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Updated Dec 14, 2023, 10:01am EST
africa

BRICS influence in Africa grows with TV media deals

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The News

The BRICS economic bloc of countries is aggressively expanding its media presence in Africa through its Moscow-headquartered broadcast network to counter Western narratives in the Global South.

TV BRICS — which is centered on programming from member countries Brazil, Russia, China, India and South Africa — has in recent weeks signed partnership agreements with media companies in Kenya, South Africa, Egypt and Mozambique as it looks to grow the bloc’s influence among some of the world’s fastest-growing populations.

Ayanda Hollow, President of TV BRICS Africa, told Semafor Africa that stories from the Global South including their development, culture and human interest stories were not “well covered” by the international media establishment. He said TV BRICS was focused on bringing stories from the bloc’s countries to global audiences, and not necessarily countering the viewpoints of other media outlets. “No one can tell our own stories like we can,” Hollow said.

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Know More

Vladimir Putin led calls for the establishment of a common TV channel for BRICS nations in 2017, saying it would help disseminate information on the group’s activities. The network notes that it has a potential audience of over 3.5 billion people in member countries alone. It is owned by MKR Media, a holding company established by Russia’s Interstate Corporation for Development.

TV BRICS has sealed numerous partnerships with media outlets in China, Russia and Latin America to distribute its content and also operates a 24-hour channel in Russia.

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Martin’s view

The media plays a big role in shaping public opinion around the world. For BRICS to succeed in its much-discussed plan to reshape the global order, it could use media outlets that can boost the images of member countries and amplify their positions on key global issues.

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State-funded or state-regulated media outlets such as the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Voice of America, France 24, and China’s CGTN form a big part of the media landscape in Africa, and have the power to drive conversations and shape narratives. By partnering with media outlets on the continent, BRICS countries will have new outlets to presumably also grow their influence and soft power in Africa, and offer differing perspectives on global issues.

With several major Western broadcast outlets having a significant influence on news and debate across Africa, there has been pushback from some government leaders and policymakers.

“TV BRICS will have a big impact if it is perceived as providing alternate opinions to BBC and CNN,” said Dr Xavier Ichani, an international relations researcher at Kenyatta University in Nairobi. He suggested that reports from those outlets are often perceived as “Western propaganda” in African countries.

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Expanding BRICS’ global reach is also especially relevant as the organization itself expands and is increasingly seen as a counterweight to Western-led multilateral institutions like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.. Ethiopia, Argentina, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran and the United Arab Emirates are lined up to join the bloc in January 2024, and more governments in the Global South, including several from Africa, have expressed interest in joining.

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Room for Disagreement

Countering the influence of Western outlets such as the BBC and VOA won’t be a walk in the park for BRICS given the decades of experience and investment incumbents have put into the African market. Three African countries — Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya — count among the BBC’s three largest audiences by country, with a combined audience of 63 million. In June, BBC News’ top editor described the BBC as a “trusted brand” in Africa with a “deep understanding” of the continent. VOA, on the other hand, claims to reach 25 million people in Africa across radio, television, web, and social media.

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The View From Johannesburg

At the launch of the Africa-focused BRICS Africa TV channel in Johannesburg in August executives said that the network would develop content in African languages including Kiswahili, isiZulu and Sepedi, to be translated for global audiences, and offer opportunities for African content producers to collaborate with producers from other BRICS nations.

African National Congress (ANC) First Deputy Secretary-General Nomvula Mokonyane said that the BRICS TV network would help accelerate implementation of the larger BRICS agenda by adding “momentum to a changing world order based on equality, mutual benefit, and reciprocal growth.”

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