It is to me a singular honour and privilege to speak to you all at this event, albeit at the tail-end of the programme. This Community Media Forum 2018 takes place during the year in which we celebrate the centenary of two freedom fighters, Tata Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela under the theme: “Be the legacy”, as well as Mama Albertina Nontsikelelo Sisulu under the theme: “A Woman of fortitude”.
These celebrations are meant to highlight the principles and values espoused by these two giants and to galvanise the spirit of national pride and Ubuntu, especially, when we consider the centrality of the Community Media space in enhancing Social Cohesion and Nation-building.
At the outset, let me say that it had been my wish to fully participate in the deliberations of the Summit which started yesterday for me to engage and get enriched by deliberations that ensued so as to inform myself, especially, when taking into account that the Summit Resolution may, to some degree, lead to the review of policy and the enhancement of the regulatory framework to deal with the challenges at hand.
In the past two days, it has been all hands on deck for all of the delegates and the presenters in grappling with the issues related to the theme of the Summit: “Taking Community Media to the Future.”
Coming from our various, organisations and formations, with diverse backgrounds, we have all been united by our efforts to seek convergence of ideas in dealing with the challenges and opportunities within the Community Media space.
The speeches and presentations already made have captured the richness and level of understanding of the challenges the Community Media space is confronted with. It is my strong belief that panel discussions and the commissions have enriched the engagements on how we could or should approach the myriad of challenges which we are all familiar with, and hope that these sessions have offered some solutions moving forward.
Surely, the dynamism of our societal challenges in the context of the rapid technological advancements demand of us to show versatility and agility, and have to, therefore, accept that we cannot make advances in the Community Media space if we continue to put new wine in old wine-skins, if I were to use that expression.
In this regard, we have to sharpen our approaches to appropriate the innovations and technologies available so that we become relevant, effective and efficient in dealing with the challenges in the Community Media space.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
At the inception of our appointment, the Deputy Minister, Pinky Kekana and I, set out to go and meet the various stakeholders. This was our attempt to cover vast ground in an effort to come to grips with the challenges experienced by Community Media practitioners. Having understood that it would take us forever to reach all the communities within the length and breadth of our country, this galvanised us to push for the convening of this Summit so as to have a clearer understanding and enormity of the challenges, whilst we would share with yourselves our views so as to find each other in carrying out the mandate to deliver services to our communities.
In an effort to dismantle the vestiges of apartheid in ensuring that our communities do gain access to information, in their own right, and transform South Africa to a truly democratic country, community activism becomes an important element to the transformation agenda.
Thus the establishment of the various institutions and formations closer to the people became an imperative. The establishment of the Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA) did not happen by accident, but through a conscious decision informed by the need to close the information divide between the various strata of our society.
In pursuit of the transformation agenda, MDDA through its support to community media and other development programmes should act the cornerstone toward the development of an informed citizenry in the journey towards Nation-Building and Social Cohesion.
Transforming this vital sector requires that media ownership better reflects our diversity, it calls for a media that tells the entire South African story by reporting frankly on our challenges, but also not watering down our remarkable achievements since the dawn of democracy.
Transformation is also about opening the media space to more role players, especially those in the community media space. We need a diversity of views and this will only be enhanced by plurality of media. Our country cannot afford only one school of thought to hold sway. Doing so affectively shuts down views and thoughts that are at odds with prevailing narratives. Therefore media transformation remains crucial and we will continue to fight for a media that better represents the views of all South Africans.
Plurality matters because it contributes to a well-functioning democratic society that is characterised by informed citizens. It prevents any one media owner or owners having too much influence over public opinion and the political agenda.
Most importantly it ensures that there is a diversity of viewpoints which encompasses a wide spectrum of society. Our transformation journey is about building on what we have and making it more representative and relevant to a wider spectrum of society.
It’s safe to say that there has been significant progress in terms of media transformation. However, the ownership and control of media still largely remains in the hands of a few. This extends not only to media itself but across the entire value chain of publishing, printing, distribution, circulation, research and advertising.
It simply cannot be that patterns of ownership across the entire value chain still remain largely unchanged 24 years into our democracy. I think you would therefore agree with me that more needs to be done.
In fact this conversation was kick started in earnest with the formation of the Print and Digital Media Transformation Task Team (PDMTTT). The mandate for the PDMTTT was to assist the industry to develop a common strategy for transformation. Their specific focus was on:
Management, control and employment equity;
Preferential procurement and enterprise development;
Socio-economic development; and
Other industry related areas.
These issues were to be looked at across all areas of the industry, including content, advertising, printing and distribution of newspapers, magazines, and digital for mainstream and community publishing.
This process and many others have taken the conversation on media transformation forward. And it is, therefore, important that we consolidate and take forward efforts such as these to ensure that the plight of Community Media is attend to and improved.
Last year in August the Department of Communication (DoC) hosted a Print Media Transformation Colloquium to further expand on the vital topic of media transformation.
All these processes that have come before have taken us a step closer to arriving at a media landscape which truly reflects the diversity of our country. They have done so cognisant of the rapid technological changes in media, and the role of new media in this ever changing landscape.
Having a look at the programme, one’s attention get drawn to the session on Panel Discussion which debated important areas that impacts directly on the Community Media, namely:
Community Media Sustainability;
Promoting Social Cohesion and Nation-Building through Relevant Local Content, and
Supporting Specialised Training Programmes for Digital Media.
