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Address by chairperson of the Portfolio Committee of Communications, Hon. S.E Kholwane

2013 GCIS Budget vote
Honourable Chairperson
Honourable Minister & Deputy Minister of Performance, Monitoring and Evaluation and Administration, Collins Chabane & Obed Bapela
Honourable Members of the House and Members of Cabinet present
Members of the Portfolio Committee on Communications
Acting CEO of GCIS Ms Pumla Williams
Chairperson and CEO of MDDA Ms Phelisa Nkomo and Mr Lumko Mtimde
Senior Government officials present
Members of the media and distinguished guests

It is my privilege and honour to introduce this budget vote debate on behalf of the Portfolio Committee on Communications.

The capacity to communicate effectively with constituents is a fundamental function of modern governance. A key aspect of governance is how citizens, leaders and public institutions relate to each other in order to make change happen. Without communication structures and processes which enable the two-way exchange of information between the state and its citizens, it is difficult to imagine how states can be responsive to public needs and expectations.

Consultation and involvement of the public in the work of government through opening up communication channels can be considered as a basic pre-requisite in government transparency.

Communication represents an important function of government, responsible for improving three principle elements of government, being:
  • effectiveness - which is building broad support and legitimacy for programs;
  • responsiveness - which relates to knowing citizens needs and responding to them; and
  • accountability - which pertains to explaining government stewardship and providing mechanisms to hold government accountable.
Communication is not a one-way tool, but a participative engagement between government and its citizens. Honourable Minister, enhanced citizen participation, which is enabled by effective public communication, is a key indicator of effective government communication. Therefore, government communication is more than just developing effective spokespeople, it also involves the provision of customer oriented services and building capacity for citizens to provide government with feedback in respect of these services. Fostering a collaborative approach and optimally using technological platforms is catalytic for engaging citizens in a knowledge economy which we strive to become.

On this day in 1754, journalist Benjamin Franklin printed the first political cartoon in American history - a woodcut of a severed snake entitled "Join or Die". Franklin's cartoon in the Pennsylvania Gazette depicted the British North American colonies as a snake cut into eight segments, with each segment designated with an initial of a separate colony or a region as in the case of New England. An editorial discussing the "disunited state" of the colonies accompanied the cartoon, clearly suggesting that in light of the clear and present danger posed by the French and Native Americans to their security, the colonies faced a critical decision-to unite as a collective unit to repulse the enemy or remain disunited and suffer an inevitable death.

Today we are faced with the situation of a disjointed government communication system. It is my conviction that if this status quo remains, it will result in the ultimate demise of effective government communication.

The Comtask report of 1996 noted the disconnect between communication practitioners and the required level of skills needed in this profession, and recommended that a qualification for government communicators be introduced.

To this end, whilst noting the work done by GCIS and PALAMA in this regard, however, as the ANC we urge you Minister to expedite the implementation of the qualification of government communicators.

Drawing on the principles of Franklin's depiction, it is therefore high time that government unites to shape a collective message and way of doing things that spans across national, provincial and local government.

We conducted oversight visits across all provinces, and it has become apparent and evident that government departments continue to exploit community media through preferential advertising, late payment of accounts and unfair media practices. This is a condition that the Portfolio Committee looks upon with shame; and one that must immediately come to a complete halt.

Celebrating 10 years of MDDA

The MDDA was established by legislation (the MDDA Act No 14 of 2002) to create an enabling environment for the advancement of media development and diversity (including radio, television, newspapers, magazines and new media) that is conducive to public discourse and which reflects the needs and aspirations of South Africans. This was in recognizing the exclusion and marginalisation of disadvantaged communities and persons from access to the media and the media industry.

It started its operations in 2003 and 2013 marks 10 years of the Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA), an opportunity exists for all key stakeholders to reflect on the key milestones achieved by the agency in the quest to achieve access to a diversified media for all. Also, this gives us an opportunity to check to what extent all South Africans are enjoying the freedom of expression and media freedom provisions enshrined in Section 16 (1) and access to information provisions laid in Section 32 of the Constitution Act No. 108 of 1996.

The importance of preserving media freedom in South Africa can be emphasised by describing the regrettable history during which media freedom was non-existent, as well as the long struggle towards the current state of affairs.

From colonialism to the apartheid regime, South Africa had a long history of oppression and censorship. As David Wigston points out, "locally produced newspapers did not appear in South Africa until a century and a half after the occupation of the Cape by van Riebeeck in 1652, simply because the Dutch East India Company ... perceived the press as potentially revolutionary instrument."

