Posts Tagged ‘South Africa’
- Published on Thursday, 15 May 2014 14:50
- Vanessa Malila
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The Mellon project on Media and Citizenship recently hosted a workshop on citizenship for young people who are part of a local youth development group. These are young people that we often call the ‘born frees’, who were born after the end of apartheid, and born into the privilege of ‘democracy’. And this is the problem I have with this term and with the presumptions we make about young people in South Africa today. I myself have often referred to them as born frees, as a generation unburdened by apartheid, and as a generation that should be grateful for the privileges it has in living in a democratic South Africa. After engaging with this particular group of young people, I realize that there are two serious issues with these presumptions.
The first is that we presume the born frees understand their rights and responsibilities as citizens and therefore are equipped to take advantage of their position in the new South Africa. The second is that, having moved away from an apartheid government through democratic processes, we presume that young people are free to enjoy their lives in a democratic society. I think at this stage in South Africa both are unfortunately not necessarily true and we presume too much about these young people.
Let me address the first presumption through the example of the workshop that we hosted. We arrived on a cold and rainy Grahamstown morning at the Joza Youth Hub, situated in Joza township on the outskirts of Grahamstown. A group of approximately 18 young people from local high schools were gathered for their annual holiday programme run by the Upstart project, of which they are all members. The aim of the workshop was to engage the young people in discussions about citizenship, democracy, voting, being and feeling heard, and the issues that affect their daily lives. As the Mellon project we devised a workshop where we would facilitate these discussions through role-playing. The participants were divided into groups and asked to form their own ‘political party’ which would then have to create a manifesto, communicate their manifesto to the other participants, and finally all participants would vote for the party they thought would best be able to make positive changes in their communities. It seemed simple enough. The problem, and what made me think very carefully about the presumptions I make, is that many of these young people had no idea about the formal processes inherent in a democracy such as voting, the responsibilities of citizens and the responsibilities of governments. Their manifesto’s generally mirrored the rhetoric we hear from political parties before big elections – false promises and grand gestures.
The basic problem is that without any formal and critical citizenship or civic education in the school system, young people today are ignorant about the processes which allow them to be ‘free’. They don’t understand the voting process, they don’t understand their rights as citizens and that voting is just one way of getting heard by politicians. These are not people who are free to choose how they are governed because they don’t know the alternatives and therefore can only choose what they know – the status quo. Even if issues such as active citizenship and democratic processes are being taught in schools, they are not effective in engendering a deeper understanding of the process which allows young people to question and debate what is going on around them.
The second problem has less to do with young people and more to do with society in general, and the problem is that too often we think that once a country is declared a democracy that democracy has been achieved. It hasn’t. We are not born citizens, it is a status that we learn, that we act upon, that we are given by the state, and that we demand through our rights and responsibilities in the communities we occupy. But I think that our identity as citizens is never fully achieved because the circumstances of our daily lives are in constant flux. There is always something that tips the balance against a perfect equilibrium of rights and responsibility, and the balance between citizen and democracy. Chipkin argues that “people precedes democracy” and without an understanding of what it means to be a citizen, there cannot be a clear understanding of what our democracy should look like. Although this is a broader problem, young people today are expected to take up their position as citizens, born frees who understand what it means to live in a democracy and therefore behave in a democratic way. But how can they? They are not adequately taught what it means to be a citizen and strive for democracy, and as Chipkin argues “the question of democracy has to be posed in the contexts of colonialism, class polarization, racial domination, ethnic fragmentation and patriarchal violence”. It certainly cannot be divorced from our past regardless of how young you are and how lucky you are to be born after 1994.
The issues that many of these young people’s parents grappled with when they were the same age are the same issues voiced by these young people during the workshop. The issues they deal with on a daily basis include the lack of clean, accessible running water; proper sanitation; adequate schooling and bursaries to pursue tertiary education; adequate and safe housing; lack of employment; and electricity in their homes. How can we presume these born frees are privileged to now live in a democracy, when they live through the same issues that their parents lived through during apartheid. And even worse, how can we presume they are now privileged enough to be able to change their situations when they in fact feel helpless, powerless, and certainly not ‘free’ enough to do something/anything about their problems.
Many of these young people’s citizenship is at risk. Not because they are not South African citizens, but because they don’t have the agency to take up their citizenship in a way that ensures a continued challenge to the status quo. Their citizenship is at risk because they do not know what it means to be a citizen or the associated rights and responsibilities. As a result of this, they are not born frees.
