GCIS budget vote 2004: Media Development and Diversity Agency


15 June 2004

"Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, which includes:
 

  • freedom of the press and other media
  • freedom to receive or impart information or ideas."

South African Bill of Rights, Article 16

Introduction

Honourable Chairperson and Members of Parliament

I thank you for granting the Media Development and Diversity Agency the opportunity to address this House. We feel truly honoured for the opportunity to highlight what we have achieved since the Board's inaugural meeting in January last year (2003) and share with you our plans and vision for the future. We look forward to a constructive and ongoing dialogue with Parliament that will strengthen our strategies to ensure that all South Africans have access to a choice of media in their preferred language.

Before commencing with our input, I would like to introduce the team from MDDA - I am Kanyi Mkonza the Chairperson of the Board of the Agency. With me is Tony Trew, another member of the Board, the CEO of the Agency, Libby Lloyd and the Finance Manager Annand Chaytoo. We would have liked, Chairperson, to bring a bigger team, but circumstances do not allow us that privilege. We however assure you that we have the support of the entire board in this submission today.
The establishment of the MDDA is the culmination of many dreams for an Agency that would recognise that viability of media should not only be determined by the LSM status of the audience and its ability to therefore attract advertising. This would limit many South Africans' ability to exercise their right to participate fully in our democracy - a right that can only be fully realized with access to diverse information.

There are great expectations of the MDDA - hopes which we are committed to trying to realize wherever possible. However, in our planning we have had to recognise that, given our resources, we will not be able to provide extensive funding to each and every media project, deserving or not. We have therefore focused not on how we can meet all expectations, but rather what we need to prioritise and how we should intervene to create an enabling environment for media development.

The First year .and a bit

In order to contextualise our strategies, we need to reflect on our achievements so far - during the first year and a bit of our existence. We will first look at highlights.

Highlights

  • Establishing the Agency:

For the first eight months of our existence, we contracted the services of a Project Manager to assist us with the setting up of the Agency. The CEO and other senior staff were employed between August and November last year. As can be seen from the organogram in the powerpoint presentation, we have focused on keeping the team small in order to limit administration costs - with a maximum of 9 staff posts.

We have finalised all internal policies and systems in line with the Public Finance Management Act and have set up offices in Newtown Johannesburg.

We would like to highlight that we managed to achieve our commitment to prudent financial expenditure on administration. Whilst the regulations specify that we should spend up to 35% of the budget on administration in the first year, we have managed to expend under 27% of income on operational costs.
 

  • Developing regulations to determine criteria and other support.

The MDDA Act requires that the Agency develop regulations setting out the criteria for support and stipulating the percentages of budget to be spent on different activities. In July last year draft regulations were published for public comment. Altogether 22 different organisations and individuals responded to the regulations. In October 2003, the Minister promulgated regulations in consultation with the MDDA.

According to the regulations at least 60% of grant money available will go to community media projects, 25% to small commercial media and 5% to research projects. The regulations further capped administration costs to 35% in the first year and 25% thereafter.
 

  • Researching the needs:

In April last year we commissioned research into the status of the community and small commercial media sector (both print and radio) and the challenges faced. On the slide you can see some of the findings of this research - including confirmation of the urban bias of media initiatives. We have brought with us today copies of the research so you can consider the more in depth findings. As with much research, one of the conclusions is the need to do more research.

It has became clear to us that we need to now map out gaps in coverage of public and commercial operators to determine those areas where little or no other media exists. This is being done together with the Department of Communications.
 

  • Strategising for success

In December last year we developed a three-year strategic plan, determining our plans, and detailing funding principles as well as the grant making cycle which will be utilised to ensure efficiency.

The Strategic Plan outlines priorities for support and identifies what we will and won't be able to fund - given the resources available to us. These guidelines will be reviewed regularly taking into consideration the needs of the sector, analysis of the impact of the MDDA on media development and diversity and funds available.

In line with this, and in order to ensure a fair and transparent decision-making process, the MDDA has developed a grant-making tool kit - including templates for assessing applications, contracting partners and monitoring and evaluation tools.
 

  • Disbursing grants

In November 2003, we issued the first call for applications - setting a deadline for proposals at the beginning of January 2004. This was in line with the commitment we had made in our launching press conference, that we would start providing support by the end of the first year.

Despite the application period falling over the December holiday season, we received a total of 27 applications for support. At the end of January the Board made decisions on which projects to support. In line with our rolling application process (decisions are taken quarterly), the Board made further decisions on applications on the 29th of April this year.

On the power point presentation we have provided details of each of the projects that we will partner. In summary, we have approved support for 19 different projects since January this year. A further two projects have received in principle approval pending clarification of their needs and we are awaiting further information from another five media entities. We have refused 24 applications - primarily either as they came from unlicensed radio stations or because they did not meet the criteria in the regulations. We try to give detailed reasons for any refusal so that projects can if possible correct any problems and reapply.

