Zuma reports back to local musicians, artists

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma met with local musicians and artists on Tuesday to report back on how government was addressing the challenges they had raised in an earlier meeting.

Some of the longstanding challenges faced by the industry include broadcasting content, intellectual property rights, industry unity, piracy in the industry and that artists are not properly recognised as workers.

First on the President's list of measures taken to address their concerns included a study conducted by the Department of Labour to determine if workers in the industry received the labour benefits and protection they were entitled to.

"Representations we have received from musicians, actors and other artists is that if they were to be defined as workers, it would open the way for them to access basic benefits such as employer subsidized medical aid and pension," said the President.

Working with the Creative Workers Union of South Africa, government is also working to finalise an affordable social security product such as a pension for the entertainment industry as a whole.

Zuma said the Department of Communications was working on a Local Content Development Strategy, with the intention of increasing local content quotas for broadcasting stations. This would mean that artists would receive more airplay or broadcast.

Calling it a "thorny issue" for many artists, Zuma said that artists were being denied much-needed exposure and that the platform to develop and promote local talent and culture was closed at the moment.

However, he said that while government wanted to expand their exposure, artists should not misrepresent South Africa's culture for commercial gain, describing it as harmful and unacceptable.

He urged the industry to form "collecting societies" to strengthen the artists' bargaining power in controlling the usage of their copyright.

Currently, the only collecting societies that were regulated locally were the ones that collect only for "needle-time" royalty, that is whenever a broadcaster plays the song of a musician, royalties would be paid.

The Department of Trade and Industry is also conducting studies on intellectual property, which Zuma said will take them a step further in dealing with the challenges. The Intellectual Property Laws Amendment Bill, which is expected to be placed before Parliament soon, will also assist in resolving these concerns.

Zuma said government was working to stamp out the incidence of piracy in the industry, with an increasing number of operations across the country, arrests and convictions. To date, South African Revenue Service (SARS) has seized illicit goods over the value of R13 million.

SARS is also working to combat counterfeiting within the entertainment industry to detect and stop the importation, manufacture and distribution as well as the sale of counterfeit and pirate music and film products.

The President urged musicians to unite under one umbrella organisation.

"It makes it difficult to work with the sector as there is no single structure that government should work with. Unity will also enable artists to engage the industry, especially recording company to discuss desired transformation.

"We know that this sector is very individualistic, but working as individuals will not improve your bargaining power."

The musicians welcomed a meeting with the President saying it was long overdue.

"The creative industry plays an important role in terms of job creation and skills development. We welcome this meeting," President of the South African Roadies Association Freddy Nyathela told BuaNews.

Zuma, who was accompanied by several cabinet ministers, first met with the industry in November 2008 then in April this year.

The Department of Arts and Culture has indicated that it intends to convene a wider industry session next year.