Minister Nomvula Mokonyane: Communications Dept Budget Vote 2018/19

10 May 2018

Address by the Minister of Communications, Ms Nomvula Mokonyane, on the occasion of the Department of Communications Budget Vote 3 in Parliament, Cape Town

Building a foundation for a delivery path…..

Honourable Speaker
Chairperson and Members of the Portfolio Committee on Communications
Chairperson and Members of the Portfolio Committee  on Telecommunication and Postal Services
Deputy Minister of Communications, Honorable Pinky Kekana 
Acting Director-General of the Department of Communications
Acting Director-General of the Government Communication and Information System
Chairpersons, board members and CEOs of State Owned Entities Senior Government Officials
Representatives of Industry Members of the media, here present Ladies and gentlemen

Preamble

It is indeed an honor for me to stand before you this afternoon to deliver my maiden speech as the Minister of Communications together with the Deputy Minister.

This budget vote represents the final leg in the 5-year mandate of the 5th administration of our democracy as given to the African National Congress by 62% of the South African electorate in 2014. We also marked 24 years of democracy last month and are moving towards the end of the Medium-Term Strategic Framework in 2019.

We are on a path towards realizing the genesis of a new epoch as we undertake the next 12 years by which we must achieve our national developmental objectives as set out in the National Development Plan (NDP) and Vision 2030.

Firstly, Honourable Chairperson allow me to pay tribute to all those stalwarts of the South African struggle against apartheid who we lost in the last few months, in particular Mama Winnie Nomzamo Madikizela- Mandela and Dr Zola Skweyiya.

Undoubtedly, their contribution to the struggle for freedom in our country was immeasurable. Theirs was a harder struggle of selflessness, dedication and sheer commitment to ensure that you and I enjoy the liberties we have today.

This year South Africa will be celebrating the lives of two other heroes, namely, the father of our liberation and the global epitome of human sacrifice, Nelson Mandela and Mama Albertina Sisulu. Government two days ago released the details on how we will celebrate these icons with our citizens and the world because they were indeed the Citizens of the World.

Honourable Chairperson,

This sector that has been at the forefront of our development and transformation during the transitional period, has significantly stagnated for reasons well known by many in the sector.

It is our responsibility, as industry and the public to ensure that we urgently revive it. This is a task we embrace with great humility, because we cannot do it alone. We require the support of this august house, the industry players, the media and more importantly, the members of the public for this sector exists to serve the public interests.

We need to digitise our country’s communications, broadcast, information dissemination and State Owned Entities, in order to connect a critical link of empowerment and information between South Africa and the progressive parts of the world that are leading major industries of the 4th Industrial Revolution.

When we consider the future of the global economy and try to position South Africa as a strong competitor, we have to use a picture that has not been formulated yet. The World Economic Forum estimates that 65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that don’t yet exist yet. Indeed as a country, we are at our own 'Moment of Opportunity.'

Our Context

Honourable members and colleagues, ours is only a transitional task given that in no less than a year the mandate of our current administration shall expire and the electorate shall go to the polls to elect a  new administration.

Our priorities and the commitments we make in this Budget Vote are modest, realistic and seek to build a strong foundation on which the next administration can deliver and take the industry forward to meet the urgent demands of the 4th industrial revolution.

The communications sector is however critical for the realization of much of our national interests and priorities. To achieve Vision 2030, it is through adequate and efficient communications infrastructure that we will be able to succeed in delivering to the needs of our people.

The President has also emphasized our renewed focus on eradicating poverty, and reducing unemployment and inequality. Our sector thus has a role to ensure that there is ease of doing business in our country and that there is inclusive growth within the sector for the benefit of new industries and economic rejuvenation.

Our budget and priorities

Our total budget for this Financial Year (2018/19) is R1.5 billion. This represents a R36 million cut from the previous Financial Year. 61% of the budget comprises transfers to the entities, with the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) receiving the biggest allocation to drive communication work, awareness and promotion of government services and programmes.

Our priorities in the next 10 months will be on 4 focus areas namely; creating a new vision for the Broadcast sector, accelerating the migration from analogue to digital, stabilizing our entities and the  SABC and improving organizational capacity.

In delivering on these priorities, we know we cannot do it alone. We require partnerships and collaboration with all the stakeholders, including the communities, the industry, Non-Governmental Organizations, academia and labour.

In particular, our continued relationship with the Department of Telecommunications & Postal Services (DTPS) is work in progress to ensure that we jointly drive the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector in a converged manner and avoid duplication, in overlapping areas such as regulatory oversight, spectrum, SMMEs development, international commitments and the envisaged Digital Revolution Commission as announced by the President of the Republic earlier in February 2018 during the SONA.

Creating as new vision for the broadcasting sector.