Once the first non-government newspaper, "The South African Commercial Advertiser", was published in 1824, the "twenty-two year monopoly of the government press" was broken. However, the then governor of the Cape Colony, Lord Charles Somerset, soon closed it down as he feared "reports of his spurious activities."

Government censorship during the apartheid era (i.e. pre 1994 democratic elections) severely hampered the media industry; ensuring that it "towed the line" in terms of the apartheid government's policies. Newspapers had to apply for registration if they published more than 11 times a year and an arbitrary amount was also required before registration was approved. Government also enforced regulations controlling what newspapers could publish, especially with regard to articles and comment on activities deemed to be against the apartheid system.

The Constitution Act No.108 of 1996 protects and provides for the freedom of the media, freedom of expression and access to information. South Africa enacted many laws which give meaning and effect to the Constitution Act. These laws include the ICASA Act, MDDA Act, Access to Information Act, Promotion of Administrative Justice Act, Electronic Communications Act of 2005, Broadcasting Act of 1999, etc. including Chapter 9 of the Constitution which sets up institutions to support democracy.
The ANC acknowledges that the MDDA under the leadership of Ms Khanyi Mkhonza (Chairperson from 2003 till 2007), Ms Gugu Msibi (Chairperson from 2007 till 2012) and their respective Boards; Ms Libby Lloyd (CEO from 2003 till 2006), Mr Lumko Mtimde (CEO from 2006 till 2014) and their respective management teams has been stable, reporting their performance information in accordance with expectation and receiving unqualified audit reports. These 10 years of the Agency reflects on the success and correctness of the ANC policies.

The MDDA, with limited budget of R233m accumulatively since 2004, has supported more than 484 media projects, throughout the length and breadth of South Africa, in all the nine provinces, focusing on historically disadvantaged communities, using indigenous languages. The MDDA has supported at least one community radio, one community media and magazine, one commercial newspaper and magazine at each District Municipality. It supports the community television initiatives in the country. Accumulatively since inception and as at 31 March 2013, the agency has over 1800 people trained; it provided 147 bursaries to different radio and print media. It has created approximately 300 (direct and indirect) job opportunities in terms of direct jobs at beneficiary projects and empowered more people with skills that enable them to participate in the broader media and broadcasting industry.

The agreement reached between the MDDA and the Print and Digital Media South Africa (PDMSA), to recognise the MDDA Act of 2002 thereby using the MDDA Act definitions for community and small commercial media; is notable and appreciated. Historically, the term community media has been loosely used to include media owned by the mainstream and media owned by the community. This has led to an unintended consequence whereby the results in respect of adspent, the who's who and categorisation of media landscape were always distorted. For example, the annual reflection of adspent into community media included media titles owned by the mainstream.

We hope that the community and small commercial media will now receive the requisite benefits from advertising and marketing.

We note the increased ad spent by Government into the community and small commercial media. In 2010/11 financial year, the total government expenditure on advertising in community media titles amounted to just R9 million and during the 2011/12 financial year was estimated to be close to R13 million which is in increase of 31 per cent. Minister, the leader of spending in government on community media is Government Communications and Information Systems which spent just over R2.5 million for ensuring that the State of the Nation Address is at close proximity and closer to our people in every village, streets and avenues. This augurs well for promoting media diversity.

We hope that there will be more adspent into community and small commercial media by Government in all the three spheres in order to reach the intended audience, media produced in indigenous languages, support media diversity and the sustainability of community and small commercial media.

MDDA in responding to the 2011 State of the Nation Address by His Excellency President Jacob Zuma which focused on job creation, as well as various government national policy framework such as Industrial Policy Action Plan(IPAP) and the National Growth Path(NGP), the MDDA has created approximately 310 direct and indirect job opportunities and has also empowered people with skills that enable them to participate meaningfully in the broader media and broadcasting industry value chain.

To this end, a number of South Africans gained skills, jobs were created and young people were employed.

This is 10 years worth celebrating, happy 10 years MDDA; you have done this country proud. This is also 20 years after the first broadcast by the first SA community radio Bush Radio on 25 April 1993. Similarly it's 20 years of the National Community Radio Forum (NCRF). This is therefore a year of celebration for the MDDA.

World Press Freedom Day

3 May is celebrated worldwide as World Press Freedom day, as per the proclamation by the United Nations (UN) at its General Assembly in 1993, in line with Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This followed the 26th session of UNESCO General Conference in 1991, which adopted the Windhoek Declaration, a statement of principles calling for a free, independent and pluralistic media throughout the world. The Declaration affirms that a free press is essential to the existence of democracy and a fundamental human goal.

