The number of mobile subscribers in the world will jump by one billion in the next five years, according to the GSMA report published at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. That will put the mobile-phone crowd at 4.6 billion.
In Bangladesh, according to the Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (BTRC), the total number of mobile phone subscribers reached 117.758 million at the end of August, 2016.
As all mobile companies in the country now offer 3G services, the percentage of smart phone users is expected to increase drastically. This is a great opportunity for the media in Bangladesh to create new audience through mobile journalism.
A journalist who uses portable electronic devices like smartphones or tablets to gather, edit and disseminate content is known as a mobile journalist or MoJo. The term ‘mobile journalism’ means using smartphones in collecting, editing, broadcasting and publishing news stories. As technology improves steadily, mobile reporting becomes more established in newsrooms.
Over the past couple of years, we have watched how mobile phones have become increasingly central to the release of important video clips and images from around the world. In the beginning of 2011, there was the mass protest in different Islamic countries of the Middle East and North Africa which turned into the ‘Arab Spring’. In Bangladesh there was the ‘Shahbag protest’.
Modern mass media, widely known as mobile or smartphone journalism, became a useful instrument to spread information as it unfolds. Many media experts have already confirmed that the future will be mobile which is really changing the trend of today's journalism.
Along with the ever increasing range of mobile applications, journalism training and media development agencies are turning their attention towards offering mobile journalism courses and mobile content courses for citizen media outlets.
In Bangladesh, we have just started to talk about mobile journalism. Here online journalism has received huge popularity. It makes sense to study mobile journalism' from an international angle and it can offer promising experience to Bangladesh.
The smartphone is undoubtedly the perfect device to capture multimedia content of 'breaking news'. Western experts have emphasised that the next generation newsroom will be created according to the workflow of mobile journalism (MoJo).
A recent study conducted by the author shows the tendency for potential growth of mobile journalism among common citizens in Bangladesh, particularly in the big cities. Over the last few years, citizen journalists in Bangladesh captured images of mass protests of political parties, festivals, road accidents, building collapses and ferry capsizes. Bad road conditions and infrastructure sometimes create difficulties for journalists to reach to the news spot. Covering stories in such locations with smartphones can save both valuable time and expense of a journalist.
In comparison to Western news media, Bangladeshi media outlets are not less-developed in the sense of using the modern technologies. Apps, breaking news pushing notifications and integration with social media are also widely visible in Bangladeshi mass media. The country's popular print and online newspapers are accessible for the users of Android, iOS and other smartphone devices. More and more news establishments are making their websites accessible for mobile Internet users. Mobile operators of Bangladesh offer a very cheap rate for the mobile Internet which plays a key role in popularisng Internet browsing via mobile phones. Moreover, the news organisations offer their users the latest breaking news by sending an SMS to a selected number.
In July, 2016, history was made for the news outlets of Bangladesh. A total of 27 journalists of the country’s most influential daily newspaper Prothom Alo undertook a three-day mobile journalism course where they were taught basic skills of shooting, editing and publishing contents with a smartphone. It was the first time that a mobile journalism workshop was held in Bangladesh. This training workshop was featured by renowned UK-based journalism website journalism.co.uk featured on October 31. There were participants of different ages, all excited at the learning experience. It was refreshing to see there are still many people who don't apprehend that professional footage and high-quality journalism can be produced with a smartphone. During the workshop, participants produced material that was useful for transmission on TV, online and social media platforms.
The majority of reporters used Android devices to shoot as they are of a more affordable option in Bangladesh. Now most of the journalists working at the Dhaka office of Prothom Alo have been using Android as well as iOS devices to use their MoJo skills in a bid to increase the amount of video coverage they produce for the digital platform.
Photos and videos captured on the smartphone are important sources of breaking news events. While introducing the first-ever Bangladeshi mobile reporting website for citizen journalism, the focus will be on the themes of the development of new media technology, impact of new and traditional media on society and the future of mobile journalism in the context of Bangladesh. Prothom Alo’s website will certainly be an ideal platform for integrating mobile technologies into digital storytelling presentations.
Mobile journalism concept is not being practiced enough in Bangladesh due to lack of resources and training. Not all news organisations have a new media strategy. Proper training and academic courses should be provided to students of any journalism institutions and media workers. At the same time, courses on journalism in the universities should be modified according to the demand of modern news rooms. An intense marketing campaign also should be done to allow society to recognise the importance of the mobile journalism. As with the rest of the world, mobile journalism will be an integral part of media in Bangladesh
Jamil Khan is a lecturer at Department of Mass Communications, Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia