21 June 2013
The creation and maintenance of vibrant and viable community and small commercial media is a necessary part of transforming South Africa’s media industry and empowering currently marginalised communities in and beyond urban centres.
Rural communities that are under-serviced by large-scale commercial media – which are generally concentrated in major cities and towns – have limited access to public information and are limited in adding their views and aspirations to public discourse in the country.
These were among the insights that underpinned a historic Community and Small Commercial Media Forum held in Pretoria on June 20 and 21, 2013, convened jointly by the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) and its agency, the Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA).
The Forum reflected on the state of community and small commercial media in the country, and the success of MDDA interventions and initiatives in this area over the past decade. The Forum also looked at how GCIS and the MDDA could improve its collaboration with this part of the media sector, and how community and small commercial media could collaborate better to grow the sector and involve a greater number of South Africans.
The Forum was opened by Collins Chabane, Minister in the Presidency for Performance Monitoring and Evaluation, as well as Administration, and presentations were made by the sector representative bodies, the National Community Radio Forum, the Association of Independent Publishers and the Association of Community Television South Africa.
The Forum formed part of the 10th anniversary of the MDDA which has since 1993 supported more than 480 media projects countrywide, focusing on historically disadvantaged communities, using indigenous languages.
The Forum acknowledged that media diversity had developed tremendously over the past decade, compared to the position at the time of the MDDA’s establishment. The Forum noted that while a lot had changed, a lot still needed to be done.
Among the participants in the two-day Forum were the 20-year-old National Community Radio Forum whose member stations inform and entertain 25 per cent (around 8,7 million listeners) of the national radio audience of 36 million, and the Association of Community Television South Africa which represents new entrants to the television market with a combined estimated viewership of 10 million people who watch community TV at least once in a four-week period.
Another constituency was the Association of Independent Publishers, which represents 230 small, community-based, grassroots publishers around South Africa who collectively produce 3,2 million newspapers annually.
The Community and Small Commercial Media Forum at the GCIS Head Office at Tshedimosetso House, Hatfield, reflected on the success of the MDDA’s developmental initiatives in the past decade and probed a diverse range of challenges facing community and small commercial media, from skills development, sustainability, government funding and advertising revenue, to distribution networks, content development and appropriate technology.
GCIS also briefed the Forum on government’s wish that community and small commercial media function as sustainable businesses, and government’s support for such media through the MDDA and through paying for advertising space or airtime in such media. In the past two financial years, government advertising totalling R60 million was allocated to community and small commercial media.
The Department of Trade and Industry invited participants to use the Cooperatives Incentive Scheme for the media sector and other DTI incentives to help develop skills, infrastructure and management capability in media enterprises.
Minister Chabane said the context in which the MDDA opened offices a decade ago was one “in which we appreciated that while public media documented the inequalities and divisions of our past, the media sector itself was a site of struggle for many, where exclusion, inequality and underdevelopment manifested just like it did in so many other sectors and walks of life”.
Minister Chabane also said that while government supported community and small commercial media in various ways, these media had to comply with the administrative rules governing this support. At the same time, community and small commercial media had to guard against becoming mouthpieces for government as this would undermine the very purpose of trying to establish a greater diversity of views and voices around the country.
A formal report on the Forum will be shared with Parliament through the Portfolio Committee on Communications. Importantly, this report will provide a roadmap on how all partners concerned will strengthen the sector.
Issued by: Government Communication and Information System