This year is the 20th anniversary of World Press Freedom Day and more than 19 years of independent press and media freedom in South Africa. An opportunity exists for all South Africans to reflect on the key milestones achieved in the quest to achieve media freedom and celebrate the fundamental principles of media freedom enshrined in the Constitution Act of 1996 (17 years ago), defend and protect media freedom, and pay tribute to media activists/journalists who lost their lives in the line of duty. All South Africans have reason to join the world, remember and celebrate World Press Freedom Day.

As we all celebrate World Press Freedom Day, we must ensure that rural communities have access to all media including television services and print media, in a language of their choice. We must ensure responsible journalism and that our media is transformed to reflect South Africa in every respect. We must also support and create an enabling environment for media development and diversity. Whereas, South Africans are celebrating legislative guarantees of press freedom, freedom of expression and editorial independence; it became clear after the Parliamentary processes in 2011, that a lot of work and commitment is needed to ensure that the majority of South Africans enjoy these rights.

On 27 April, South Africans commemorated Freedom Day, being the 19th year since the first democratic elections of the Republic of South Africa. When drawing upon this day, we remember the words of former president Nelson Mandela who said, "... for to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others."

This freedom is entrenched in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, which maintains, amongst others, each citizen's right to information - in effect, to be reliably informed. It is therefore imperative for the GCIS to ensure that it plays its role in building an informed citizenry; and providing citizens with information on priorities, programmes and activities. For this is a vital government function which underpins state-society relations.

When the 52nd Conference resolved on parliamentary enquiry on the desirability and feasibility of establishing an independent Media Appeals Tribunal the aim was to complement and strengthen the existing self-regulatory system of print media. The ineffectiveness and varied weaknesses of the self-regulatory regime was confirmed by the Press Freedom Commission (PFC), the recommendations of the PFC responded to the ANC resolutions. However it is with great sadness that the recommendations of PFC have been implemented selectively. Therefore it's our revolutionary duty to ensure that when the ANC convenes its National General Council in 2015, we present a progress report on this matter.

Honourable Chairperson, it is said that governments in the developed world are acutely aware of the need to communicate effectively both to influence public opinion and maintain their legitimacy, and often construct elaborate structures of press offices, and information ministries to perform the communication function. However, in many developing countries, governments lack communication capacity, and the development of the communication function is hampered by a combination of weak incentives, lack of professional training and communication infrastructure, and the lack of a supportive legal framework cognisant of the above, GCIS was then created to play a coordinating, facilitating and strategising role for all government communication and to provide a cost-effective communication service to the general public.

On 10 April 2013, we remembered and commemorated the life of Comrade Chris Hani as this year marked the 20th anniversary since his tragic assassination in 1993. As President Zuma rightfully said, South Africa indeed owes the late Comrade Chris Hani a debt of gratitude for what he did during the struggle. We must therefore continue to honour his memory by developing a better life for all - for this is what he selflessly believed in. This better life means that every citizen must have, amongst others, access to information, which is a constitutional right.

Allow me to highlight some of the key issues contained in your Department's 2012 budget vote tabled here in Parliament, particularly that the GCIS will:
  • energise the nation around the development goals and help to maintain confidence of investors and partners both locally and internationally;
  • facilitate the implementation of the national communication strategy;
  • continue building an empowered citizenry;
  • entrench an efficient and effective production and advertising agency for government, focused on cost effectiveness and the impact of messaging;
  • work with other departments, clusters, and entities to ensure that government's image and that of the state at large is protected, defended and maintained;
  • launch a project focusing on 20 years of democracy;
  • institute development communication projects; and
  • conduct oversight of the Media Development and Diversity Agency.
In its 2012/13 third quarter report to the Portfolio Committee on Communications, GCIS noted that; firstly, 80 of its targets were fully achieved; four were partially achieved; eight were delayed and two were not achieved. Secondly, the annual report on government communications was delayed as a result of the decision taken to outsource writing of the book chapters because of a high staff turnover in the unit. Thirdly, production and distribution of copies of the Government communicators' handbook was delayed due to the slow submission of inputs from the different chief directorates; and lastly, reports on the implementation of the annual marketing and communication plan were delayed with 68 marketing events due to reduction of integrated mobile events and poor quality of some centres.

Whilst the Committee appreciates the achievement of most of the GCIS commitments, we note with concern government imperatives that are not met due to personnel and supplier negligence. Honourable Minister, this is a pattern that must be curtailed with the utmost urgency and perpetrators thereof brought to book if you have not done so.

