Rhodes’ SPI goes to the Seychelles

Seychelles was the scene of ground-breaking media management training in July by Rhodes University’s Sol Plaatje Institute (SPI) for Media Leadership.

The resources of the Institute were shipped to the Seychelles Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) for a tailor-made management development of senior management tiers of the broadcaster.

The training covered human resource management, leadership, advertising, marketing, budgeting, broadcasting regulation, media ethics and the role of editorial independence in a media company’s survival.

Particular emphasis was placed on programme management and scheduling and, at the request of the SBC, audience psychology and audience research were designed to their specific needs.

Running the course on site was a departure from the SPI’s usual training methodology.  “To take advantage of economies of scale and of geography, we have almost always held our courses at the Institute for our course participants who come from across Africa,” SPI Director Francis Mdlongwa said.

“Because of this, our training programmes’ methodology has tended to be a mix of case studies and patterns and simulated role plays and scenarios to try to re-enact real-world conditions and experiences.

“But in the case of the SBC and some institutions which we are also serving, the training has been directed to their specific needs and applications and hosted on location for maximum impact. It is certainly far better to train within the context of and with direct relevance to the prevailing conditions of our customers and partners, who also give us their input on the training they need.”

Seychelles, a palm tree-lined archipelago in the Indian Ocean off the coast of  East Africa, has the highest per capita GDP in Africa and has progressive social development programmes. The islands are also the playground of the jet setters who are used to every digital luxury. 

The SBC is well aware that, as a public broadcaster, it cannot be left behind by the current digital revolution. It asked the SPI to develop the training to the SBC’s specific needs and conditions, with special reference to the migration of broadcasting to digital terrestrial transmission and how to tackle the rapid growth of cellphone and other digital media.

SBC head of learning Pat Matyot said the SBC needed the training to drive the broadcaster into the new broadcasting environment. “As a broadcaster, we need to respond to the changes in our society before the digital era overtakes us,” he said.

Content trainer Howard Thomas said: “Training broadcasting is only of use when the training is designed specifically to the needs of the learning broadcaster. Digital is not just a challenge to broadcasters – it presents different challenges to different broadcasters. There are too many differences between cultures, economies, audiences and broadcasters for generic training to be of much use.”

The Institute is now planning to roll out training on change management in handling the new digital broadcasting environment throughout the continent.

Mdlongwa said: “The institute has always been at the forefront of learning innovation – right from the decision by Rhodes University to start the Institute in 2002 to address the critical but neglected disciplines of media management and leadership.

“These emphasize a critical need for media managers to understand the key economic, social and political factors that define their operating environments and how human beings work and behave in different conditions as pre-requisites for achieving sustainability for their firms.

“With technology increasingly defining our lives, it is imperative that we, as an institute, quickly face up to the challenges of media innovation in a rapidly shifting landscape. We certainly do not claim to know all the answers on the best way forward in our ‘age of discontinuity’ because, as Gianfranco Poggi pointed out years ago, a way of knowing is also a way of not knowing as our knowledge as humans will always be partial.”


Story by Howard Thomas 




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