (n=465)
|Development journalism indicators
|Emphasis on solution
|Emphasis on process
|Participation of the ordinary people
|Empowerment of the ordinary people
|Emphasis on consensus
|Emphasis on partnership with government
|Impact on the ordinary people
|Check on what is planned and what is achieved
The researcher had conducted a deep interview with three
to five journalists, but due to data saturation, he abstained to
move further after gathering data from three of them. The
statistical data are discussed in line with the interview data in
the following manner.
Source of news
The quantitative data revealed that grass-root institutions
and ordinary people were not used moderately as sources for
news. The figure showed 14% of grass-root institutions and 8%
for ordinary publics. Development journalism emerged as a
responsible vocation to serve the needs and interests of the
society . This indicator is informed by participatory
communication to shoulder its role to actively engage the
people in development works . While this is the concept on
the ground, loads of influences may throw into unrealized
practices. The reporters interviewed uttered that dearth of
facilities to cover such issues, lack of motivation from
journalists and huge fear journalists developed aggravated
such practices. Whereas, Xu  argued that while issues are
the weakest indicators in development journalism, the public’s
voice and concerns should be heard.
Actor of news
The analysis of grass-root institutions as news actors, too,
produced near to the ground, 14%; along with the use of
ordinary people as actors of news showing a digit, i.e. (6%).
Asfaw, EBC News Editor says, “we have programs, agendas.
There are times we go to farmers, urban dwellers, workers,
students. We cover them like that. Ultimately, EBC is a
Nuruye, a Senior EBC Reporter, says, “we don’t cover people
issue from the ground as we do for government offices
because we don’t have the budget to cover; television crew is
plenty, car and other facilities fall short. We are not given
resources to cover such news”. The interviewees confirm that
government offices are, usually preferred to the people. In
essence, it would be favored to cover people as actors of
development than elites and governments .
For Chalkley development journalism was designed to serve
the ordinary people, not the elite in ref. . Yet this is dreamt
of in EBC. It is because, for instance, Asfaw states, “we usually
accomplish government works, developmental efforts”.
Orientation of news
In addition, it also showed that government partnership was
above expected (84%) followed by attention on process (48%)
and news impact on the ordinary people (32%).
Motivated against de-colonization and de-westernization, a
development journalist works friendly with a government .
They have similar goals with regard to cooperatively
establishing and sustaining hospitable environment for the
Emphasis on solution
Development news concentrates on solutions than
problems. The reporters interviewed backs this idea. Nuriye
says, “Rather than talking weaknesses and mistakes it is worth
talking success”. In this regard the finding produced (21%).
However, it should not happen that there exists a big problem
and be left out from the public. Pant and Kumar  warns that
“…curtailing the freedom of the journalist to report only the
positive side of life as a means of social control” is not
development reporting (p.10).
“Usually, news that talk about problems are not accepted
here; they will not be aired. Consequently, we leave such
stories out there for we identified that it will not be
disseminated. There are improvements through time, though”,
Nuriye affirms. “When the government works hard, we praise
its developmental labors. When you find mistakes, you do not
leave it, government does not say overlook it too. I have
worked for so long to understand that the government does
not say conceal me. It is the journalist’s laziness and fright; the
editorial policy has not officially say hide suchlike. Neither
does your boss. What is questioned is the sagacious evidence
that the reporter has to amass. For example, if you have the
evidence that shows a factory is creating harm to the public while it politicizes special, not a soul will stop you [to transmit
it]. However, it is the journalist’s effort to catch that
information. He [/she] shall have the tactic and skill to
investigate issues, gather evidence”, Asfaw discussed.
But, Addishiwot Tesfaye argues decision makers select news
to be covered. “I would be called to cover a certain story, even
sometimes dictated from what angle should the story be
covered and what questions to ask to whom”.
Emphasis on process
Development reporting is not merely an event or day-to-day
reporting; relatively its focal point is on long term
development process [7,14]. It depends on the process of
development and depicts that process in the news. EBC’s
practice demonstrated encouraging amount, (48%). According
to the interviewees in this figure is obtained mainly because
grand constructions are being built lately. Yet again, Nuriye
says, “often, we cover events [such as:] when an authority
places foundation stone, cuts ribbon when infrastructures are
inaugurated […]; we do not frequently visit rural places to
show progresses. Things here are not comfortable. We try to
go in different areas for coverage”.
Emphasis on people’s participation
“Development reporting should concern itself with people
and it must make them realize the future is in their hands”
Pant and Kumar . It should make them a participate of news
in development efforts [6,8]. This indictor practice tells, (10%).
While the first obligation goes to the organization itself, the
peoples’ attitude to participate in television is not also good,
Asfaw claimed. Asfaw says, “for instance, you want to
investigate transport problems and ask people about it. The
incapacitated people will not tell you any sort of information
even if you kill him [/her]. But, off-the record they turn out to
be fond of talking. They do not want to speak to the media.
You find one in many. They speak specially on the radio and
FM stations, but they do not do it when it comes to television.
Even if I let him to be shot in the back. Albeit there is
information, you won’t find it; the people do not want to tell
you”. The anxiety exists because the people believe leaders will
avoid them from benefits such as donations or other
development gains explained Asfaw. This is supported in
Nuriye’s thought that reporters never return if subsequent
problems transpire on the people. So, may be the people’s loss
of confidence on EBC deteriorated than media phobia.
Emphasis on ordinary people’s empowerment
The quantitative data showed 8% for EBC’s presentation in
Development news’s aim is “to empower the ordinary
people to improve their own lives and communities”  as
cited in ref. .
According to the interviewees, this is the result of the extra
emphasis on the governmental activities.
