Urgent Call to Extend Deadline for Public Service Broadcasting Bill

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PRESS RELEASE: URGENT CALL FOR DEADLINE ON SUBMISSIONS TO CONTROVERSIAL PUBLIC SERVICE BROADCASTING BILL TO CHANGE

Issued by: Media Monitoring Africa
Date: December 1 2009

Media policy watchdog Media Monitoring Africa, together with the SOS Supporting Public Broadcasting Coalition, is imploring the South African government for a reasonable extension to the deadline for public submissions on the proposed controversial Public Service Broadcasting Bill, from December 7 to the end of March 2010.

The Bill proposes a number of fundamental changes to the public service broadcasting and community media environment, and based on this, MMA and the SOS Coalition argue that it would be in the interests of all affected by it to take the time necessary to debate, discuss, research and address the various proposals included in it.

Among other important issues:

– The Bill includes two new charters – one for the SABC and one for community broadcasting.
– The Bill aligns broadcasting to the “developmental goals of the Republic” and the developmental state. Previously broadcasting was aligned to the Constitution.
– The Bill introduces fundamental shifts to the broadcasting funding environment. It calls for the scrapping of TV licence fees and for amendments to the Income Tax Act, 1962, to ensure that up to 1% of personal income tax is set aside for public broadcasting.
– In terms of funding, it introduces a new Public Service Broadcasting Fund to be administered by the Media Development and Diversity Agency, requiring that the MDDA Act is amended. The Fund is mandated to finance a wide-ranging set of functions, including the public service division of the SABC (together with regional television and international broadcasting services),  content development, community broadcasting services, and signal distribution. The MDDA at present funds small commercial and community media and is specifically barred from getting involved in editorial independence issues.
– The Bill introduces far-reaching new powers for the Minister of Communications. The Minister can now issue directives to the SABC and community media on “any matter connected to public service broadcasting” if the entity is unable to “perform its functions as prescribed in this Act”.
– Previously the SABC was split into two divisions – public and public-commercial. The SABC is now to be divided into three separate divisions – public, commercial and international.
– Sentech has now been designated as the common signal distribution carrier, requiring amendments to the Electronic Communications Act, 2005.
– Finally, and very importantly, community media’s role has now been reconceptualised. A new Charter has been introduced for the community media sector specifying the ways in which the community media sector needs to be organised. Further, the Bill ensures community media forge partnerships with their local municipalities.

Media Monitoring Africa is requesting the South African government to not rush public submissions into this key piece of proposed legislation, given the complexity of the changes proposed.

We are running a campaign on our website, https://www.mediamonitoringafrica.org, launched today, for all interested to submit a simple electronic letter to the Director General of Communication, Mamodupi Mohlala, requesting for the deadline to be extended.

For more information, or to get involved contact: William Bird, Director, Media Monitoring Africa
Mb: +2782 887 1370, Tel: +2711 788 1278, Fax: +2711 788 1289 https://www.mediamonitoringafrica.org.

Send a letter now!

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