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State of South African media Guy Berger Rhodes University Grahamstown, South Africa Department of Journalism & Media Studies.

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Presentation on theme: "State of South African media Guy Berger Rhodes University Grahamstown, South Africa Department of Journalism & Media Studies."— Presentation transcript:

1 State of South African media Guy Berger Rhodes University Grahamstown, South Africa Department of Journalism & Media Studies

2 Covering: Post-apartheid political environment. Democratic significance? Role in de-racialisation. Quality of journalism – challenges. Conclusion.

3 Environment: pre-democracy 95% state monopoly on broadcasting, Official registration for newspapers, Bannings of titles and journalists, 1977: “End of The World” 1988: Shut down of South Detention: Sisulu 251 days, Magubane 586

4 Environment: pre-democracy Panoply of laws restricting coverage, Access restrictions Security-military-police-prisons Racial hostility Active apartheid propaganda machine, A closed, secretive state apparatus, : civil intolerance.

5 Environment: Joel Merwis 1979: Press freedom described as having “its left leg in plaster, its right arm in a sling, a patch over the left eye, deafness in the right ear, a sprained ankle and a number of teeth knocked out.”

6 Environment: Nelson Mandela 2002: "South Africa should put the freedom of its press and media at the top of its priorities as a democracy. None or our irritations with the perceived inadequacies of the media should ever allow us to suggest even faintly that the independence of the press could be compromised or coerced. A bad free press is preferable to a technically good, subservient press."

7 Environment: new deal Constitution Free expression Free media Right to information Some limitations …

8 Environment: free speech limits Constitution says free speech does not extend to “propaganda for war, incitement of imminent violence; or advocacy of hatred that is based on race, ethnicity, gender or religion, and that constitutes incitement to cause harm”. Film and Publications Act, and Board. Constitution also provides for a balancing between free speech and free media rights on the one hand, with the rights to equality and dignity on the other.

9 Environment: caveat Rights can only be limited if “reasonable and justifiable in an open and democratic society based on freedom and equality”. In addition, any limitation has to be shown to be “necessary”. Thus very hard to curb media on an arbitrary or undemocratic basis. Thus 2004 “9/11 terrorism” law amended.

10 Environment: access to info Promotion of Access to Information Act Right also extends to access to information held by non-state entities in-as-much as information in this sphere is needed for the exercise or protection of any rights. Right is subject to the administrative and financial capacity of the state. Very little utilisation by the media. A practical exercise in 2004 showed very poor responsiveness by state agencies. Access to courts by broadcast is still limited.

11 Environment: legacy laws Section 205: journalists forced to testify accord to limit application. Complexity: testify sans reveal sources? Other laws ignored: Police, prisons Divorce Sub judice Defamation: Bogoshi – progress.

12 Environment: state-owned media Constitution: independent broadcast regulator IBA was set up 1993 Negotiated compromise to remove SABC from political control. 1998: Ministerial power on IBA rejected. Parliamentary accountability. SABC similar. Icasa – merger of IBA and Satra.

13 Environment: SABC 1999 Act: enshrines independence 2002 amendment: Minister wants to set editorial policies. Outcry – public consultation. 2004: SABC board adopts policies. Controversy about CEO = Ed in Chief. Personnel pro-govt.

14 Environment: summing up State power over media very reduced. Culture of rights and constitutionality. Weak use of access to info. Genuine public broadcasting possible. Continued contestation within limits. So what role is media playing in this overall positive environment?

15 Media role: under apartheid Broadcasting – political control. Broederbond, Securocrats Black translators, flogging. Newspapers: Afrikaans-language – reformist English-language – liberal Alternative press – resistance Politicised, polarised. Allowed climate of rights abuse - TRC

16 Media role: diverse options Alternative press extinct Mainstream media – new faces Roles: Independent, critical. Belated discovery of watchdog in some cases. Support govt and South Africanism. Don’t rock boat – be neutral, bland.

