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Polokwane resolution #9: Media transformation, media appeals tribunal and increased funding for the SABC

Verashni Pillay

As the ANC goes to its elective conference in Mangaung, we look at the resolutions made at the 2007 Polokwane conference. What have they achieved?

The ANC has struggled to keep with its Polokwane resolution to increase state funding of South Africa's public broadcaster from 2% to 60% by 2010. (Gallo)

How much progress has the ANC made on their last set of goals before they look to setting new resolutions at the Mangaung conference? Look out for our series of reports on how the party's wishes have been achieved under president Jacob Zuma's leadership.

Resolution: Media transformation, creating the media appeals tribunal, and increasing state funding for the SABC by 60% by 2010.

Progress: The media took a hammering at the Polokwane conference and was labelled anti-transformation and anti-ANC. The party proposed a media appeals tribunal to be established by Parliament with the power "to adjudicate over matters or complaints expressed by citizens against print media, in terms of decisions and rulings made by the existing self-regulatory institutions". The tribunal proved to be an extremely controversial proposition, twinned as it was with changes to the Protection of State Information Bill, which threatens draconian sentences to journalists and others guilty of leaking state information. Both were seen as an attempt to muzzle the free press. But while changes to the Bill has been pushed through, the tribunal proposal didn't get as much traction. This was partly thanks to a loss of appetite from some leaders, like ANC deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe who met with the South African National Editor's Forum in late 2010 and essentially gave the industry a chance to tighten up its own self-regulation mechanisms before the ANC stepped in. The proposal forced the print media in South Africa to do some thorough self-reflection, and in late 2012 the press council revealed a host of changes to its regulations, which moves from self-regulation to co-regulation with the public. The changes take effect in 2013 and seem to have staved off the ANC's proposal, which has largely been dropped from the party's agenda.

On a related resolution, the party has largely not had much of a hand in continued media transformation since Polokwane, apart from an occasional public tirade about the issue from a leader under pressure in the media. Transformation in the industry continues according to existing general BEE policies and no industry-specific interventions have been made, perhaps in line with the resolution that the party would merely encourage "a more representative and diverse media environment".

As for South Africa's beleaguered public broadcaster, the ANC 2007 resolution to increase state funding from 2% to 60% by 2010 has proven to be difficult to implement and the ANC is far from its goal. Saddled with debt and notoriously bad mismanagement, the South African Broadcasting Corporation has asked for repeated bail-outs from government, which have been difficult to justify given the broadcaster's bad track record in turning around its financial and management woes. Interestingly, last year then communication minister Obed Bapela referenced the resolution at a Parliament meeting but put the goal of 60% funding for 2012, instead of 2010 as noted in the Polokwane resolutions. Perhaps the ANC will again need to shift the goal posts on the SABC.


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