Minister Faith Muthambi addresses Free State communicators

14 November 2014

Speech notes for Minister Faith Muthambi to Communicators in the Free State

Today I would like to share my perspective with you on my expectations of government communicators given your challenges as well as sharing with you my perspective on digital migration challenges facing the country  

How do we tackle challenges faced by communicators in the province?

In order to tackle the challenges the following must be areas of focus:

  • Be tuned into developments at all levels of government. Our people will ask you about national issues as well and its crucial that the messages are consistent. Collaboration between DOC and yourselves to ensure that you are empowered is key.
  • Plan your communications in order to be proactive, Most of your communication must be one that you have initiated and not merely responding to. This speaks to setting the agenda and having up to date communications strategies. Please refer to the approach adopted by government in approving the current communications strategy.
  • Rapid Response is equally important. Many stories can be clarified easily if we responded rapid. I have noted your concerns about the availability of your principals. We have to design a mechanism that empowers communicators to deal with crisis.
  • The use of social media. We need to have a digital strategy that recognised that people we are trying to reach consume their information through digital media and platforms. Our communicators need to be on social media to defend the message of government . At the moment it is a free for all 
  • Collaboration with the SABC and MDDA in particular are crucial. MOUs with these organizations must be initiated urgently to ensure that we can improve information flow to our people.  I look forward to a specific report in this regard

Digital Migration

This week we have given the country an update about what we intend doing to unlock the issue of progress on digital migration. We will be ensuring that there is a conversation nationally. Its important that we locate this question within the challenges  that government is facing. 

South Africa is continuing in its journey towards total transformation of our broadcasting environment to ensure a much broadened access to information for all its people.

In 2008, government announced its intention to open the access of our broadcast platforms to enable the provision of digital and satellite television and radio to take off in our shores.

We must understand the significance of digital migration from a developmental and economic view point and not just from a technological advancement perspective.

However, much more has to be done to ensure that there is adequate infrastructure, requisite skills and cutting edge research capability before we can fully engage in this world class programme.

South Africa is ready to leapfrog from the age of analogue to digital, from the age of telephony based broadcasting to satellite and from the age of the past to that of the future. All our broadcast platforms from public broadcaster to community television and radio must benefit from this technological revolution.

The Information and Communication Technology (ICT) remains one of the fundamental cogs in the progress taking place in developing countries, propelling us decades ahead in a speed of light. We must accept that the effect of apartheid are still visible in all our various sectors including the ICT and unlike countries in the Europe and elsewhere, South Africa has to work twice as hard to keep up with the technological developments around the world.

This great migration will see ordinary South Africans able to change their lives, accessing information they need most to improve their own lives, enjoying world class entertainment and opening new markets for those in the broadcast space. In real terms what this means is that there will be more channels available for content producers to use to distribute their content, better access to the South African audiences by businesses and products and our quality of broadcast will be significantly improved.

It is this government’s aim to empower the community media sector and create an environment where community television and radio thrive and operate effectively using best business practices. This can happen if and when there has been proper convergence of our ICTs and having moved completely from analogue to digital terrestrial broadcasting.  

With digital migration we intend to increase our bandwidth as a country and allow more data transmission capability. More platforms must be able to plug in to South Africa’s capability with ease, allowing us to host any international event and broadcast to any part of the world. This will further confirm that South Africa indeed is a global player and appreciates the role of ICT in own economic development agenda.

Government is investing millions of Rands to bridge the digital divide that has existed for centuries and this task requires that all sectors of society partner in this effort to transform our broadcasting environment.

Part of this transformation will require much more than resource injection by government but a direct involvement by the business sector and meaningful investment in the development of skills for youth and women to participate in the ICT based businesses and take opportunities availed in the digital regime.

It will also require that we consider some policy changes that will allow not just the big business to partake in these opportunities but small and medium enterprises to find their space and enjoy the benefits of this transformation.  This shift has significant impact in the activities of production companies, technology based business and entrepreneurs interested in supporting broadcasting with technology and their knowhow.

The 2010 World Cup spearheaded the process of digital migration, helping us to put up necessary infrastructure to cope with the demands that come with this shift.

This infrastructure and experience will all be meaningless if we do not augment it with the skills base right at the community level where our people can get involve in broadcasting, participate in their local economies and fast track their own development.

As much as this migration to digital broadcast transmission technology is part of the globalisation of broadcasting, it remains rooted at community level. It is 

Communities through community media must be informed of development taking place in their local spaces, including about decisions taken by government to address service delivery challenges.

Community radio and television must be the platforms for community engagement on matters of social change, social cohesion and economic development.

These must be where community ideas are contested and consensus is found both about political and social issues that affect our communities.

We must see the opportunities that are brought to our communities by broadcast platforms to improve how our children learn by accessing education through television and radio. We must take these opportunities and ensure that the television tools in our homes do not just become tools for entertainment but for education too.

Communities that are active in agriculture must find it easy to access content that is going to assist them to be more productive and eventually become employers in their own small way. In this way, all of us we will be making that contribution in the growth of our own economy. Indeed this has a knock-on effect onto the economy of the country. 

Increasing our broadcast capacity will also help communities that require health education to be empowered with information they require to, and be safe from perishing because of ignorance from communicable diseases that could have been curbed by spreading more preventative information.

In developing countries such as India and Brazil, there has been a concerted effort to broaden the accessibility of media while improving the media infrastructure and ensuring digitalisation of their platform. However their success comes from the aggressive skilling of their people on technology based business and allowing them to take the opportunities that come with digital migration. In turn, these countries have been successful in closing the digital divide and information gap.  

When we achieve the multiplicity of channels that are promised by the complete digitalisation of our broadcast environment, we must expect a much more diversified media sector from the point of view of content as well as ownership. In this way, we are improving our competitiveness as a country.

 In the last week the minister of finance announced that due to global economic activities, we have had to revise our target for Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth from the 2.7% we had set ourselves in February to 1.4%. Despite this revision, we remain resolute that our economy must soon grow by 3%. The role of a better structured media as a result of the digital migration is critical in getting our economy where it must be. This task starts with ensuring that the community media is in the correct place, better accessible and allows for greater participation by all communities.

There has to be better partnership between the public broadcaster and the community media in ensuring that as we move towards digital migration, there is better possibility for capacity building, exchange of skills and sharing of best practices.

A synchronized relationship facilitated by the Media Diversity and Development Agency (MDDA) for purposes of transfer of skills to where they are needed at community level is going to be necessary as we forge ahead with this process. 

This must be seen, as minister Nhlanhla Nene said during his medium term budget statement, as a sector based intervention in the economic challenges that our country faces.

We must also see the opportunities that this process opens doors into the African continent. Our broadcasters are not operating in an island, but are part of the international community contributing to the information highway of the continent. Those with skills and the appetite for growth must seize these opportunities that our government is availing and ensure that with them, we are able to effect the necessary transformation not just of our broadcasting regime, but of our communities as a whole.

Issued by Department of Communications

Speeches: 
Year: 
2014
Speech date:: 
Friday, November 14, 2014