The total amount granted so far amounts to just over R3.6 million. Altogether we have been asked for close to R40m with some individual projects asking for as much as R5m. Through our application process we work together with applicants to fine tune their priorities. The average grant provided amounts to roughly R200 000.
 

  • One of the objectives set by the Board in its first year of operation, was to collect the funds pledged by broadcasting and print stakeholders to the MDDA in terms of MoU's with the Minister in the Presidency. According to these MOU's, the major print and broadcasting entities agreed to support the MDDA for five years.

The Board was tasked with the responsibility of converting these into funding agreements. Funding partners of course wanted to see the regulations prior to discussing any such agreements. The Board thus started negotiations on draft Funding Agreements in November 2003.

We are pleased to say that we have concluded these discussions with the print partners and the agreement is currently being signed. We are saddened, however, at the possible loss of the NAIL contribution due to the sale of their media assets.

We are currently in discussions with the different broadcasters. We are truly grateful for the support and commitment of the commercial and public sector media partners to the partnership.

Other Support

The MDDA is also tasked with providing indirect support - including leveraging resources. Whilst during the year under review, the focus was on setting up the Agency and developing the framework for disbursement of grants, the following were also achieved.
 

  • Marketing Workshops

The Advertising Media Association of South Africa (AMASA) and the Advertising Media Forum (AMF) have agreed to partner the MDDA in hosting workshops on marketing for small commercial and community media. The first of these workshops will be held in Johannesburg in July with others held later this year in Cape Town and Durban. As far as we know this is the first time that such organisations such as the AMF and AMASA have participated so actively in providing such support to the sector. We see this as the beginning of the process of addressing difficulties the sector faces in attracting advertising.
 

  • Leveraging support

The MDDA successfully intervened with the South African Revenue Services (SARS) on behalf of a Johannesburg based community radio station to prevent the station from being closed down. The station was in arrears with its tax payments and due to be closed down the following day when they appealed to the MDDA. SARS at very short notice provided more time to the station to develop a plan to pay back the money owed.
 

  • Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA)

The MDDA and ICASA have agreed to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding in order to ensure we work together where possible to achieve our mandates of increasing diversity in the electronic media.
 

  • Department of Communications (DoC)

The Department of Communications (DoC), amongst other things, provides support to install equipment in community radio stations around South Africa. The Agency and Department have agreed to have ongoing discussions to ensure that we do not duplicate activities in order to ensure maximum impact in the use of public funds to support the sector. The DoC has further agreed to include the MDDA on any committees evaluating applications for studio equipment.

Future Priorities

Introduction

The emphasis in the current financial year (2004-2005) will be on implementing and streamlining our systems and policies to ensure efficient distribution of funds and support. In subsequent years we plan to focus on addressing environmental problems proactively.

Our strategic plan has have been guided by the MDDA Act, the research we have conducted, learnings from other grant makers (including the Open Society Foundation and the Department of Communications), and obviously the resources available to us.

We have received R7m from government for this financial year. Further, in terms of the funding agreements with major print and broadcasting stakeholders we project a further income of up to R9m - resulting in an overall budget of about R16m.

Strategic Objectives

We have developed long term strategic objectives which will assist us in measuring our impact. See the slide in front of you now. We are currently involved in determining the baselines for these measurements.

Towards the end of 2006 we will begin to evaluate the impact of our support towards sustainability. Prior to this we will conduct regular performance reviews - measuring our performance against our plans and targets, and will evaluate the effectiveness of our procedures and systems at the end of this financial year.

Considering these strategic objectives, we have developed an operational plan outlining activities that would assist us in reaching these goals. These are defined in the business plan which was distributed prior to this gathering. We would however like to highlight the following priorities:

Continued support for community and small commercial media projects

This is one of the key objectives of the MDDA Act. We should though perhaps highlight our approach in this regard:
 

  • We are about to issue a closed tender for a Information Management/Project Tracking system which will capture the grant making process and assist efficiency. This system we envisage will further enable us to extract data from all applications in order to assist us in assessing for example, the number of women in projects, rural versus urban bias, inclusion of disability etc. This in turn will guide us on evaluating our effectiveness.
  • The MDDA has decided it will be both reactive and proactive. Whilst responding to applications in quarterly cycles, the Agency will in this year begin to explore support for the development of key projects which will assist in creating an enabling environment for media development. It must be highlighted that effective proactive support is not a quick fix. In order to develop a sustainable approach we must ensure sector involvement in determining the approach and outcomes.
  • One of the projects we have already commenced with is looking at ways to resolve difficulties with confirming audience and readership figures. This impacts on the ability of projects to attract advertising and potentially the relevance of their content. We will soon be hosting a round table discussion on this matter in order to assess the best means of intervention. The Open Society Foundation has expressed an interest in working together with the MDDA in this regard. We have also enlisted the support of the SAARF.
  • External factors also affect our capacity to build the sector. With regards to radio and television, for example, the capacity to absorb funds is determined by the number of licences available. We have been liaising with ICASA on creative ways to begin the process of ensuring licensing in areas where there is little or no other media available. They are committed to this but limited by lack of resources (including time).
  • We have decided to explore matching grants where possible. This means that we encourage the communities themselves to provide support. So for example in Moletjie Village, we have agreed to provide building materials and the community radio station has pledged to involve the community the actual building of studios on land which has been donated by the local chief.
  • In the last few weeks we have received applications from groups focusing on addressing issues of disability. We have still to assess these, but want to work together with organisations for people with disabilities on formulating guidelines to increase access to the media as well as using media to raise awareness on disability issues in communities. When we come back to you next year, we hope to able to report progress on this and other areas.

