Mandy de Waal
3 minute read
30 Jan 2012

Mantashe to whip media

Mandy de Waal

ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe will present the governing party’s long-awaited paper on media regulation to the Press Freedom Commission (PFC) tomorrow....

ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe will present the governing party’s long-awaited paper on media regulation to the Press Freedom Commission (PFC) tomorrow.

The commission kicked off its “Listening to SA Campaign” in Cape Town earlier this month and then moved to Durban.

Mantashe will be presenting the ANC’s submission at the Johannesburg public hearings, which take place from today until Wednesday in Braamfontein.

Submissions will also be heard from the DA, PAC, Azapo, the Public Protector and the Human Rights Commission.

Editors and media owners from SA’s big media houses will participate, as will individual journalists and members of the public. The commission was tight-lipped about the ANC’s submission.

“I have seen the submission so I know what they are going to say, but no … no,” said Mathatha Tsedu, the commission’s project director.

“I can’t talk about it because we took a decision that all submissions given to us are private until we get to the hearings.”

The ANC submission is expected to mirror the party’s 2010 discussion document called “Media transformation, ownership and diversity”, which was presented at the ruling party’s national general council in Durban.

At 20-pages long, the document questions the effectiveness of media self-regulation and moots a media appeals tribunal to regulate the press.

The absence of diverse media ownership in South Africa and a lack of media transformation are two issues that dominate the paper.

In its presentation made in Cape Town, Cosatu borrowed heavily from the ANC document, attacking ownership, control and content in the local media. Cosatu said print media in particular is 95% “owned by just three big, wealthy companies — Independent Newspapers, Avusa and Naspers”.

They all reflect the outlook and prejudices of the capitalist class that own them — pro-big business, the “free market” and private enterprise.

“We want a much more diverse press where ownership is spread more evenly between all sections of societies,” Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Craven told City Press.

“All of society should have access to means of communication, specifically print media.”

Craven said a lack of diversity resulted in a one-sided view of political issues.

“We think the question of ownership is a key issue. The ANC discussion document, which we quote quite a lot in our statement because it is such a good document, deals very much with ownership.

“It is strange that that shouldn’t feature in this debate, and I am sure it will come up in the ANC submission,” he said.

Media ownership isn’t on the commission’s agenda, which will only be dealing with issues of regulation.

Set up by Print Media SA and the SA National Editors Forum (Sanef) in mid-2011, the PFC was the print industry’s response to the ANC’s call for a tribunal, and is an attempt to ensure that press freedom, deemed crucial to democracy, is protected.

The commission is midway through its process and has already received 200 submissions.

A body independent of the print industry, the commission is chaired by former chief justice Pius Langa, who has government’s blessing to be a part of the process. Other commissioners include former marketing heavyweight Santie Botha, Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town Thabo Makgoba, and Business Unity South Africa’s Futhi Mtoba.

Once all submissions have been received and heard, the commissioners will go into a huddle to review the evidence. A draft report will be written and presented to Print Media SA and Sanef.

“Once that is done that is the end of the road for the commission, we can switch off the lights and go home,” said Tsedu.

What the process means for self-regulation and the ANC’s proposed media appeals tribunal depends a lot on what Mantashe says tomorrow. — City Press.