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    Alcohol advertising ban: media between a rock and a hard place

    South African media's indecision to support alcohol advertising ban could be linked to the fact that media companies stand to lose huge revenues if the legislation were to come into effect, one media analyst charged this week. Shepherd Mpofu, of Wits University's Department of Media Studies, said there is no logical reason why the media have to support a move that will have a negative consequence on them.

    "A ban on alcohol advertising means that the media will suffer in terms of revenue. The media are there to sell audiences and readers to the advertisers, and that's their main aim of being in business," Mpofu told Bizcommunity.com.

    It was reported last week that the media have agreed to support the proposed ban, but that statement has since been denied and corrected by the South African National Editor's Forum (SANEF), which confirmed that it will instead throw its weight behind the campaign against alcohol abuse, as it does not have a position on the proposed alcohol advertising ban.

    "Alcohol, just like other drugs, has affected the SA society in a negative way," Mpofu admitted.

    Government concerned

    "The government has a right to be worried about these effects. Crime is increasing, and the spread of sexual transmissible diseases, poor work output, poor performance at school and a lot of other societal malfunctions are just some of the few effects of alcohol abuse."

    He added: "We live in a culture that hero-worships celebrities. The use of the so-called celebrities in alcohol has had and will likely continue affecting especially young people who hero-worship these so-called celebrities."

    The Soul City Institute deplores the 'misleading role' played by the alcohol industry and its 'partner in crime', the ad agencies, for connecting masculinity, patriotism, modern womanhood and various forms of success with alcohol consumption.

    SA media leaders' lack of position' on this critical matter has not gone down well in certain quarters. Some observers have branded the media a 'bunch of hypocrite citizens' who claim to watch over society's voiceless, while 'tacitly' supporting crime and violence, teenage pregnancy and rape, and all sorts of social ills engendered by alcohol.

    The Soul City Institute insists that an independent and vibrant media is uniquely poised to unpack and critically interrogate the role of alcohol advertising and marketing, and shape the public debate around alcohol-related harm reduction.

    Mpofu said: "If the media were to play a responsible role in society, then there is every reason to support the ban on alcohol advertising.

    "SANEF has to come to a consensus on what they should do as the media based on moral considerations and not legal ones. If legislated, then they will have no option but I think everyone is agreed that alcohol advertising and consumption has had effects in society and no one will deny this."

    About Issa Sikiti da Silva

    Issa Sikiti da Silva is a winner of the 2010 SADC Media Awards (print category). He freelances for various media outlets, local and foreign, and has travelled extensively across Africa. His work has been published both in French and English. He used to contribute to Bizcommunity.com as a senior news writer.
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