Community media in the spotlight at summit

Monday, July 30, 2018

Tough decisions need to be made if community media are to be at the centre of society again, says Communications Deputy Minister Pinky Kekana.

“Sometimes, to implement a solution, one will have to make hard decisions and serious trade-offs. If we want community voices to thrive we must do exactly that,” Kekana said.

The Deputy Minister was speaking at the Community Media Summit currently underway in Boksburg.

The two-day summit brings all sectors of community media, including print, radio, television and multi-media, and government and relevant stakeholders under one roof to explore new and innovative solutions to the challenges facing the sector for the short, medium and long-term.

Organised by the Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA), together with the Department of Communications and other entities, the summit is being held under the theme: “Taking community media to the future”.

In her opening remarks, Kekana noted that the Thuma Mina moment requires the country to move beyond just speaking about problems.

“We are now required to make decisions, but most importantly implement them with speed. We are now here to say how best do we implement the remedies required for the sector to thrive,” she said.

During interactions with various community practitioners, the department found media are faced with a number of challenges which require both state intervention and communal intervention.

The Deputy Minister said the anti-competitive behaviour of dominant firms in the print media sector had the net effect of stifling both diversity and growth.

“Furthermore, in our interactions with various community practitioners, we have discovered that the question of building sustainable projects within community is not often given enough attention. These are serious issues which require government’s immediate attention, for the simple reason that media plurality is an integral part of our nation’s development.”

Information sharing in native languages

The Deputy Minister emphasised that information sharing in native languages assists in creating mediums for the development of content and the honing of skills.

A functional community media platform sets the bar for strong broadcasting and print economic value chain, Kekana said.  

A study commissioned by the National Film and Video Foundation revealed that creative industries have the ability to stimulate economic growth and contribute to the national development agenda, as government looks to diversify various parts of the economy as per the vision in the National Development Plan.

The Deputy Minister reiterated that the fourth industrial revolution has created a means for one to watch broadcasts and listen to radio on other devices other than TV and radio respectively.

“In the case of print media, one no longer consumes news in the form of a newspapers only anymore, social media and online news sites are now a means of engaging with the world around you.

“Community media finds itself in this space, whilst trying to fill a void which is left by the traditionally established media platforms,” she said.

Regulate media industry

Speaking on behalf of the Gauteng Premier, Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi stressed the need to regulate the media industry.

“We have a power to regulate and we must regulate unashamedly. We must not be scared because if people give us a mandate to govern and we don’t govern, they might take away that particular mandate one day.”

Lesufi challenged government to prioritise community radio stations and play a role in empowering them.

“Government printers must enter into a relationship with community newspapers because these newspapers have to go to these commercial institutions and be charged them commercial charges just to print the newspapers. We need to use the muscle of the state, and the muscle of the state is government printers,” Lesufi said.

Fourth Industrial Revolution

MDDA Board Chairperson Norman Munzhelele said as the country prepares for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the media sector should find its place and be able to participate meaningfully in ensuring people continue to have access to information.

“We need to ensure that the solutions that we found here, find permanence within government in ensuring that there’s proper policy and a regulatory environment to ensure that we sustain this important sector of our economy,” Munzhelele said. –