17 Media role: identity of journalists Journalists first, other ID’s second? Do you obey laws or not? Section 205? Arms deal laws? Who owns you? Foreign? Black? Some kneejerk antagonism to govt.

18 Media role: mixed bag. Sympathy to govt Except: HIV-AIDs policy, Zimbabwe policy. And no debate on economic policy. Govt antipathy and suspicion (Mbeki) Various summits and meetings Presidential Press Corps Journalists stand for independence.

19 Media role: pluralism No political broadcasters 80 new community radio stations: Participatory democracy, local voices. Privatisation of some SABC stations 7 greenfields radio stations 1 new commercial TV – etv. Concentration restrictions Cross-ownership restrictions.

20 Media role: local content Radio: Community, SABC: 40% Commercial: 25% TV: PBS 55% Commercial: 35% (etv 45%) TV News: 50% Commercial, 80% PBS Pluralism = checks & balance on SABC.

21 Media role: economic hurdles SABC dependent on advertising. Challenge for more linguistic diversity and accessibility – especially on SABC. 2 new African language TV channels? SABC: insufficient PBS citizen content. Too much common content – competing for same advert and audience pie. Poor quality of community journalism.

22 Media role: Other sectors MDDA created. Press – little African language. Tabloid media explosion – Democratic relevance? Internet: 3.6m (of 45 million). Cellphones: 18 million. Prospects?

23 Media role: context variables Market-driven media: Public sphere? Civil society: TAC good at manipulating media, Trades unions struggle for sympathy. The African project: Continental industry, Africanised content at home.

24 Media role: summing up Independence, free to choose role. Poor relations with govt. Limited debate. Broadcast pluralism exists. Print less so, Net is limited Economics issues, Civil society issues. Thus: democratic role not in a vacuum.

25 Deracialisation: context Media was white. Now? Racial ID was not just different, but in opposition. Now, just diversity? What does it mean to be a black or white journalist? When is race relevant, when not? Nation-build Mandela – 2 nations Mbeki. White racism, black frustration.

26 Deracialisation: media content Much cross-over (press, some TV), Much reflects multiracial country. Still some segregated ID media – white women’s magazines, black newspapers. Often tied in with language and apartheid-evolved spatial separation, sports culture, music heritage.

27 Deracialisation: active steps 1999: SAHRC inquiry into media racism. Changes in: Ownership: broadcast, less in print. Editors Frontline reporters SA National Editors Forum But race-based confidential briefing 2004

28 Deracialisation: problems Still white worldview, racist imbalances. Advertising, audiences. LSM 1-5 = 65% population, attract 32% ads. Xenophobia re: black Africans Class and gender: Poverty coverage in elite media mainly. Not analytical, not disaggregated. Sources: 1 in 5, black women – 1:10.

29 Deracialisation: summing up Context: race still an issue after 10 years But a far cry from apartheid. Journalists and media reflecting wider society to an extent. Associated problems need attention: Gender, Nationality, Class

30 Quality of journalism: ethics Conflicts of interest Out of depth in confidential briefings Playing politics and personal agendas Plagiarism Superficiality Missing story of transition Weak on poverty, AIDS, environment, education.

31 Quality of journalism: commerce Dumbing down Corrupted content PR verbatim Paid-for influence (eg. AIDS industry) De-populating newsrooms Decline of Editor power Reporting to MDs, not to Board.

32 Quality: Sanef skills audit 2002 Poor reporting skills Lack of concern with accuracy Poor writing skills Lack of life skills Low level of commitment Weak interviewing skills

33 Quality: Sanef skills audit 2002 Weak legal knowledge Lack of sensitivity Weak knowledge of ethics Poor general, historical and contextual knowledge Low level of trainer knowledge New audit now of newsroom managers.

34 Conclusion: Legal environment Role of media Role in deracialisation Quality of journalism = ?????????????

35 Conclusion: positive Media benefits from democracy, Contributes to democracy. Free speech is secure. Pluralism exists. Contributing to deracialisation. Lots of room to deepen and widen. Ahead? Globalisation, convergence.


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