During the SONA 2018, the President wrote: "there are 57 million of us with different histories, languages, cultures, experiences views and interests." Broadcasting plays a critical and meaningful role in providing a window and platform through which these histories, languages, culture, experiences, views and interests can be expressed and shared. This underscores the importance of broadcasting as the sector that is at the heart of who we are - the sense of our identities!

It is thus important to revive it for this purpose and unlock its immense potential to attract investment, create jobs for our youth and bolster SMMEs.

Our work on the development of the new broadcasting policy will be accelerated. This policy will be comprehensive covering various aspects of the disrupted value chains and the impact of new technologies on this sector, including the tier broadcasting system, the role of the public broadcaster, the funding of community broadcasting services and institutional arrangements as well as State Owned Enterprise (SOE) reforms.

Getting DTT back on track and accelerating Analogue Switch-Off (ASO)

Fellow South Africans,

The whole world is moving to the modern digital era in all aspects. International advances in technology have brought new innovative and efficient means of improving communication systems for the benefit of consumers. In a similar way in which we saw the introduction of digital cellular phones replacing the old home based dial-up analogue telephones, television is similarly progressing into the more efficient and user friendly digital system. That is what digital migration is about. We all understand and appreciate the ease in which digital cell phones have improved communications for all, something that was not there twenty years ago.

Similarly, the migration from analogue to digital television will in the immediate to long term, bring similar benefits to all. More improved picture quality and enriched user experience are not the only benefits that migration to digital television will bring.

Currently our Digital Migration project has experienced challenges, hence more than 10 years since Cabinet approved the policy we are yet to migrate our broadcasting system to digital. This has become costly for the government and the industry.

Engagements with all the relevant stakeholders are ongoing and I commit to share our plans in due course.

Such plans will include the process of setting up an advisory council to bring in the technical know-how and insight in this area of expertise. We will also look into potential Public-Private Partnerships that could support our expedited migration to Digital through cost-effective and efficient means; and accompanied by a clear definition of roles and responsibilities for all.

We shall engage in a process of resource mobilization and the identification of alternative means which may support our intentions to expedite the migration to digital. We believe that strongly that a collaborative approach will be the catalyst required to ensure the success of Digital Migration.

Stabilising our SOEs and building the SABC of the future

As acknowledged by the President during the SONA there are lot of challenges in the SOEs environment. Our portfolio is no different, particularly acknowledging the events at the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) and the Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA).

While the SABC is on a gradual recovery following the appointment of the new board, a lot of work still needs to be done. We will work with the boards of these two entities to expedite the appointment of key personnel so as to provide for leadership certainty, improve accountability and internal controls.

Part of our focus is to also promote investment in the development and production of content in order to provide space for young, smart minds and stars to thrive within the sector. Ours is to ensure that we drive transformation within the sector to foster the emergence of a microcosm of our society in age, race and gender in the sector.

In respect of the SABC in particular, we are determined to restore the SABC to financial stability, editorial credibility and to  being a public broadcaster of integrity that supports our objectives of social-cohesion and nation-building. We want to really engage in intense conversation with South Africans on building the SABC to reflect the above objectives. While we understand that, part of this will be dealt with in the broader policy review process, the amount of issues require a focused discussion on the SABC as a public broadcasters in respect of its public mandate, scope and size, governance and accountability and how it should be funded.

Lessons from other countries have shown that this is an organization that is at the heart of who we are as a nation, and its issues should not be clouded with others. This is important in view of the inevitable changing broadcasting landscape of ubiquitous channels and over-The-Top (OTT) platforms used by the youth and the negative sentiments around TV license fees. However, must continue to encourage our people to pay their TV licenses in order to guarantee the sustainability of the services provided by the SABC.

Television remains the medium of choice for most South Africans. The public broadcaster’s three terrestrial television channels attract an average twenty seven million one hundred thousand (27.1 million) South Africans in a typical month. Seventeen of the Top 20 terrestrial television programmes in South Africa are carried on SABC channels.

A significant number of South Africans still depend solely on radio as a source of information. The SABC provides services to South Africans in their preferred languages by way of its eighteen (18) radio stations.

The SABC is at the centre of our broadcasting industry and its challenges do not augur well for our nation-building project.

Internally, as a department we will beef up our monitoring and oversight unit to ensure that there is adequate capacity to carry our stringent oversight. Functionality of the different forums such as the Chief Executive Officers and Director-General forum, policy, strategic planning, and Chief Financial Officers forum, will be resuscitated to ensure strategic alignment.

The forums will also ensure proactive detection of potential challenges early enough to alleviate them before they become unmanageable.

The signing of the governance instrument will be carried out early enough to ensure not only clarity on the roles and responsibilities of the Accounting Authority and the Executive Authority, but also to create an instrument that will regulate the relationship and hold entities accountable.

In March 2017, we published a Discussion Document on regulatory framework for community broadcasting services. In the coming financial year, Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) will develop regulations on community broadcasting services that will strengthen the community broadcasting regulatory framework.

