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Transformation in news boardrooms doesn't match newsrooms

Adam Wakefield

The print and digital media transformation task team has said the change within newsrooms has not been matched at a managerial level.

Transformation within the boardrooms in print and digital media has not matched that of the newsrooms, the print and digital media transformation task team said. (Oupa Nkosi, M&G)

Transformation within the boardrooms in print and digital media has not matched that of the newsrooms, the print and digital media transformation task team said on Friday.

At the handover of the team's transformation report to Print and Digital Media South Africa (PDMSA) in Johannesburg, task team chairperson Nkwenke Nkomo said the change within newsrooms had not been matched at a managerial level.

"It [the change] did not reflect what happened in the newsroom," he said.

"As business, you are not living up to what is expected."

The task team, nevertheless, came out against the notion of a transformation charter for print and digital media.

It said full implementation of black economic empowerment (BEE) codes, which the industry had accepted, would provide for sufficient transformation.

To achieve this, the task team set targets in key areas that would need to be met.

To monitor and measure transformation, the task team directed that the annual targets each company set itself for compliance should be made public.

Broad-based BEE code
PDMSA would conduct an annual industry performance audit and also make it publicly available.

While a charter was not necessary, there was a need for a transformation strategy, as the country demanded transformation, said Nkomo.

"[It] doesn't matter how good or great any transformation [strategy] is, if there is no will to make it happen it lives on paper."

The task team was not concerned with media content but rather the key pillars of transformation according to the broad-based BEE code.

These were: equity ownership, management control, employment equity, skills development, preferential procurement, enterprise development, and socio-economic development.

The areas print and digital media had failed to sufficiently transform, according to the team team, were in ownership, management control, skills development, and employment equity, with particular reference to women and the disabled.

The industry had done well in areas such as socio-economic development, preferential procurement, and in certain instances enterprise development, it said.

Task team's recommendations
The task team's full report contained 39 recommendations.

In regards to ownership, all PDMSA members needed to meet the generic scorecard ownership test of 25% plus one, or receive 20 out of 20 points.

Other recommendations included:

  • The major print media groups should score no less than 12 out of 15 on skills development, with a view to improving employment equity, management control, and gender equity scores;
  • Major print media should draw strategies to promote women to senior management levels and ensure they were targeted for skills development;
  • PDMSA should work at solutions to help small commercial and community publishers with business skills and market information; and
  • PDMSA should commit itself to promoting the growth of titles in previously marginalised languages, and encourage the development of language skills to publish in those languages.

Nkomo stressed the importance of the media, especially print media, as it was critical to the formulation of ideas and attitudes.

'Importance of the industry'
With an election taking place next year, media represented a place where people could "get a fix" on what was happening before casting their vote.

"The role of media is more than informative ... the importance of the industry cannot be over-emphasised," he said.

The recommendations the task team made were directed at the totality of print and digital media in South Africa, he said. – Sapa

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