I can’t use the ‘I didn’t know excuse’ for the second time
- Published on Monday, 21 October 2013 11:48
- Anthea Garman
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Although the Hewitt’s experience Mamelodi for a Month has been written and talked about (and hit the front pages of newspapers around the world), I heard about it last week when Julian Hewitt came to Rhodes University to talk at the invitation of Prof Pedro Tabensky.
In case you need a bit of info: Hewitt is one of those people who calls himself a “social entrepreneur” and he and his wife Ena and their two children, four-year-old Julia and two-year-old Jessica, decamped to a corrugated iron shack costing R170 a month in Phomolong informal settlement in Mamelodi to spend a month living there on R3000 (the median SA household income). If you go to the New York Times article you’ll see the aerial photos showing just how close the Hewitt’s home in a gated community is to Phomolong and how dense by contrast the living is in the squatter settlement.
I knew what some of the reactions to this venture would be (for instance see this Thought Leader piece by Sibusiso Tshabalala) but I was drawn to his talk because I’ve had my own Mamelodi experience and I was interested to find out about his.
My experience of Mamelodi dates to 1985 when casspirs surrounded the township and you needed permission from the police to get in. Ds Nico Smith who had moved into the township and was living there legitimately on church land as the minister of a congregation deliberately set up the encounters to get white South Africans to come into townships and meet fellow South Africans and get to know them. Hundreds of us from all over South Africa descended on the township and were smuggled in via the back routes and housed with willing families who were as curious about us as we were about them.
I had many of these kinds of experiences during the last half of the 80s when freedom and democracy seemed very far away, but when various people in the churches were already thinking about how segregated South Africans were ever going to live with each other if they knew almost nothing of each other’s lives and ideas. Cedric Nunn, the photographer who is at Rhodes as a Senior Mellon Scholar, reminded me this week that the churches were playing a very particular role in that time when most organisations were either banned or paralysed by apartheid repression.
Those encounters and conversations had profound effects on me. As a young adult I made decisive choices about where to put my energies and convictions as a result of speaking to and hearing black South Africans on their home turf.
When I listen to Julian I get some of the impetus that drove them into the township. The smothering love of families that want to keep you and your children safe from harm; the dinner table conversations that blame, blame, blame (the poor if not the government); the endless talk of ‘entitlement’ and decay; the powerful sense that we are cocooned in a white world.
But it seems that the strongest reason was the simplest; Julian says if his two daughters are to make a home in South Africa in the future then they have to know, feel comfortable and connected to all South Africans. “To be a responsible parent, I don’t want my children disconnected from social realities,” he said.
But there’s another: Julian is a Christian and while he is not an evangelist, he asked the audience one simple question: “Do you think if Jesus came back today he would be living in a suburb or a township?” He seeks ways to “make my faith real” against the attitude of many whites that “I pay my taxes” and therefore have no further responsibility to do anything else.
He reminded me that gestures of solidarity, reaching across divides and extending oneself to find out and understand were important features of the churches’ activities in the late 80s and how we arrested that process and called a halt when the larger political events overtook us.
But he also had pointed comments to make: “The second transition is coming our way, the economic transition. As a white South African I cannot for the second time use the excuse ‘I did not know’. I must expose myself to the context.”
The result has been “a whole new lens” on life in South Africa for the majority of people, and Julian says “it’s a burden, it’s hard to integrate and translate this knowledge”.
When the Hewitts returned home, the day they arrived a tree in their garden was uprooted by a storm and fell over, clearing the view between their house and Phomolong. A giant township light fitting which worked intermittently while they were there, can now be seen shining brightly from their house. Julian takes it as a symbol of connection to their neighbours and community in Phomolong.
For the Rhodes audience he summed up the lessons he takes from the experience:
- Newsworthiness = national disconnect. The irony that a white family living for a short time the way the majority of South Africans live all the time being news is clear to him. The way this is reported, he says, shows a powerful disconnection from that reality. And of the role of the media in shaping public opinion, he says: “Oh my word, this was so not the kind of message I wanted to send out.”
- Transport costs are the highest costs and eat nearly half of everyone’s income in townships. This is a political problem that needs addressing. For Julian to get to his office from Phomolong cost R37 on the Gautrain and R45 by taxi. Taxis need to be subsidised. Transport costs are a massive disincentive to look for work which is far away.