Indirect Support/Leveraging Support

We are planning to investigate how we can partner with an institution to provide low interest loans to the sector. We will explore different institutions, including other entities established by government to provide support to SMME's and organisations such as SAMDEV set up by Misa to provide low interest loans to media in Southern Africa. We want to ensure that in this process we share risk with any such other institutions. This project will commence this year but is likely to be implemented fully only in the forthcoming year.

The Agency has also identified the need to establish partnerships with other funding organisations supporting the media, in order to increase the impact of grant making organisations. In this regard want to assist in reviving the media funders forum which was established to comment on the discussion paper on establishment of the MDDA.

We further want in the long term to begin discussions with other grant makers in South Africa who currently do not provide support to media. In this regard we want to interact with them to discuss the provision of communications budgets to other community and non profit organisations. In this way we can ensure more community participation in local media and perhaps encourage cost sharing between community organisations and media projects.

Partnerships

We have begun engaging with the National Media in Education Initiative - initiated by the National Film and Video Foundation and the Film and Publications Board. This Initiative is exploring ways of developing media awareness and analytical media thinking amongst school children and communities.

We have further begun developing a relationship with the Print Industries Cluster Council which is supported by the Department of Arts and Culture to impact on the publishing and printing industry. We are considering ways that we can use media to promote reading amongst communities - an objective contained in both of our founding documents.

We also want liaise closely with our current funding partners to tap into the wealth of skills they have - particularly in the area of training.

More resources

The Agency will focus throughout the next three years on garnering additional financial support for the Agency.

In this regard we have already begun developing an investment strategy with the aim of hopefully eventually covering our administration costs through interest earned.

We will commence this year with trying to garner additional financial support from international donors.

Mentors

We have started with the process of developing a database of mentors. We have made a public call for organisations and individuals to submit their names to the MDDA for inclusion on this database. It is envisaged that it will include people and/or organisations with a range of skills such as audience research, journalism, financial management, and organisational development, community participation etc. Such mentors will assist projects in developing plans for sustainability and in enhancing their performance and corporate governance structures.

Communication

The MDDA Act defines two areas of communication for the Agency:
- Raising public awareness about media development and diversity, and
- Ensuring the MDDA's activities are known to the public

Both are critical to the successful implementation of the MDDA's mandate of developing a diverse media responsive to the needs of all South Africans.

We have currently communicated about our programmes using existing media and other networks. We want to progressively expand this, balancing the need to communicate broadly, our approach of prioritising rural and underserved communities and the resources available to us.

We have decided therefore to target communication strategically - focusing on those areas where there is currently little or no media, whilst continuing to work with existing media networks and other community structures to ensure our activities are known. We will utilise the SABC public radio stations to assist in distributing information.

Our targeted communication approach has as previously stated elicited requests of just over R40m compared to our support budget for this year of about R12m. As we find our feet and develop capacity to process growing numbers of applications and as funds increase we will adjust our communication strategy accordingly.

Conclusion

In developing our strategic plan we have grappled with the knowledge that it might be easy to hand out money but difficult to really make a difference. Essentially what does it mean to be a development agency?

Those communities most in need do not necessarily easily find out about the programmes of the MDDA or are able to quickly draft comprehensive applications. If we hand out money on a first come first served basis, we could be in danger of providing support only to already existing media organisations and find that three years down the line whilst we have expended our budget we have not necessarily increased diversity. This awareness will continue to influence our operations.

We are also cogniscant of the need to grapple with the best ways to ensure media really does meet all audiences' needs. This includes not only providing support to media dealing with disabilities or with gender but ensuring disability and gender issues are mainstreamed into all media. We need to ensure we do this in a way that ensures projects adopt these values themselves, and do not just make paper commitments in order to secure funds.

It is important whilst doing this to make sure that sustainability is at the core of all media that we support.

We have achieved much of what we set out to do during the 2003/2004 financial year. Our focus for the next financial year will be on streamlining the process of disbursement of grants. We need to make sure that new media projects develop and thrive, whilst strengthening existing projects.

Thank you

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Year: 
2004
Speech date:: 
Tuesday, June 15, 2004