[Dr Julie Reid] According to a treaty South Africa agreed to with the International Telecommunications Union, we are committed to switching off our analogue television broadcasts by 2015, and start broadcasting via digital signals instead. It sounds simple enough. It also does not sound particularly exciting, does it?
[Dr Julie Reid] Against the backdrop of a shameful fall in South Africa's media freedom rating worldwide, the report of the Press Freedom Commission - the second media freedom review process following the ANC's calls for a media appeals tribunal - was published last week.
[Dr Julie Reid] Forget all the emotive arguments for and against self-regulation of the media. The numbers alone paint a clear picture: 70% of the top 50 countries in the Reporters Without Borders and Freedom House press-freedom rankings practice self-regulation.
[Dr Julie Reid] Next week in Johannesburg, the Press Council of South Africa will begin the first of a series of nationwide public hearings to discuss reforming media self-regulation. But will the media's concerns be heeded, or will the hearings just create the illusion of participation, with the media appeals tribunal ultimately going ahead anyway?
[Dr Julie Reid] Having threatened to impose a statutory media appeals tribunal on South Africa - despite global condemnation and in the face of the Constitutional protection of a free media as President Jacob Zuma said in his State of the Nation address - the chief complainant, the ANC, failed even to attend the first hearings of the Press Council on Thursday, 17 February 2011.
[Dr Julie Reid] Part of the problem regarding the poor attendance by members of the public at Press Council hearings around the country is that most members of the public don't know the hearings are actually taking place. Secondly, the procedure for laying a complaint presently mitigates against an individual who is not directly aggrieved actually laying a complaint.