- In response to the criticism levelled at this from of ‘slum tourism’: “the critic isn’t in the ring, the acid test is how we were received by the community we lived in”.
- South Africa needs new levels of leadership: open-minded and open-hearted, able to create empowering environments for resourceful communities.
- If we don’t create the conversations, the context will create them.
- Small things matter; the way you carry through your humanity.
Young South African’s – Actively Disengaged
- Published on Wednesday, 09 October 2013 09:50
- Vanessa Malila
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“I have never voted … I don’t see the use of voting.”
These are the words of one young South African that we spoke to in 2012. This young person was not the only one however, in the group of more than 80 people that we spoke to, who had a negative perception of voting. Many of these ‘born frees’ were disillusioned with the process, regarded it as a waste of their time because they thought that putting their X on the page would have very little effect. They saw the process as simply not being able to change either the way politics played out nationally in South Africa, or more importantly in changing the situations which made their daily lives difficult. Things like unemployment, drugs, crime, teenage pregnancy – these are the issues many young people regarded as important to them, and they felt that their vote would make little, if any, difference to those same problems.
“Ja, personally I’ve lost trust in politicians, and the last time I voted was 2006”
For a long time I thought this made these young people disconnected from society, and disengaged from what was going on around them nationally and locally. The rhetoric which I read about young people distancing themselves from politics and therefore not being ‘active’ citizens was reinforced by the way our focus group participants spoke about politics. Traditional forms of politics such as voting, attending political meetings and signing petitions have for too long been regarded as the standard by which we judge others and their value as citizens. If you don’t vote, are you really an active and engaged citizen? If you aren’t a member of a political party, can you really say you have an interest in politics? But why should young people find resonance in the rhetoric of political speak which too often does not speak directly to them or listen to them enough? We need to recognise instead that there is a clear distinction between being disengaged and disinterested in formal or traditional politics, and being detached from wider democratic and political processes which may be represented by alternative political and civic activities. Wring et al note rather astutely when speaking about young people, that “politics’ as represented by parties and politicians simply does not connect with their everyday lives in any meaningful way” (Wring, Henn & Weinstein 1999: 203).
Too often we base our judgements of citizenship on the traditional, without thinking about what appeals to young people. Based on traditional norms or standards of what an active citizen is most of the young people we spoke to would be immediately judged as passive and disinterested – as bad citizens. Hart argues, that rather than judge people based on these norms and standards, we should use a ‘cultural citizenship’ approach which “seeks to uncover and challenge the cultural and institutional practises that support fixed notions or normative assumptions of ‘ideal’ citizenship, which serve to exclude citizens who may differ from these norms, for example, in terms of identity, culture or beliefs” (2009: 645).
Drawing on survey data gathered from almost 1000 young people (http://www.ru.ac.za/media/rhodesuniversity/digitalpublications/Sanpad%20Report%202013/#/0), we see a picture of a young person who is involved in their community, and who takes an interest in what is going on around them. Although they may not participate in traditional forms of political activity, they have connections with social life and are indeed ‘active’ citizens in their own way. Their lived experiences show us that while they disregard formal politics, they show a strong regard for the people around them and for improving their lives. We need to judge young people based on the practices which take place in their daily lives such as helping a neighbour or being involved in a social group and not disregard them based on our ‘adult’ and traditional measures.
With so much emphasis being placed on 2014 as the year that South Africa’s democracy turns 20, and the year of the next national elections, young people should be proud of their citizenship and should be looked up to as good citizens, whether they vote or not. Unlike many people who regard themselves as good citizens for standing in a queue every four years to vote, these young people live active citizenship because they practice small acts in their daily lives. During the National Schools Festival in 2012, the Mellon Media and Citizenship project conducted World Café sessions with young people who attended and we asked them their thoughts on being citizens in South Africa. Below are some of the messages that the young people wrote to each other. It is clear that these are not the disengaged and disconnected youth that many citizenship scholars write about. Over and above the optimism about South Africa’s future (perhaps as a result of naivety), there was an overwhelming sense of action and taking charge of their situations, being involve in their communities, and of getting things done – these were active, engaged and ‘good’ citizens.
