'Pain' for printers in digital age

2013-04-25 15:07

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Johannesburg – The newspaper industry is struggling to survive as consumers migrate to digital news forms, the print and digital media transformation task team heard on Thursday.

Counsel for Media 24, Ashoek Adhikari, told the hearing in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, that newspaper companies were faced with having to scale down operations and sack employees.

"There has been significant re-alignment going on in the industry already. We also understand that a new business model hasn't emerged.

"Many new things have been tried, experimenting [in the newspaper industry], but they don’t work," said Adhikari.

"What is clear is that there is a move to digital, and specifically a move to mobile [phones]. In the process of re-alignment, there is going to be great pain through further staff reductions," he said.

Print media, globally, was in a state of decline and South Africa was no exception.

Adhikari said Media 24 employed around 7 000 people. The Naspers subsidiary printed and distributed newspapers and magazines in English, Afrikaans, and Zulu, with a readership of 25 million.

Transformation strategy

The task team’s hearing on Thursday was part of a facts submission phase by key players in South Africa’s newspaper industry: Media 24, Independent Newspapers, Caxton Media, Times Media Group, the Mail&Guardian, and BDFM.

The task team was set up in August to help the industry develop a common transformation strategy. It is examining issues such as ownership, management, employment equity, skills development, and the low level of black ownership in many large media groups.

It was established after Parliament’s portfolio committee on communications criticised the print media sector and called for a transformation charter.

Print Media SA, now called Print and Digital Media SA, rejected the idea and said the media industry would deal with the matter in its own way.

Adhikari said he was opposed to the idea of the government restricting major media companies from entering smaller markets, and instead reserving them for smaller players.

"I would reject the idea utterly. When one talks about restricting the market, they are talking about regulating the media. We must remember resources empower. If we have a small newspaper covering a small town, then Media 24 participates in that market. The news that comes out of the place would be of a higher quality.

"It is a good thing for the community. If the local councillor is taking bribes to have people on the housing list, the Media 24 resources are much better placed to expose that and reduce that corruption than a small independent [player] sitting in the system and afraid to offend people," he said.

Organisations like the ANC, the Cosatu, the Pan Africanist Congress, the Azanian People's Organisation, Right2Know, the SA National Editors' Forum, Genderlinks, academics, and small independent publishers have interacted with the task team in oral hearings.

Read more on:    cosatu  |  mail&guardian  |  times media group  |  anc  |  sanef  |  pac  |  independent newspapers  |  media 24  |  bdfm  |  azapo  |  johannesburg  |  media

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