On the other hand, at a glance, the Commissions discussed very pertinent and critical areas impacting the Community Media. In this regard, it is my hope that the Resolutions of Commissions will find expression in the Action Plan which will presumably be the end-product of the deliberations of the Summit so that all of us make a commitment, both in words and in deeds, that we will play our respective parts in “Taking Community Media to the Future”.
Community Media Sustainability;
Regulation, Accountability and Governance; and
Digital Readiness: Skills, Content, Infrastructure and Funding for Quality Content.
Deliberation on the media sector streams:
The deliberation in the Media Sector Stream were meant to ensure in-depth engagements on the areas of focus:
Issues arising from the Print Media:
There are roughly 290 members in the sector: 85% indigenous owners, 75% black owned, 25% women owned. Publish 7 million copies per month with over 30 million readers.
Community print has an important role to play in supporting schools in terms of educating in indigenous languages and ensuring the survival of these indigenous languages. Due to financial constraints the print sector is dying a silent death though.
To attain Financial Sustainability for Print Media the 30% set-aside policy must be enforced and the Advertising Procurement Agencies (APAs) who act as middlemen between community media and the government should be done away with
Printing presses need to be established in the provinces so that community print is not forced to go to competitors to print. Almost 40% of their budgets are spent on printing.
MDDA needs to continue to provide mentoring support so as to build the business,
Social Media platforms should be seen as threats. They can be used to complement print. This may actually presents opportunities, but Community Media need to be creative in the spheres.
Some of the Issues arising from the Media Stream:
The issues raised herein are but some and not an exhaustive list of the points raised:
There is an urgent need for a SENTECH model that differentiates according to socio-economic conditions (e.g. rural vs urban based) in transmission costs.
Rural versus urban also influences availability of professionals to join community radio boards. Rural based community radio stations need to rely on government officials, who serve on a voluntary basis and this should not affect receipt of advertising from GCIS.
The reduction in the number of funding agencies is also of concern as the MDDA, with its limited budget and resources, is the only funding agency remaining.
Southern African Music Rights Organisation (SAMRO) charges contribute to failure of community broadcast. In addition, Commercial Radio poaching of professionals from Community Radio Stations has exacerbated sustainability challenges.
Policy legislation and regulation environment needs to be stabilised. The policy environment has previously been chaotic with three aborted broadcasting policy reviews. There is also a piecemeal approach to these reviews with different aspects being reviewed separately. Community media must also take responsibility however and participate fully in the current review.
How do free-to-air channels relate to national, regional and local TV? Some 50 % of the population is receiving TV via DSTV. Another worrying trend is that subscription TV is authorising channels for regional TV, but these should be free-to-air.
In the space of Digital convergence Community TV has not been consulted on the DTT process. The questions still remains as to how will it affect Community TV and whether it will remain local or be regional, etc. Current advice is that with DTT, Community TV cannot remain local but if it goes regional how will it remain sustainable with the increased costs?
ICASA is conducting a regulatory impact assessment focusing particularly on issues of community participation and governance. The assessment will take place over 3 years (started in 2016/2017) and to date draft regulations have been published for comment. The ultimate aim is to ensure alignment in the regulatory framework for both community TV and radio,
The basis of the moratorium is that findings revealed weaknesses in ICASA’s licensing process as it had increasingly become simply a registration process with duplication of stations in areas. This defeats the purpose of plurality.
The ICASA moratorium was instituted to deal with
Scarcity of frequencies
Need to ensure regulatory framework used by ICASA is current and relevant.
While moratorium will be lifted when framework is in place, ICASA cannot continue to ignore non-compliance and penalties are being contemplated.
In conclusion, it needs to be understood matters that we raised and seeking a change in policy or in the regulatory framework will, of necessity, have to follow the normal government processes to come to fruition. This should not be seen as a ploy to inhibit suggestions on how we could better conditions Community Media.
As reflected in the deliberation, a strong advocacy is clearly needed in this sector. In the same spirit, we should also look in the matter that was sharply raised that the MDDA Act be amended to insure that Association of Independent Media (AIP) and National Community Radio Forum (NCRF) be represented on the board of MDDA.
In an attempt to deal with the various challenges Community Media we should steer away from the "blanket" approach which imply the one service fits all type approach in the capacity support or funding. For an example if a radio or newspaper is doing well we should have special support /capacity building initiative for such. Similarly, if a station or radio is NOT doing well or is on ground zero we should tailor services appropriate to them.
Sustainability should not only be about money or advertisement spend. To improve the ability of GCIS to meet this 30% target, however, we have now established the panel for community and small publications; this should ensure a better flow of funds to the community print sector
We should consider the re-establishment of the Learning Forum, which as mentioned in the deliberation was run by MDDA.
MDDA to assist publishers in establishing printing facilities as printing has emerged as common problem to all publishers in sustaining their publications beyond the MDDA funding. This will further create jobs.
Government adverts are also predominantly in English and it is urgent that the vernacular is used.
Engagement with Broadcast Research Council (BRC) is critical as serious questions have been raised about how they do their audit and research.
A Programme of Action on all the issues has to be finalised and implemented to realise a positive result for Community Media organisations.