It is probably time for South Africa to decide whether it is a free-market democracy or a socialist entitleist communist kleptocracy.
We have grown used to entitlement clamours for free electricity, free water, free garbage collection, and free education. We are used to seeing communities vote overwhelmingly for the ANC in municipal elections and then, within a week, burn down the ANC councillor's house because said councillor happened to suggest that residents would have to start paying for electricity instead of just running a bit of flex out of their houses and sticky-taping it onto an overhead Eskom mains.
It's the same thing when it comes to television. All South African TV viewers, it seems to me, want it for nothing.
Only a tiny proportion of the population bothers to pay for a TV licence because they want to watch SABC and e.tv for nothing. Government on the other hand, seems to encourage the citizens of this country to expect to be able to watch TV for nothing. They impose ball-breaking local content regulations on all channels while at the same time insisting on a news broadcasting capacity both of which are completely beyond the realms of reasonable budgetary.
Sports lovers bleat like castrated goats when they cannot watch sport for free. Even wealthy people complain like nobody's business about having to pay R500 a month to MultiChoice for a massive raft of channels.
They all complain bitterly about TV programmes being repeated when some quite simple arithmetic shows that the world's TV production industry has not a hope in hell of getting even close to being able to produce enough content to keep a TV station going 24 hours a day. Then of course, when programmes aren't repeated, a lot more people complain that they missed something and want to crucify the TV channels for not showing it again.
And as for complaining about second-rate movies, few viewers realise that the only way our networks get to be able to show good movies is if they agree to buy a package of good, bad and ugly and are then contractually obliged to show the good movies a few times and the bad over and over again.
The crux of the matter is that TV content costs a fortune to produce. Secondly, TV channels can't just decide whether they want to screen a live rugby test, soccer international or cricket world cups.
Sport today is first and foremost a business. Sports bodies such as Fifa, SARU and SAFA are also businesses and charge TV channels lots of money for the privilege of broadcasting their games.
Money, money, money
Everything that appears on TV costs money. Everything that appears in any medium costs money which is why major newspapers are in big trouble because they started giving their content away for nothing on the internet.
So, when SABC or e.tv is able to show a great movie, an international event or some top-level sport, the amount of money paid for a TV licence every year is chickenfeed compared with what it would cost to actually attend those events or rent DVD's.
Even that R500-plus a month one has to pay for subscription TV is worth it just for the sports offerings - especially when you consider that a year's worth of subscription TV in South Africa will just about buy you a decent seat at a Manchester United football match
Frankly, I blame government for creating a culture of media entitlement in this country. They promise the earth and deliver a few handfuls of gravel and do absolutely nothing to try to make companies such as the SABC, SAA and heaven knows how many other parastatals evenly vaguely sustainable.
A culture has developed in which far too many South Africans not only expect to get their TV and radio for nothing but also at the same time expect government to dip into its coffers to subsidise those who have elected not to pay for TV licenses or electricity.
The mass media and sport do not belong to the people any more. They are businesses and as we are supposed to be a free-market democracy, businesses are entitled to charge whatever the heck they like for products and services.
Cars in South Africa are among the most expensive in the world, not because of taxes or anything like that but purely and simply because South Africans keep buying them whatever the price.
Cellphone rates in South Africa are among the most expensive in the world simply because whatever the price, South Africans continue to buy the latest cellphones and mobile packages as though there were no tomorrow.
iPhone, iPay The same with iPhones, iPads and other Apple goodies which, in spite of being significantly more costly in South Africa than a lot of other countries, we continue to queue up to buy them whatever the price.
But, getting back to government carrying the blame, they are now on a mission to ban advertising of alcohol, fast foods, health products and heaven knows what else.
And gullible, entitleist South Africans don't appear to give a damn in spite of the fact that money that would normally be ploughed into buying TV programmes and sports broadcast rights will no longer be there.
And when the SABC runs out of money because the government is cutting off its advertising lifeblood, the poor old taxpayer will have to cough up the difference. Too much advertising banning and suddenly our networks won't afford to be able to buy the rights for World Cups and other major global sporting events. Then watch South Africans bleat. And few of them will realise that it was because government banned advertising that they are not getting to see international sport. Because our ad industry is so self-absorbed it doesn't ever think about running ad campaigns to point out to consumers exactly what the end result is of banning advertising.
Either South Africans need to learn that they are not entitled to any form of media content, or government needs to declare us an official communist state. Trying to kid everyone that we are a free market, capitalist democracy but then behaving by like Stalin on a bad day, is going to bite our government on the most tender spot of its anatomy.
Apart from currently being a corporate marketing analyst, advisor and media commentator, Chris Moerdyk is non-executive chairman of Bizcommunity. He used to be head of strategic planning and public affairs for BMW South Africa and spent 16 years in the creative and client service departments of ad agencies, ending up as resident director of Lindsay Smithers-FCB in KwaZulu-Natal. Email Chris on and follow him on Twitter at @chrismoerdyk.
paying the sabc means paying money to the anc for the privilege of listening to their propaganda. sorry, chris. I stopped watching and stopped paying a long time ago and i encourage every south african to do the same. Posted on 28 Jun 2012 13:01
Not quite sure I follow the reasoning that on the one hand people feel they are entitled to certain things for free and, on the other, are prepared to overpay for cars and iPhones. In a true free-market economy, we would be paying more maybe for media content, but would be paying less for cars. So why is competition among car manufacturers not driving prices down? Because big business gives the finger to free-market economics, just like government does. Posted on 2 Jul 2012 15:49
It's not actually written in the Constitution that we're a 'free market' democracy, just that we're a democracy.
The history of this country has given you an immense 'subsidy' in the form of the language you speak, the place you live, the education you received and the people you know – a subsidy that far outweighs any subsidies of water and electricity received by anyone in this country. What's more, the cheap energy you've enjoyed most of your life constitutes a generational subsidy – future generations are having their economic prospects destroyed by the climate change effects of your lifestyle.
Free education, on the other hand, is guaranteed by the Constitution, but denied in practice.
This is a country where the richest 20% of people earn 38 times what the poorest earn. The same ratio for the US is 8. So squealing about communism reveals rather startling historical amnesia, economic ignorance and entitlement. And it's that kind of entitlement – the arrogance of the rich and privileged – that's actually holding this country back – the kind of entitlement that climbs to privilege on the back of the apartheid subsidy, and then kicks away the ladder and squeals self-righteously about anyone else getting similar direct assistance. If this country ever goes the way of Zimbabwe, it will be that kind of entitlement, not poor folk wanting lights and water, that are responsible. Posted on 3 Jul 2012 15:50
LEGAL DISCLAIMER: This Message Board accepts no liability of legal consequences that arise from the Message Boards (e.g. defamation, slander, or other such crimes). All posted messages are the sole property of their respective authors. The maintainer does retain the right to remove any message posts for whatever reasons. People that post messages to this forum are not to libel/slander nor in any other way depict a company, entity, individual(s), or service in a false light; should they do so, the legal consequences are theirs alone. Bizcommunity.com will disclose authors' IP addresses to authorities if compelled to do so by a court of law.