Cape Town - Communications Minister Faith Muthambi’s flagship project for the 2016/17 financial year is the transformation of the print media industry in South Africa.
“There is a huge disconnect between the expectations of both Government and media on what exactly the role of the media should be,” Muthambi said on Friday when she delivered her department’s budget vote in parliament.
Government views the media as a partner; and has therefore since President Jacob Zuma became president in 2009, given media briefings after cabinet meetings.
The media, on the contrary would rather focus on “scandalising government”, Muthambi said, “even if it means not getting all the facts right”.
She laid into journalists for painting the South African government as "corrupt, hapless and inept”.
“It could be argued that racist tendencies also play a role in the unrelenting attempts at stigmatising a black government led by the ANC,” she added.
To this end Muthambi and her department will start looking into the ownership of the print press, the measurement of circulation, distribution channels and assess regulatory instruments to regulate the affairs of media practitioners.
The department’s total budget for the new financial year amounts to R1.3bn of which R59.2m is allocated towards employee compensation, while R182.2m goes to SABC’s operations.
According to Muthambi this amount is “skewed” which makes it difficult to fulfil its mandate.
As for SABC, her department is investigating a new funding model, which could possibly come from direct government funding, advertising, and television licences.
Muthambi said she was pleased that SABC would stop flighting international content repeats as these programmes would be replaced by local content “where South Africans wil be telling their own stories in their own languages”.
She was also happy with the progress made in the digital migration process and that important milestones have been reached in the past year.
However, South Africa is considerably behind many other African countries, while it missed last year’s June International Telecommunications Union deadline, to switch its broadcast signal to digital.
Muthambi said her department would announce the analogue signal switch-off date when more than 80% of the TV households have been migrated to digital TV.
The DA’s Phumzile van Damme said in reaction to Muthambi’s budget that the ongoing failure of South Africa’s migration to digital broadcasting is “the most spectacular blunder of the current Cabinet in general and Minister Muthambi in particular”.
“Digital Migration is about freeing the airwaves in order to allow the poor and marginalised people – particularly in rural areas – access a wide world of knowledge, government and commercial services and educational and economic opportunities. This ANC government is unfairly widening the digital divide,” Van Damme claimed.