Print media transformation ‘too slow’

Transformation of print media ownership is happening at a snail’s pace, the Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA) said on Thursday.

”It is not enough to focus on employment equity, thus ignoring shareholding transformation,” MDDA chief executive Lumko Mtimde said in Johannesburg.

”Transformation of ownership in the media sector requires more focus.”

Mtimde said the four big media companies in South Africa continued to dominate. He was speaking at the launch of a research report on the trend of ownership and control of the media in South Africa.

”Media assets are still owned largely by the four major media companies — Naspers, Caxton, Independent News Media and Avusa — whose historically disadvantaged individuals (HDI) ownership is below 26%,” said Mtimde.

It was very difficult for new entrants to break into the media market, especially in the print media.

”In print media space, there is a big challenge of affordability and sustainability by the new media entrants.

”The high cost of printing machines prohibits smaller media owners from growing into some significant operation.”

Mtimde said the MDDA would need more funding if it wanted to help entrepreneurs break into the print market.

”For any meaningful transformation to take place, the MDDA needs to be [given the resources] so as to come up with a viable funding plan. This will help new print media companies to be independent of the big media operators.”

On the community media side, most community papers are also owned by Media24 or Caxton.

In the broadcasting arena, the SABC dominated the radio industry, accounting for nearly 42% the total radio audience in South Africa, according to the MDDA report.

The public broadcaster owns 18 radio stations while there are 13 private commercial radio stations.

The television players in South Africa remain unchanged — SABC 1, 2 and 3, and MultiChoice.

The SABC accounts for 69% of the total television audience, followed by with 22% of the audience slice.

MultiChoice, the only pay television and satellite service in South Africa, has more than 1,6-million subscribers.

”None of the newly licensed satellite operators have launched yet,” said Mtimde, referring the licences granted to On Digital Media, Walking on Water and Telkom Media, which has since been sold to a foreign company.

Mtimde said that the transformation in ownership in the broadcasting industry was much better than in print.

”The 13 private commercial radio stations have HDI ownership of 58% on average. On the television front, private commercial television stations’ HDI ownership sits on an average of 64,4% per television station.”

But print media remains by far the largest sub-sector of the media in South Africa, in terms of the number of titles and ownership.

About 940-million newspapers are circulated in South Africa every year, including small commercial and community newspapers.

The national newspaper readership stands at 15,2-million, with the Gauteng audience accounting for 69% of this figure.

At least 504 magazine titles are published in South Africa, the majority (55%) of which are owned by Media24.

”Media24 is dominant in terms of circulation of newspapers … Regarding ownership, major print players such as Media24 and Avusa have some degree of HDI ownership,” states the report.

”Avusa has at least 25,5% HDI shareholding as a result of Mvelaphanda Holdings acquiring part of Allan Gray’s stake in the company, and Media24 has 15%.

”This research shows that the print media landscape in the post 1994 South Africa has not transformed much in terms of ownership and control.”

New media is also dominated by the major companies such as Naspers and Avusa, the report reads.

The MDDA is a statutory body created to promote and support media development and diversity.

It is funded by the government and 13 media companies, including Independent Newspapers, Media24, Avusa, Caxton, M-Net, the SABC, Primedia, Kagiso Media and — Sapa

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Fienie Grobler
Guest Author

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