8 June 2015
Keynote Address by the Acting Director-General of GCIS, Donald Liphoko on the occasion of the launch of the 2014 Media Landscape Handbook
Our partners from the media industry,
Colleagues from academia,
Ladies and Gentlemen
It is indeed an honour and a privilege to be invited to address such an esteemed audience on the occasion of the launch of the Media Landscape 2014 – Celebrating 20 Years of South Africa’s Media.
I have no doubt that the editors, journalists, educators and communicators assembled here this evening all have stories to tell about how the media landscape has changed over the past 21 years of democracy.
The journey of the media in the first 20 years of our democracy has in many ways mirrored the country’s march to greater inclusivity. Media freedom is guaranteed, there is increasing media diversity, journalists work in an atmosphere without fear and intimidation; and, newsrooms have begun to reflect the face of our society. The media in all its forms have begun to transform; albeit too slowly in some cases.
There is still a lot of work that needs to be done if we are to have a media that is truly transformed – one that serves the interests of all South Africans and that will tell the South African story. Today, we are concerned that our print media industry is still dominated by the same large players who emerged in 1994. Media ownership needs to reflect the demographics of South African society. Media diversity also needs to be deepened with content that includes different viewpoints, that engages citizens in discussion and debate about this country and the future they would like to see.
I would argue that a change in the face on newsrooms and boardrooms alone will not lead to transformation of the media. We must see new voices emerging that reflect the glorious tapestry that makes up our diverse country.
We would all agree that our media have been free to fulfill its vital role over the past 21 years without hindrance or censure. An independent and free media is as important now as it was at the dawn of our democracy. Media are the prism through which we view our society, exposing the good, the bad, the challenges and shortcomings.
However, it must go further than this; our nation is still grappling with the crippling legacy of apartheid. Therefore the media has a duty to educate and inform. We all have a role to play in supporting and enhancing our young democracy.
Allow me to clearly state that the media’s vital role in exposing the wrongs and shining a light on issues that are vital to the public and to our democracy will never be in question.
However, the watchdog role in a developing state such as ours cannot merely be just a ‘checking function’. The role of media is to also ensure access to information which is essential to the health of our democracy and the development of our country.
It must ensure that citizens make responsible and informed choices, rather than acting out of ignorance or misinformation. I am sure you agree that the stories generated must contribute to our development by allowing South Africans to make better decisions or take advantage of opportunities.
Our journey over the last 21 years has been an inspiring one and the media has walked this journey every step of the way. Media Landscape 2014 captures various aspects of this journey. Each chapter in the book considers the media landscape from 1994 and reflects on how far we have come, while considering future challenges.
The views expressed in Media Landscape 2014 are truly diverse; they encompass a range of views and opinions about the constantly evolving print, broadcast and digital media space.
We trust that it will lead to broader debate on the media and communication in South Africa. It explores many pertinent issues such as media diversity, media ownership, the rise of social media, diversity in the media space and a raft of other topical issues.
The world as we know it is fast changing due to rapid technological advances. Twenty one years ago print and broadcast media reigned supreme. Today the reality is very different and media have to adopt to remain relevant in this brave new world.
Consumers are spoilt for choice in terms of media offerings. A multitude of news sources are freely available on the internet. The days where the realm of breaking news was the sole privilege of the media are also long gone. Social media in the guise of twitter, Instagram, Facebook, blogs and many others has made every person a potential journalist.
It is anyone’s guess what the media landscape will look like 20 years from now. I am of the view that it will be a hybrid of sorts, where print, broadcast and digital are aligned in a multimedia offering.
This brave new future will also see the rise of community and smaller independent media players. The fight for relevance in this future will be hard fought, a multitude of diverse offerings will no doubt all be vying to claim a share of voice.
Community media can drive this change by providing relevant and timely local content to the communities they serve. They are likely to become the conduit for continuous dialogue on a range of pressing issues.
In many respects the future is already here.
In March 2015 Cabinet approved the final amendments to the Broadcasting Digital Migration Policy which paved the way for the implementation of digital migration. Cabinet further approved that government should provide free set-top-boxes to the five million poor TV-owning households. This shift is a reflection of government’s commitment to ensure that digital migration happens within the shortest time possible.
Once the migration process is complete South Africans will have access to Digital Terrestrial Television. The migration will release valuable spectrum which will allow for more channels and more content to be broadcast in the same bandwidth as currently used by one analogue channel.
The availability of more television channels will lead to more demand for local content which will translate into growth for the local content industry. This will also spur the growth of the industry and lead to job creation. Furthermore, it will result in better quality sound on both radio and visuals on television.
The move also provides us with an opportunity to realise our vision of building a people centred and inclusive information society.
I want to thank all the writers whose hard work made the Media Landscape 2014 – Celebrating 20 Years of South Africa’s Media a reality. Your thought provoking work will no doubt stimulate conversations and debates on our media landscape 20 years into democracy.
It is a fascinating read that will assume pride of place in my own office. I have no doubt that my colleagues in the media, academia, civil society and in government will refer to it often.
Ladies and gentleman I present to you “Media Landscape 2014”. I am sure that it will provoke informed debate and discussion on the 20 years of the media in a democratic South Africa.
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