In 2007, the African National Congress resolved that by 2014 all municipal areas must have community radio stations and publications. The Committee has noted the tremendous work done by the MDDA in establishing community radio stations and newspapers across communities; offering financial and non-financial support to its beneficiaries and partnering with relevant stakeholders towards the development of this media sector.

GCIS and MDDA Annual Performance Plan 2013/14

The ANC notes and support the overall objectives of the GCIS and MDDA strategic focus for the period 2013-2017 as informed by the vision and mandate.

The ANC will support the review of the MDDA mandate in order to make a meaningful impact into the strategic objective of creating an enabling environment for media development and diversity that is conducive to public discourse, where a diverse, vibrant and creative media flourishes and reflects the needs and aspirations of all South Africans. Thereby ensuring that each and every South African citizen should have access to a choice of a diverse range of media. This will include the possible amendments to the MDDA Act of 2002.

As the Minister noted, South Africa needs a strong and diverse media, which will support nation building as well as efforts to deepen, consolidate, defend and strengthen our democracy, social cohesion and good governance. Free, independent and pluralistic media can only be achieved through not only many media products but by diversity of ownership and control of media. Free and diverse media supports, promotes and strengthens democracy, nation building, social cohesion and good governance. Lack of transformation does not auger well for sustaining our democracy and the industry itself.

The ANC takes this opportunity to thank the funding partners of the MDDA, who committed to support Government in the implementation of the Objects of the MDDA Act, these being SABC, etv, Primedia, Kagiso Media [Jacaranda FM and East Coast Radio], Africa Media Entertainment (AME) [Algoa FM and OFM], MNET, MULTICHOICE, Capricorn FM, Y-FM, Igagasi FM, Radio Today, Radio Riverside, Pulpit FM and Times Media Group, NASPERS, CAXTON (CTP Group) and Independent Newspapers. We urge that they continue their support for the noble cause of media diversity and plurality of voices and opinions. Together, we will increase our funding for the MDDA and turn the tide in respect of the transformation of media in South Africa.

The ANC also thanks the Board of the MDDA led by Ms Gugu Msibi who completed her five year tenure as a Chairman of the agency and the management team led by Mr. Lumko Mtimde. The agency under Ms Msibi's leadership has been stabled, performed maximally and received unqualified audit reports. We wish the new chairperson of the agency, Ms Phelisa Nkomo, and the new Board members all the best in taking MDDA to the next level.

Our thanks must also go to the leadership of GCIS for work well done by the management team led by Mr J Manyi and now the acting CEO, Ms Phumla Williams. My appreciation also goes to all members of the committee in providing leadership, the support staff and Mr Mguga (personal assistant).

I further acknowledge the upcoming 4th annual MDDA local media awards which will take place on 24 May 2013 in Johannesburg. These awards which serve, amongst others, to promote, reward and recognise excellence in the local media, promote professionalism in the local media and built capacity in the respective areas of focus; are an integral part of the development of community media; which remains largely marginalised. I therefore commend the MDDA for this initiative and wish them all the best in their planning efforts.

Conclusion

Having said this, I must congratulate the GCIS for its efforts in building effective government communication and enhancing media development and diversity. We still have a long way to go; however, your efforts have not gone unnoticed.

In conclusion, I reiterate that:
  • Providing citizens with information on priorities, programmes and activities is a vital government function which underpins state-society relations.
  • Secondly, government communication is not a one-way tool, but a participative engagement between government and its citizens.
  • Thirdly, the Minister to expedite legislation and policy review given the challenges facing community media particularly in terms of transformation;
  • Fourthly, the GCIS to ensure that all national departments and state owned entities comply with the Committee's 2012/13 recommendations to use community media when advertising;
  • Fifthly, GCIS must work harder in terms of coordinating government communication across all levels; being national, provincial and local; and
  • Lastly, the GCIS to attend to (i) the deteriorating state of existing Thusong Centres; (ii) the empty GCIS stands at Post Offices; and (iii) the reduction in the print order of the Vukuzenzele publication.
In ending, I quote the words of former president, Thabo Mbeki who once said, "As a consequence of the victories we have registered during our first ten years of freedom, we have laid a firm foundation for the new advances we must and will make during the next decade." Honourable Minister, we are encouraged that the budget as requested is sufficient to address the requirements contained in this budget vote and will support the key national imperatives. Working together we can and indeed will do more.

The ANC supports this budget vote.

    
 

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MDDA
"The Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA) is a development agency for promoting media development and diversity, a partnership between the South African Government and major print and broadcasting media companies to assist in (amongst others) developing community and small commercial media, in terms of the MDDA Act No 14 of 2002.
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