Emphasis on national consensus
Development reporting calls for consensus to conflict. As a
multiracial country, Xu  places Singapore as very concerned
and brought social stability, racial harmony, and relations with
neighboring countries. When this is the reality, development,
reporting emphasizes on harmony among groups than
disagreements. EBC’s performance showed less than expected,
Ethiopia, being a home of manifold nations, nationalities
and ethnic groups, would benefit a lot from this role of
development reporting if to emphasize.
Emphasis on partnership with government
Out of the findings the largest percentage is produced by
this category, (83%). Asfaw utters, “as a government
organization, EBC receives releases from various government
organizations. We cover that. This is the need of the
government; we can’t help it”.
The reporters and the editor confirmed this in their belief,
even the giant media in Western countries are biased and
frame things towards their advantage. Addishiwot says, “EBC
does so and I am not ashamed of telling this”.
Pant and Kumar  argued “promoting authoritarian press
under the pretext of the development…” is not development
reporting (p. 10). In a similar way, Jemal  argues that in
Ethiopia radio broadcast is mainly used as a tool of
propaganda rather than as a tool for development and this the
impediment and threatens aspects of the growth of the
broadcast system. That is why development, reporting,
practice is blamed for promoting political agendas instead of
people’s interests . Development is often worn as an excuse
for various government interests.
“It’s the editorial policy. We follow it. It is such duties that
fulfill our mandate. It is government offices and officials that
fulfills what is enshrined in the editorial policy.
Many times, you find news in government organizations. We
go to the people, but we finally count on the government
again”, Asfaw added.
Impact on the ordinary people
The analyzed figure showed for this indicator, EBC has
produced 32%. Development reporting should focus on the
actual impact on people .
In ref.  reporters have news plans to rely on. Addishiwot
tells, “we receive some exciting events that could be news, and
when we want to cover it, a Board or so delays decisions to
make the event left behind”. Asfaw argues, “when reporters
plan, they arrange on the news that they find easily and
comfortably”. The reporters acknowledged that, often,
journalists cover issues based on comfort such as free travel
and brown gifts. The practice is against what journalists are
ought to shoulder though. It is problematic too, while they
refer the socioeconomic and low salary being paid to them . Akin to this, they do not go after what is significant to the
Checking what is planned and implemented
Aggrawala argues that “development news should examine
critically, evaluate and interpret the relevance of development
plans, projects, policies, problems, and issues. It should
indicate the disparities between plans and actual
Xu  also indicates that development news should check
what has been planned and what has been implemented.
However, such practice in EBC produced 8%, which, is nowhere
According to Nurye this takes place because journalists are
usually discouraged to do so. For example, “I was assigned in a
certain rural area and it happens that farmers wanted to dig
some areas for irrigation yet had budget inadequacy. The
Woreda administration had the budget and approved to dig six
of them; it has been now five months that I never know if the
rural people are getting the service. It is not that I did not want
to check, I did, but I get no facility for its coverage. Thus, there
is no way to follow up and checking function”, memorizes
Nurye. The lack of facility supply for journalists is so curtained
that, they argue, has forced them to be unable to cover events
emphasizing on checking plans vis-à-vis their implementations
and chasing after the people’s concern.
Conclusion and Recommendation
As thought by and large, “out of reach, out of sight, out of
mind”. Thus, development journalism serves the ordinary
citizens instead of the elite relaying heavily on the former
instead of the later . The media is supposed to provide a
voice to the voiceless a face to those invisible; it is expected to
report about the public as agents of development than mere
recipients of it or those poor people, the disinherited, and
those who have been excluded. The journalist is expected to
report accentuating on solutions, processes and progresses.
Again, the media could improve customary attitudes and
norms which may be severe to certain vulnerable and
marginalized groups. They are expected to participate and
empower those who are ruled out or else forgotten from
development while  concentrating on consensus, harmony
and partnership with a government.
It was also more significant for the media, Freire to
empower the people to deal with the problems and difficulties
with which they are faced. And, television has a hefty power to
carry out doesn't matter what efforts in various ways . It
has a powerful presence and effect different from other
media. It can give a picture of what is happening and instigate
the people for action. It is credible because of the picture and
movement it holds. As a rule of thumb, “pictures can often say
more than words” . Nevertheless, the data show that EBC
has produced discouraging development news.
As the development journalism indicators analyzed, EBC:
• Barely gives a face to the invisible and a voice to the
voiceless, grass-root people and organizations
• Only a few news originated from the ordinary individuals
• Scarcely reported grass-root institutions as news actors
• Hardly ever reported ordinary people as actors in
• Moderately emphasized on process
• Encouragingly transmitted relevant issues
• Less focused on consensus, peace and harmony
• Courtships with a government that can be featured in
It shows widely significant issues being discussed, decided
and implemented by a government to the people. In fact, this
practice witnessed the many scholar’s arguments that
development journalism is “government-say-so” journalism;
media reporting what the government says or serving as a
mouthpiece. To a firm’s extent, EBC should listen to the public
voicing their concerns than letting a government pilot and
decide the discussion .
Development journalism was brought into the surface of the
Third World after an inconvenience with the imbalanced news
flow and hostile image portrayed by the Anglo-Americans and
Westerners. The image that “the neoliberal media has built
Africa generally and Ethiopia, particularly as a terminal of
economical deficit and destitute, civil war and mass killing,
human right breaching, dictatorial leadership and epidemic
diseases such as HIV/AIDS”. It was meant to annul this wrong
step since those are one time facts not an entire image. Plus,
with the intention to participate, empower and make the
grass-root people as agents in development , and the finish
it brings a universal trend in development efforts .
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