SA media leaves working class on the periphery

2012-03-14 00:00

DURING his first month as editor of The Witness newspaper I met with former editor Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya in his offices at Willowton Road. Since this was our first meeting, following several e-mails, we did not know what to talk about. We spoke about his impression of his new home in Pietermaritzburg, politics, race relations and, at length, our love for Orlando Pirates.

During our conversation, Moya lamented that black readers of The Witness don’t make use of the media space available to them.

“You will see, even in the letters directed to the editor, that other people, other than black people, use this available print space,” he continued.

I could not help but agree with him on the matter, but for me, the issue of the usage of media space is much more serious than that. The issue is that South African media, in general, are not only unkind to black people, their dreams and cultures, they are particularly indifferent to the plight, aspirations and fears of the working class, who mainly happen to be black people of this country.

When listening to talk radio, whether 702, SAFM, Metro FM or any other station, you will notice that you find the same people calling and making their views known all the time. Those are the people who have time and money to call the station, and wait for minutes while other callers are still on air. I am tempted even to think that some of these daily callers receive calls from show producers asking them to air their views. All these regular callers, regardless of race, belong either to the middle class or to the higher echelons of our society.

Since calling a radio station is itself an expensive exercise, it is a barrier for the unemployed and blue-collar workers (who earn meagre salaries) to make their issues known. That is why it is often said that the liberal media in South Africa promote middle-class values. Given the way things are with our media, other than when there is a service-delivery protest or a march, it is not easy to know the mind of working-class people in this country. Essentially, our media, both print and electronic, leaves the working class on the periphery.

It also does not help that many of our mainstream national newspapers and radio stations use English as a language of communication. It is no secret that the majority of the working class are not fluent in English, so even if they have just enough to call radio stations and give their two cents’ worth (excuse the pun), language is a major barrier. As a result of that, our national discourse is determined by the few.

That is why, before Polokwane, when you read newspapers like the Sunday Times, Sunday Independent and even City Press, or listened to talk radio during that time, you would have been forgiven for being convinced that you knew exactly the direction the country was going to take, because of the views that dominated the air waves and the print media.

It is now a matter of history that the outcome of Polokwane was not the one predicted and wished for by many callers, experts and analysts. That is because, through all the upheaval leading to Polokwane, as happens everyday, the mainstream media is dismissive of the wishes, aspirations and frustrations of the working class.

I can’t pretend to have all the answers, but for us to have our finger on the pulse of what our country is becoming and what South Africans are really thinking, South Africa’s media must begin to reflect the views of the man and woman on the streets.

• Sihle Mlotshwa is a deputy manager and media and citizen liaison in the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education. He writes in his personal capacity.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.