- Published on Wednesday, 17 April 2013 08:19
- Anthea Garman
- 0 Comments
Whitewash backwash: a response to the “unbearable boringness of the whiteness debate”
By Anthea Garman
The first conference on whiteness as a research topic was held at the University of Johannesburg in March and while most of its participants were academics with interests in the subject who will probably only publish in academic journals, it has entered the public light of day with a column written by City Press editor Ferial Haffajee in which she proclaimed that as a result of her hour or so at the conference that she has gone from being bored with the discussion of whiteness to being “viscerally opposed” to the time and money it takes up.
It was a bit of a shock for the researchers present to hear Haffajee express herself in these uncompromising terms. She was followed as a key note speaker by Prof Sarah Nuttall, the new director of the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (Wiser), who was also critical of the conference’s aims and intentions, but for slightly different reasons.
Media & Citizenship 2013 Roundtable
- Published on Wednesday, 20 March 2013 09:17
- The Editor
- 0 Comments
The Mellon Media and Citizenship Project recently presented a paper at the Media & Citizenship 2013 Colloquium hosted by Unisa’s Department of Communication Science. Here are recorded snippets of all of the presentations made at the Colloquium. The full papers will be published later in the year in a special edition of Communicatio: The South African Journal for Communication Theory and Research.
The following presentations were made at the colloquium, click on the link to hear short audio excerpts of each presentation, with the abstract of each paper below the title.
Making meaning of citizenship: citizens’ use of the media in South Africa’s democratic evolution – Prof Anthea Garman, Prof Herman Wasserman, Dr Vanessa Malila, Marietjie Oelofsen
In 1994 South Africans embarked on a project to create new meanings of citizenship in order to transcend the disenfranchisement and divisions created by apartheid. This paper will look at the context in which new forms of citizenship are evolving in South Africa and how South African citizens use the media to give meaning to concepts such as “an active public sphere”, “civic agency” and “participatory politics”. The objective of the research is to provide information about the way in which the media contribute to the quality of democracy in South Africa through mediating citizenship in a way that improves prospects for citizens to “exert influence over public decisions by combining with others who share their values or interests” (Friedman, 2010:117). Robins, Cornwall and Von Lieres insist that to research citizenship and democracy the starting point must be the ‘the perspectives of citizens themselves’ (2008: 1069) and whether active citizenship is realised in their everyday lives. Despite the ‘normative vision’ of citizenship that asserts engagement with the state via the mediated public sphere, in reality citizens do not always manage to acquire new political identities by claiming their democratic rights (2008: 1071). As has been the case in other post-colonial settings, the continuation of existing unequal relationships to government persist even when new democratic spaces have opened up.
In order to engage with the attitudes and perceptions of young South Africans on their relationship with citizenship and the media, and the relationship between these two, the Media and Citizenship project conducted focus groups using the the Afrobarometer and Sanpad survey findings, which were largely quantitative, to draw out qualitative data from the focus group participants. The focus groups have been conducted in contrasting environments across South Africa in order to draw in participants from a range of geographic, socio-economic and political backgrounds. The majority of the focus groups took place in the Eastern Cape, within four towns which have been selected on the basis of the fact that they all have a university, as well as an informal location/township. Within these four towns there are also rural and urban divisions so that two of the towns are largely urban (Port Elizabeth and East London) and two are largely rural (Grahamstown and Alice). Within each town, two focus groups will be conducted – one within the university and one within the township. In addition to these focus groups within the Eastern Cape, four focus groups were conducted in Gauteng in order to widen the scope of the research and the data set.
The notion that the media are central to citizens’ political and civic engagements is a central question within this research. This research aims to move away from the assumed notion that the media are central to individuals construction of citizenship and that through consumption and use of media, audiences are influenced in their participation and engagement with democratic processes. Instead, it will evaluate participation, agency and voice within democratic processes to find out whether this has any relationship to media consumption.
Formation of citizenship through talk radio participation – Joyce Omwoha
Citizenship is an evolving idea and practice. Nonetheless the citizenship situation in Kenya, as in the world, is evolving but remains controversially state-centric. Citizenship thus remains a less understood practice as a concept of belonging; contested in practice. This paper aims at investigating the relationship between the concept of mediated citizenship and participation through talk radio deliberation. It offers an analysis of the
content mediated through public discourses by determining the way in which participants draw their identities through different topics articulated in Jambo Kenya talk show aired ion Radio Citizen in Kenya. It also focuses on how the call in listeners gain access to this media space, referred to as a “mediated arena of contestation” Pinto J and Hughes S. (2011, 1).
