Media Monitoring Africa is delighted with the withdrawal of the Public Service Broadcasting (PSB) Bill, and the commitment shown to proper consultation, review and research. We applaud the Department of Communications (DOC) and the Minister of Communications for engaging the public at the past PSB Bill hearings and for giving ear to the concerns and suggestions put forward, that has resulted in the withdrawal of the Bill.
MMA, in particular, welcomes the Ministers stated intentions to review existing research on the funding options of the SABC and community media, including economic modelling exercises, as well as a review of the 1998 White Paper on Broadcasting to ensure policy and legislative alignment and consistency. These undertakings will certainly be a leap in the right direction of re-moulding the dire financial and governance state of the SABC into a fully fledged ‘public service’ broadcaster that will deliver cutting edge local content, news and current affairs for all South African citizens.
However MMA urges that these consultations must critically include a proper policy review process that adopts a corrective action approach, or else the symptoms of the SABC woes will be temporarily remedied. MMA notes that the main objective of the PSB Bill was to address the instability and challenges of the SABC, hence a “quick-fix approach was adopted. The pillars of a proper policy review process includes proper, broad-based meaningful consultation with members of the public, research, planning and economic costing.
“Quick-fix” policy processes and remedies are a disservice to the South African public. The power and importance of the broadcasting sector as a public service as well as the institutional role of the SABC in realising citizen’s constitutional rights to receive and impart information cannot be underestimated. In the age of digitalization public service broadcasting occupies a fundamental space in providing South Africans with quality and diverse programming that will provide content for citizens rather then consumers.
In his first Media briefing, the Minister of Communications (Roy Padayachie, 11 November 2010) expressed the desire for the DOC to “understand and implement a culture of public service that is selfless and capable of sacrifice, knowing where people live, what they want and be ever ready to commit to delivery of the best service our people want”. The withdrawal of the Public Service Broadcasting Bill has certainly taken strides in serving the public and shown the seriousness of this commitment to delivering a public service that engages with the needs and concerns of the citizens.
MMA urges the Minister of Communications and the DOC to ensure that a comprehensive policy review process is undertaken, as a means of restoring credibility, trust and a sense of public ownership of the SABC and the delivery of a crucial public service by the broadcasting sector as a whole.
For more information contactPrinola Govenden Head Media Policy Media Monitoring Africa Formerly: Media Monitoring Project Mb: +2772 708 1320 Tel: +2711 788 1278 Fax: +2711 788 1289 or William Bird Director & Ashoka Fellow Media Monitoring Africa Formerly: Media Monitoring Project Mb: +2782 887 1370 Tel: +2711 788 1278 Fax: +2711 788 1289 PO Box 1560 Parklands 2121, Johannesburg South Africa www.mediamonitoringafrica.org