ICASA will in this financial year also announce  its  decision on  the licensing process of Commercial Free to Air Television Broadcasting Service and Multiplex 3 spectrum licenses. The introduction of more players in the industry is aimed at increasing competition in the broadcasting sector and promoting diversity.

A discussion document on Digital Sound Broadcasting was published in March 2018 into expanding the regulatory scope for Digital Sound Broadcasting technologies for the purpose of accommodating additional sound broadcasters in conventional and other frequency bands.

As we prepare the sector and environment for new platforms and increased spectrum we are also cognizant of the need to protect children from exposure to harmful content and to provide  content advice  to consumers. The Film and Publications Bill that is currently before the National Council of Provinces and will go a long way in ensuring that our regulatory framework for online content is sufficient and effective.

Readying the sector for General elections                

Our sector is critical to the entire election process in terms of providing information to the voters, raising awareness and more importantly, providing platforms of democratic engagement by the parties contesting in the elections.

The Government Communications and Information System (GCIS) will assist government and the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) in driving campaigns around voter registration and Home Affairs on ensuring that citizens have the correct documents to vote.

As always the case, ICASA will review and ensure compliance with broadcasting regulations necessary including, election broadcast and advertisements, and equitable treatment of political parties by the broadcasters during the election period.

Community broadcasting will equally play a crucial role and it is important to ensure that it is ready to inform and educate communities. Given the high turnover of personnel in this sector, we in partnership with the MDDA, ICASA and other partners will conduct training for the sector on the rules of engagement for community radio journalists.

This is to familiarize them with the legislative and regulatory environment around the elections so that they can accurately inform the citizens, in their local languages for better participation in democracy.

We are also pleased that agreement was reached to reconnect fifteen community radio stations that were suspended by Sentech for non- payment of signal distribution fees. The agreement was reached after government met with Sentech, the National Community Radio Forum, the Media Development and Diversity Agency and the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa.

We have identified gaps in the regulation and support to community media by government and the relevant entities and will soon engage with the sector to identify and implement long-term solutions to these areas of joint concern.

We cannot allow the community media sector to collapse as we appreciate the role it plays as an entry point for talent and ideas, particularly for Africans, and its role in the transformation of the broadcast sector.

Honorable members,

This now brings me to the work of the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS).

We have identified key pillars to the communication processes of government namely, community engagements through izimbizo and government outreach programmes, media engagement through post cabinet and other briefings including social media interface, stakeholder engagement and partnerships.

We are pleased to say that the Government Communication Policy has also been finalised and it seeks to establish norms and standards to professionalise and strengthen the government communication system. This applies to communication coordination and use of alternative media across the three spheres of government and across government departments at a national level.

We are also happy to announce that Brand SA will continue providing critical support to government in promoting our country as an investment destination. This will be done to further bolster the commendable work of the President in this regard and that of the Special Envoys in presenting South Africa as a lucrative investment destination.

We are as such looking forward to the upcoming BRICS Summit and through the SABC, Brand SA and the GCIS we will be undertaking a comprehensive communications approach to positively market our country locally and internationally and to be the primary source of coverage and news from the summit for our people and international audiences.

Honorable members!

In conclusion, our response to some of the challenges referred to above builds on policies we have consistently pursued as government over the past decades: building a communication sector that is vibrant and sustainable to drive economic development, create jobs and empower our people.

We are geared to reassert the Department of Communications as the responsible arm of government for policy  development and implementation, regulation and oversight within the sector. Whilst we appreciate and promote the independence of the sector and associated freedoms, we are also cognisant of the need to ensure accountability and transparency by all.

We are guided by the National Development Plan which articulates that by 2030, South Africa’s rural communities should have greater opportunities to participate fully in the economic, social and political life of the country. Furthermore, it stipulates that South Africa needs to build a more  equitable society where opportunity  is  not defined  by  race, gender, class or religion. In this respect, people’s capabilities should be built through, amongst others, enabling access to employment and transforming ownership patterns of the economy.

We sincerely hope, these priorities will provide a foundation on which the next administration can build and fast-track our sector in the 4th industrial revolution.

Let me take this opportunity to thank the Deputy-Minister for her support and leadership in the department, the Portfolio Committee and the team at both the GCIS and DoC for their continued service to our people.

May I also extend a word of gratitude to Minister Siyabonga Cwele and his team at the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services for their support and collaboration in areas of common cause.

I am also indebted to the Board members and executives of our entities for their contribution to building a strong, capable and developing sector and who share with me the collective responsibility for the overall integrity and coherence of this Budget Vote.

As fittingly stated by Chairman Mao-Tse Tung, the father of the Chinese revolution; “Our duty is to hold ourselves responsible to the people. Every word, every act and every policy must conform to the people’s interest.” By your permission, Honourable Chairperson, I table the Budget Vote 3 for the Department of Communications.

Dankie!

Ngiyabonga!

Speeches: 
Year: 
2018
Speech date:: 
Thursday, May 10, 2018