SABC’s 90% local content policy creates a window of opportunity for understanding the current dominant political discourse

2016-05-18 12:47

Hlaudi Motsoeneng, SABC’s chief financial officer announced that SABC radio stations baring Metro FM and 5Fm must play 90% local music. This was up from its thirty five percent quota. It is apparently a policy which will spread to its television programmes in the coming months. Of course the quota variation has not been made public yet or is yet to be determined. The SABC piloted the surprise 90% for 90 days programme commissioning the radio audience to give input regarding the move. In doing so, the audience will perform an instrumental role in either continuing or discontinuing the initiative. Support by South Africans are important as the amount listenership are determining factors to adverting rates.

South Africans generally responded positively to the announcement. As socio- political commentators and observers its gives us a glimpse into the current dominant ideological discourse. However, it does not paint the complete picture. Political culture of a society is an important factor in determining society’s ideological direction. Because it was such as radical move, listeners may have reacted in two ways, either out right disapproval or joyous endorsement. We may now establish that it was the latter.

It is principally regarded as a digression of freedom of choice for those who are against the notion. Those leaning towards liberal democratic Ideology will argue that the SABC is not a state broadcaster but a public broadcaster. The difference is simple but yet profoundly important. Theoretically, a state broadcaster is funded by the state while a public broadcaster is funded by the public. In addition the state broadcaster peddles government propaganda while a public broadcaster serves the interests of the people, without fear of favour. The SABC during Apartheid for example was a state broadcaster, it only aired programmes and policies which were permitted by government. Some may argue that that 90% local content policy is an election gimmick and was a mandate from the governing party. There are allegations that SABC’s COO has close relationships with the president. Furthermore there has also been allegations that the ANC plays an influential role in the operational and strategic directions of the broadcaster. Moreover the state president also appoints the chairperson and vice-chair of the SABC board. According to the Minster of Communications, Faith Muthambi, the SABC is both a state owned and public broadcaster. In theory it means the monies are drawn up from both the public and government. It also means that the state has certain powers over the SABC but may not influence its content. The minister was also accused of interfering with the business of the broadcaster when, three of its board members resigned while some were removed. In addition the minister has passed a policy which gives the COO complete control over the content, leading to the previous point of overt influence by the state. The question then goes a begging, was their influence by the governing party and the state to push the 90% for ninety days programme. Perhaps we should suggest a more operative question, how will the governing party benefit from such a move? I would endeavor to argue that the ANC was not necessarily involved in the 90% local content policy but they definitely have influence in other areas, such political party advertising and news content.

The other side of the coin is the nationalist response. Nationalism as a concept has various forms. Its most popular form manifests through people showing a high sense of affinity to a country, its geographic space and its people. The Americans have mastered this form. For example, it is always an honour to serve their country in the defense force. As mentioned before, Most South Africans (at least on social media) responded positively to it the initiative. This argument rests on the notion that we should support our local artists, the vintage statement “local is lekker” rings loud or the more recent “proudly South African’. It was no surprise that South Africans would respond positively to it. The past year university movements such as Rhodes Must Fall have been anchored in the ideology of decolonialization and Africanizing pedagogy. There is a need to find one’s own voice as nation as opposed to having to forcefully adopting globally dominant ideologies that perpetuates Western dominance and imposed on ideas preached in the transition period of our democracy. It makes absolutely sense if we personify it. As a twenty two year old, one has a desire to establish oneself and have your own voice. There is a rise of nationalism especially African nationalism and black consciousness. In the 90% local music context, it leans toward, the idea that it is okay to celebrate my Africanism (regardless of race) and it is okay to celebrate my blackness. Political parties such as the EFF and the ANC have thoroughly understood this and used it as opportunity to further their agendas. Julius Malema for instance welcomed the idea and added that this policy should be extent to television especially, SABC three which according to him propagates a western cultural actives.

South African have not been this happy in long time. Some even going as far as calling for Motsoeneng to run for the presidency. It may be too early to predict but I do not think the 90% local content policy will last. However it will not be the result of listeners not agreeing with the idea or that the music is bad. Listener fatigue will set in because human beings by nature do not do well with limitations.

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