Right2Know: Media must be decommercialised if it is to be diverse

2014-08-22 08:37

South African media needs to be decommercialised so that the industry can see true diversity, Right2Know campaign spokesperson Dale McKinley has said.

“If we want real diversity, the media has to be decommercialised,” he said yesterday during a round table discussion on diversity in the media.

McKinley said media freedom and diversity were two sides of the same coin, and one could not exist without the other.

When many people spoke about diversity they focused on print media, however the focus also needed to be on broadcast media.

“Most of the print media is for the economic and political elite. We should look at broadcast, particularly the SABC, as many people in the country get their news from the state broadcaster,” he said.

McKinley accused the SABC of being a government broadcaster instead of a public broadcaster.

He said it needed to revert to its original mandate of serving and informing the public.

“The SABC is becoming a mouthpiece of the government but concentration should be on the public,” said McKinley.

He said one of the many problems facing the state broadcaster was the lack of funding from private companies. This forced it to show foreign content that did not speak to the needs of the public.

University of Witwatersrand (Wits) journalism professor Anton Harber said at the discussion that many media outlets in South Africa supported the African National Congress.

“In South Africa, we have a growing, increasingly dominant network of ANC-supporting media, supported by the state through the front or back door,” he said.

“This is a historical correction and certainly it is an advance on the situation where only one newspaper in 1994 unequivocally called on voters to vote ANC.”

Harber said the practice should be stopped if the independence and accountability of journalism continued to shrink.

“I’m not concerned about whether a publication supports or opposes the ANC. I am more concerned whether the culture of that newsroom is an open one that encourages a diversity of views and opinions,” he said.

“And this is important for one simple reason – journalism is at its best when it is critical, probing, disruptive and discomforting. Journalists are at their best when they make trouble for those with power and authority.”

Wits deputy vice-chancellor, Professor Tawana Kupe said the media had not served the public well on the issues of diversity.

“A lesbian was recently killed and it was reported as just another killing of a lesbian and lack of tolerance in the country,” Kupe said.

“But what impact does such actually have on our democracy?”

Lucas Mafa from the Black Management Forum’s questioned the levels of exposure given to people at the grassroots level.

“I am appealing to [the] media to see how best we can meet each other half way and ensure the voiceless are heard,” he said.

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