Media transformation policy on the horizon

2014-02-02 14:00

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Media transformation and diversity will become one of President Jacob Zuma’s priorities after the elections.

Obed Bapela, the deputy minister in the presidency for performance monitoring and evaluation, said a green paper on media transformation and diversity was on the cards.

He said the green paper would only be ready during the next administration because the focus would remain on the forthcoming elections.

He also said it was meant to mark 10 years since the formation of the Media Development and Diversity Agency.

The green paper, which he said would inform government policy on media transformation, would look into issues such as media ownership, newspaper distribution and language diversity.

It would encompass the entire media landscape including print, radio and social media.

Bapela said he was concerned that there was no national Braille newspaper, despite the fact that 5% of the population read in Braille.

The green paper will be released for public comment once it is ready, he said.

Lumko Mtimde, the CEO of the agency, said print media transformation lagged behind broadcasting in areas such as control and language diversity.

This had also been confirmed by the work of a print and digital media transformation task team, he said.

Media expert Professor Anton Harber said he was concerned that the government was intervening rather than allowing the industry process that was started last year, to unfold.

“I am also concerned that this should happen in apparent secrecy, with the knowledge, it seems, only of the agency.

Impetus to continue the transformation of the media is a good thing, but there is a fine line between this and government interference in the media – which would be very harmful.

“Unfortunately, there are some members of government whose aim is to make the media less critical, and interference can easily be abused for this purpose,” he said.

Eric Kholwane, the chair of Parliament’s portfolio committee on communications, said the government policy process was linked to Parliament’s hearings into media accountability following the initiatives that the industry had started to improve accountability.

He said the government could table the green paper to the committee before the end of the current term, but added that it was better to do so after the elections “for fairness and for a proper [consultation] process”.

“It is not like anyone has been sidelined [from the process]. It will come out as a green paper to allow the industry to shape it,” Kholwane said.

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