The concept of citizenship has brought lots of debates in both the electronic and the print media in Kenya. These citizenships, although subconsciously, are formed through Jambo Kenya as a mediated public sphere for articulating issues of democracy and good governance. The audiences are like minded people creating citizenships as identities through themes debated out in the show. These themes are those surrounding
citizenship and their lived experiences.
The findings of this paper, carried out through a thematic content analysis, suggests that participation is important when government officials take audience debates as a means to social change because it is an important aspect that citizens need in a democracy. This is evident in the similarity of the caller’s comments and thoughts on different themes articulated in the show. Wahl-Jorgensen (2006, 199) believes that citizenship
should be thought about as a national thing (not universalistic). As problematic as the idea of citizenship might be, “citizenship cannot merely be an empty vessel into which we pour all our hopes and dreams-or alternatively, our nightmares. We also ought to retain the principle that political efficacy matters to citizenship”. This is how talk radio Jambo Kenya offers an avenue for participation as a right to achieve democracy and offering knowledge, despite its shortcomings.
Media, citizenship and identity: The challenges for journalism education and training in the digital future(s) – Dr Gabriel Botma
This article evaluates the particular challenges that journalism education and training are facing in an era to which Hartley (2012) refers as (the) “digital future(s)”. Particularly the traditional dual role of journalism schools, to prepare students to became industry workers and servants of the public interest, will be assessed in light of changes to and the reconceptualising of journalism practice and theory.
On the use of play theory in analyses of online public commentary – Prof Marc Caldwell
This paper contests empiricist (as in ‘natural science’) and instrumentalist biases that prevail in sampling evidence of public opinion in studies of citizenship and identity on grounds that they derive from an implausible philosophical anthropology. As such, the paper offers an argument for Stephenson’s Play Theory that may be a viable alternative to those given in the literature of communication methodology generally, and public opinion
in particular. The paper posits that appeals Huizinga’s ludenic influence in Stephenson do not offer good enough reasons to take him as seriously as his theory deserves. Instead, the neglected influence that Thomas Szasz had on Stephenson offers far more cogent reasons, particularly in critical scholarship that draws on the Romantic legacy in modernity. To support the argument, the paper provides a discussion of Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor’s criticism of epistology and other similar elements that make up Stephenson’s
The nation, nation-building and diversity: What is the role of the media in all this? – Prof Elirea Bornman
This paper explores the concepts and discourses regarding the nation, nation-building and civic solidarity in particular with regard to diverse societies. Attention is given to different conceptualisations of the concept “nation” which coincides with diverging viewpoints on nation-building and how nation-building should be approached as well as different models on how civic solidarity could be achieved in heterogeneous societies. A distinction is drawn between Jacobinistic and syncretistic approaches towards nation-building as well as
between constitutional patriotism, liberal nationalism and deep diversity as models for achieving feelings of belonging, patriotism and social cohesion in heterogeneous societies. Attention is furthermore given to diverging viewpoints of sub-national groups (ethnic or racial groups) within these approaches as well as the implications of the concomitant strategies for such groups. Nation-building in Africa and South Africa – and the
implications thereof for sub-national groups – are furthermore considered. In the last instance the role of the media in nation-building, on the one hand, and the accommodation of diversity, on the other, are considered. The article ends with a number of conclusions and recommendations for South Africa as well as other heterogeneous societies in Africa.
