For the past couple of months the Ethiopian Television (ETV), the state television, has been asking the population to pay the annual tax of around 50 Ethiopian Birr (approx. 5 USD). ETV has had the tax for years and mostly people ignored it. This year was different; ETV pulled up its socks stepped up the ‘pay up’ campaign, so much so that one could almost hear the ‘or else!’ at the end. It must have paid off because there were crowds almost all the time up to the deadline date, which incidentally had been pushed back a few times and now stands at ‘extended till further notice.’
So what are the people paying for? ETV just recently went to 24 hours broadcasting after years of broadcasting from late afternoon to around midnight. And how did they come up with the new programmes to run after hours? They didn’t they just put the studio on ‘repeat’ for the daytime programmes. In between they stuck news in a number of languages that didn’t change for the whole 24 hours, even if there was a major disaster.
Sometime last year, ETV decided that it wanted to go international. So it started broadcasting to countries in and around North Africa, the Middle East and parts of Europe. There were no changes made to the programmes, what Ethiopians saw the international viewers saw too. It didn’t matter that almost eighty percent of the transmission was in languages spoken only Ethiopia. That severely narrowed down the international audience.
The other twenty percent of the time the broadcasting was done in languages like English, French and Arabic. There are around 375 million English speakers in the world. And if even a slim percentage of that number could watch the programmes, ETV would have had a very good coverage record.
So what’s the problem? The problem is ENGLISH. Apart from reporters like Shimeles Lemma and ‘Meet ETV’ host Tefera Gedamu, who seems to like to ask questions and not hear the answers, there just aren’t any competent reporters. For example, a reporter reporting about a local inventor of machines who built his business from the ground up was reported as having ‘beginned his business from the scratch.’ A couple of years back, a newscaster while reading the news couldn’t decide on whether the news was from New Zealand or the Netherlands so she read it as ‘New-Zerland.’ It makes one wonder whether there even is an English editor when a story is read with such English that knows no punctuation. Full stops are ignored, and the reader pauses in mid-sentences making one wonder if one has to guess the end of the news. A good example would be the programme covers different tourist attractions in Ethiopia. While one wants to really follow the programme, the reporter just goes on and on with this dreary, bored voice that just makes one jump up and switch the TV off.
No one at ETV seems to care that the English spoken there is very drab. In fact, nobody seems to even want to hear about it. On a web site launched by ETV, references were made to the poor language and how it was turning people off. What happened? Nothing! ; The posts got deleted. No wonder people would rather pay 2000 ETB and get satellite TV coverage than pay the measly 50 ETB. It’s considered throwing good money away. Unless something is done ETV will remain just that…Ethiopian.