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Africa: Media Systems

Winston Mano

Subject Geography
Communication and Media Studies » Communication Studies
Media Studies » Media System

Place Africa

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405131995.2008.x


This entry concentrates on media systems in countries of Sub-Saharan Africa. The Sub-Saharan media system was born in the colonial era. Following the partition of Africa in Berlin in 1884, the colonial era saw the establishment of mass media systems that initially served minority white settlers located in the emerging urban centers. Both early print and broadcasting frameworks were affected by the different policies and approaches of the colonial powers. The use of European languages, state-biased ownership systems, and limited media freedom are among colonial media attributes that continue today. The national media systems and countries discussed as part of this region are anything but homogeneous because Sub-Saharan Africa is huge and diverse. It covers 42 mainland countries and 6 island nations located south of the Sahara desert. Although the penetration of communication media has picked up in the past 50 years, only radio comes near to being described as a “mass medium.” The spread and access to the mass media in Sub-Saharan Africa has been a highly uneven process. Estimates vary as accurate and up-to-date figures are very hard to find, but development has been rapid in the past 50 years. Among old media, → radio has achieved the best penetration owing to its affordability and adaptability. The estimated number of radio sets in Sub-Saharan Africa (excluding South Africa) rose ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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