Who is South African/Who is African? A re-reading of Thabo Mbeki’s ‘I’m an African’ speech in the context of the banned (later unbanned) Nando’s TV commercial – Dr Nyasha Mboti
On the 1st of June 2012 flame-grilled chicken company Nando’s released a 52-second advert under its so called ‘Diversity’ campaign. The advert shows people of various races and ethnicities vaporising into thin air one after the other, leaving a lone San Bushman in traditional clothing who declares ‘I’m not going anywhere. You f*#@ng found us here’ and runs off into the distance with his bow and arrows. SABC, DStv and eTV initially banned the advert, citing fears of xenophobic backlash. In May 1996 South Africa’s former president Thabo Mbeki, who was deputy president at the time, delivered a speech at the adoption of the South Africa Constitution Bill in Cape Town. The speech, which has become known as the ‘I am an African’ speech, begins with the words ‘I am an African’, a phrase which is repeated five times during the speech. In the speech Mbeki
appears to codify ‘Africanness’ into a consciousness not just of history but a shared history: he is a child and grandson, he says, of the Khoi and San from the Cape, migrants from Europe, Malay slaves from the East, ‘warrior’ men and women whom Hintsa and Sekhukhune led, the ‘patriots’ that Cetshwayo and Mphephu led into battle, soldiers of Moshoeshoe and Ngungunyane; remembering that he is a child of Nongqause, he
mentions Isandhlwana, Khartoum, Ghana, Ashanti, the Berbers of the desert, the Boer graves at St Helena and the Bahamas, India, China, Liberia, Somalia, the Sudan, Burundi and Algeria. The conceptual reach of his speech seems to imply that everyone who may share South Africa’s history is somehow South African and African – men, women, children, the old, the disabled, taxi drivers, farmers, migrants, the dead, the living,
ancestors, warriors of old, the formerly enslaved and colonised, the former colonisers, liberators, liberated, former foes, beggars, prostitutes, street children, people across the oceans. In short, everyone is South African and African! The paper argues that the Mbeki speech and the Nando’s advert, taken together, force us to explore the richness and poverty of citizenship in South Africa and Africa, and the potential benefits as well
as the potential pitfalls and contradictions of claiming South African and African citizenship in this way. The paper uses textual analysis of Mbeki’s speech to read the Nando’s commercial and vice versa. The context is supplied by a sampling of twenty-two randomly selected online comments from the News24 website.
The media and the projection of Africans as the “child race” – Dr Simphiwe Sesanti
For enslavers and colonialists to justify the degrading and dehumanizing treatment of Africans in Africa and abroad, they had to invent the notion that Africans were irrational sub-human beings. While the struggle for freedom enabled a discourse that sought to repel such misconceptions, the task of eradicating the misrepresentation of the African image and personality was not fully accomplished. The coverage and analysis following the Marikana massacre, whose reportage revealed that a certain muti had man encouraged South African mine workers to confront police guns with the assurance that the muti would make them invincible to police bullets, exposed that some in the media continue to see Africans as uncritical superstitious beings. The South African media, failed to embark on a mission to unmask the “medicine man”. Instead the media exposed Africans to appear as gullible and irrational. This article argues that an initiative on the part of the media to investigate the “medicine man” would have revealed whether or not the “medicine man” existed. Beyond that an investigation would have given the media an opportunity to interrogate the basis of these claims if they existed at all.
‘Fatty Boom Boom’: Die Antwoord’s Blackface misogyny – Dr Adam Haupt
I will interrogate what the concepts of democracy and social justice mean in relation to neo-liberal economics in SA as well as arguments about social media’s assumed potential for democratisation. I will argue that Die Antwoord’s global appeal tell us a great deal about the continued appeal of colonial discourse and I will also contend that newer forms of media technology do not necessarily narrow divides, but potentially widen them.
Toward a measurement tool for the monitoring of media diversity and pluralism in South Africa and other developing countries – Prof Jane Duncan & Dr Julie Reid
In September 2011 the parliamentary portfolio committee on communications held the first of a series of indabas on diversity and transformation within the print media sector of South Africa. The second such indaba was hosted in March 2012. Discussions focussed on a perceived lack of plurality of ownership of the South African print media sector, and a resultant lack of diversity of content. In 2012 the portfolio committee began to
voice commitment to the notion of the development of a print media charter in order to assist in the facilitation of the transformation of the print sector and to encourage a more pluralistic and diverse print media within the country.
In response to these debates, the Media Policy and Democracy Project (MPDP), a collaborative research initiative between the Department of Communication Science at UNISA and the School of Journalism and Media Studies at Rhodes University, conducted an analysis of media diversity measurement tools and metrics developed in foreign countries, with a view to developing a tool which would be appropriate for the
South African media environment. Before media policies, regulations or a charter on print media diversity can be drafted for South Africa, it is important to reliably and accurately assess the actual levels of print media plurality of ownership and diversity of content, if the interventionist measures of a charter or new regulation are to be of significant effect, of benefit to media users and best serve the public interest. Resultantly, a media
diversity and plurality measurement tool must necessarily be developed which would determine and reflect the level of plurality and diversity within the South African print sector, and one which is sensitive to the contextual nuances of the South African media landscape and particular media audience socio-economic conditions.
