We've come to mark a milestone in a journey whose destination is still a long way off. Yet, we derive pride from the fact that we have trudged the first few miles, and we have the will and energy to continue. This is not a time for long speeches or many words.
The words that must give meaning to this occasion are embodied in the Values Statement. And so in that sense the occasion speaks for itself
But it would be right to remind ourselves of the road we have traveled to this point. This signing is in reality neither a culmination nor a beginning. Like all milestones it tells us both how far we have come and how far we must still go.
The Portfolio Committee on Communications, having heard repeated complaints that advertisers related inequitably to different stations, decided to go and investigate for itself.
What it discovered in the field persuaded it to call the public hearings on the Advertising and Marketing Industry in October 2001, where all role-players in the industry were invited.
From those hearings sprang the joint consultative process which government was delegated to convene. As it proceeded, its scope widened and deepened, looking in depth at patterns of advertising expenditure; chains of decision-making that led from marketing to media; the segmentation tools used in research; education and training for the industry, the regulatory frameworks, representivity in employment, ownership and procurement - and at the drafting of a Values Statement
When all those involved reassembled before the Portfolio Committee a year later, there emerged a consensus that there had been progress, but not enough; that things were moving, but not fast enough.
Orchids and onions, it should be said, went to government too. The hearings also highlighted gaps in government's approach. Although patterns of expenditure on advertising, measured by comparing the profile of media audiences against the population, were significantly better than the situation for private sector ad spend, it was not yet what it should have been.
From the Committee's hearings consensus was reached that the process should continue, taking advantage of the conditions that had been created for faster and more focused change.
As we undertook at the hearings, the relevant departments will soon brief Cabinet and table proposals on a framework for transformation, including targets, time-frames, mechanisms and processes - all of which will be informed by consultations across the industry.
But without waiting for this to happen, government is also seeking to address some of the challenges highlighted in the hearings. For example attention is already being paid to further shifting advertising expenditure in the direction of combinations of media that have wider reach.
The South Africa Advertising Research Federation's Media Group Measures is, we are told, in part a response to the obvious need to plan media use in a manner that conveys messages to all targeted groups. I must say that our heads are still reeling from the requirement this instrument imposes on us to look at things almost upside down as it were, as dependent variables become independent and vice versa. But we will persist! These old dogs can still learn new tricks!
The Strategy for Broad-Based Economic Empowerment and the Bill which is now entering into public discussion brings a new framework for transformation throughout our economy. We are convinced that this industry has firmly located itself within that framework. However, as we proceed, we will need to address challenges of methodology thrown up by the BEE process, including such issues as the balanced scorecard, social responsibility and other imperatives, which are meant to make BEE truly broad-based.
The current review of consumer policy and consumer law will assist progress in addressing the regulatory framework for advertising and marketing.
And we do know that various things are also happening within the industry.
As such we can say with confidence that there is progress. We are not marking time.
What is critical is that together we keep focused, maintain the momentum and pick up the pace of change.
Today's event takes us to a new qualitative level. The bodies whose representatives are here to sign the statement will cascade it down through their members to reach the sector as a whole.
Because government is itself a player in the industry, even if in proportional terms a relatively small one, we too are here from a number of departments to sign and commit.
Those who said that this ceremony should take place today also took the view that work should start on preparations for the mid-year plenary to assess progress.
Although the values in the statement may seem quite intangible, if taken to their logical conclusion, they translate into commitments to bring about changes in advertising expenditure; procurement patterns; representivity; training and skills development; regulatory framework and local content.
Tonight as we disperse, the worker-bees will be getting down to work in a committee room next door. Their task is to ensure that by the time the mid-year meeting takes place there will be concrete proposals on the way forward.
The journey has begun: there is no going back. All of us are here because we are of the firm conviction that, in many respects, the advertising and marketing industry can and will be one of the lodestars in the process to change SA for the better.
I thank you
Issued by: Government Communications (GCIS)