Joel Netshitenzhe - Interview: Media ownership - SAfm

12 May 1998

12 May 1998

TIME: 17:09

Abbreviations: JN: Joel Netshitenzhe (Head: GCIS) TM: Tim Modise (reporter)

The government is poised to formulate legislation to open up ownership and control in both the print and broadcast media. The Government's Communication Agency says diversity is urgently needed in media houses, community media and the advertising industry. However the opposition Democratic Party MP, Dean Smuts, has criticised the move. She says there is no justification for regulating the media. To tell us more about official plans to formulate a policy on media ownership, I am joined by Joel Netshitenzhe who heads the Government Communications and Information System. Mr Netshitenzhe, welcome to PM Live.

JN: Good Afternoon, Tim.

TM: Yes, Joel, why a need for a new agency...you are quoted as saying that government was also looking at setting up another agency that would help formulate policy on the distribution of resources to the community media.

JN: OK Tim what we said is that we will form a directorate in the Government Communication and Information System, in order to look at the issue of whether legislation is required in order to ensure diversity of ownership, not only of publishing, but also of distribution and printing. You'll remember Tim that the constitution guarantees SA citizens freedom of speech. And that means amongst others that they should not only have the right to access to information, but they should also have the right to have their voices heard. To have the where withal with which they can ensure that what they do in their own view are transmitted within society.

TM: People who are aware of your proposals will say, yes, South Africans are free to do that. But there is another proposal that you have come up with, and that is for levies to be placed on profits of commercial media to fund the community media. How does it work?

JN: What we are saying is that it is not good for our democracy that it is only the voices of the powerful and the rich which are heard. What you therefore require would be legislation or regulations that will ensure that government can assist community media, and other media which have got the potential to penetrate particular constituencies but do not have resources, because for instance they do not have advertising. We are also thinking of assisting work by commercial media themselves could contribute to the provision of resources to such media.

TM: And another proposal is that pressure should be applied on the advertising industry especially in how they go about procuring services.

JN: No we have not talked about any regulations applying to the advertising industry. We do not have a mandate to deal with that particular issue. But what we are saying is that as government, when we do advertise, when we conduct research, we will ensure that procurement is conducted in such a way that those who are disadvantaged can get some benefit.

TM: From the proposals that you have come up with, it sounds like that there are not enough regulations then to regulate the media in this country. We have got the idea, and we have different agencies. Why the need for a new one?

JN: The IBA definitely conduct part of the work we are referring to, and it has ensured that in the broadcasting industry you have a three tier structure of ownership, private, public as well as community. What we are saying is as in so far as the print media is concerned something needs to be done to ensure that there is as much diversity of voices as possible. This applies as I was saying to the ownership of the newspapers themselves, but it will also apply to distribution. I would need to add here, that the recommendations that we are referring to are not new at all. They are in fact contained in the Comtask report, whose recommendations were accepted by cabinet - it was made by people of integrity.

TM: Well Joel..

JN: And what they propose...I should add is that you would need to implement competitions policies as applies to all monopolies, which should also apply to the media..

TM: Let's leave it at that then Joel Netshitenzhe who heads the GCIS on the line to PM Live, and then later we hope to speak to Dean Smuts of the DP. They have already expressed their views on this and they remain opposed to those proposals.


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