A number of foreign research initiatives have already developed detailed and rigorous media diversity and pluralism measurement monitors, and the MPDP endeavoured to glean from such research activities strategies which could be put to potential use in the analysis of the South African media sector. All of the foreign media diversity measurement tools and metrics which were investigated as part of this project, operated according to the normative understanding that a diversity of content in the media is important to
society and to democracy, and should reflect the widest range of cultural and political ideas possible, because the media is integral to the individual’s formulation of ideas and opinions. The competing of divergent information, opinions and ideas within the media landscape are widely considered a valued method for the promotion and preservation of a healthy democratic socio-political space within society. Additionally, the media,
and the news media genre in particular, are understood to be at the nucleus of society(ies) because of how they disseminate information to mass audiences, thus informing and enabling the citizenry with the information that it needs to actively participate in political or civic action. Such normative understandings of the importance of media diversity and/or pluralism within a democracy highlight the media policy maker’s concern with the
monitoring of media diversity.
However, if we are to operate from this theoretical starting point, then a markedly different approach to the measuring of media diversity may be required in developing countries such as South Africa. All of the media diversity measurement tools and metrics assessed for this study originated in developed (mostly European) countries, where audience barriers to mass media access are far lower than in developing countries, and were constructed for use in mature democracies. While many aspects and tactics for the
monitoring of media diversity can be appropriated from foreign media diversity measurement tools, there are also many local complexities which such foreign-developed tools do not address. The MPDP’s ongoing study therefore aims to develop a media diversity measurement tool which addresses aspects which may not be necessary to consider in developed countries, but which are imperative within the context of developing
countries, particularly from the position of the citizen’s ability/inability to engage with the media. Crucial to such concerns is an inversion of the view from which to assess media diversity. While the foreign models assessed for this study, without exception, begin with an appraisal of media ownership and market share, in developing countries it may be more appropriate to begin at the opposite end of the media value chain by considering audience access to media, and media availability. It is one matter to measure the
diversity of content within a particular print media publication, but the importance of that analysis must be jointly determined by the accessibility (in addition to the availability) of the publication to which/what audience. Furthermore, the accessibility of print media publications is traditionally low in developing countries amongst large sections of the citizenry, who rather depend on the free-to-air broadcast media for most of their information needs.
Therefore, it may be nonsensical in developing countries to measure the plurality and diversity of the print media sector in isolation of the rest of the media landscape, as many foreign measurement metrics have done, and which the parliamentary portfolio committee of communications in South Africa has suggested. Increasing the diversity and plurality of the print sector only, will potentially have limited benefits with regard to
the normative ideals of increasing the citizen’s access to a divergent collection of competing ideas/opinions, if the widest portion of the citizenry does not have access to much of the print media. A holistic view which involves an assessment of all available media, and each media platform’s availability and accessibility (and to which audiences), is necessary to address concerns over the extent to which the citizenry is enabled to
receive a diverse range of opinions and ideas via media platforms.
@SOS_ZA_#SABC: Civic engagement and the negotiation of media policy – Dr Viola Milton
Much have been written about the SABC – the South African Broadcasting Corporation – over the years and scholars such as Ruth Teer- Tomaselli (1995, 1998, 2001, 2008) and Pieter J Fourie () and Jeanette Minnie (2000) provide a comprehensive overview of its development and significance as South Africa’s public (service) broadcaster. This paper takes a slightly different approach towards historicising the SABC by exploring the ways in which civil society – through social media networks – makes sense of the SABC’s
cultural, industrial, economic and legislative encounters. It deals more with “talk about” the SABC and the laws that govern it, than it does the broadcaster itself, arguing with Newcomb (2000, p. 13), that these discourses reveal how changes in television (in this case public (service) broadcasting) have exposed the multiple mechanisms and practices that go into the making and distributing of television in any historical moment, and
that one result of this exposure is the discussion of television-making as a complex process of cultural, industrial, economic, aesthetic, legislative, and individual encounters. Looking at media and citizenship from the vantage-point of civic engagement, this paper argues that social media act as a central site for the production, management and sharing of media activism and the negotiation of media policy. It therefore considers the changing legislative framework for the SABC from the viewpoint of social media, civil society and
civic discourse, asking in short, “how are transformations in the Broadcasting Act and recent crises at the SABC explored and discursively constructed by civil society through their involvement in social media networks?24” To this end, the focus here will be primarily on the negotiations regarding amendments to the South African Broadcasting Act as it pertains to Public (Service) Broadcasting.