SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande has again called for independent regulation within the print industry to replace what he termed “ineffective” self-regulation.
“The print media is the only [institution] that is not regulated [independently]. Everybody, including the public protector, the Human Rights Commission and even the judiciary is subjected to checks and balances. The broadcast media also has an independent regulator. What are you [print media] afraid of? Be a nice profession. In the legal fraternity, you get struck off the roll if you do something wrong. But here [in print media], it’s just an obscure apology. We can’t continue to have this,” said Nzimande during a networking session with journalists in Johannesburg on Monday evening. He was speaking ahead of the SACP’s special national congress, which started at the Soweto campus of the University of Johannesburg on Tuesday.
Several alliance leaders, including ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe, his deputy Jessie Duarte and ANC treasurer general Zweli Mkhize, have in the past few weeks questioned the fairness of the South African media in what appears to be a resuscitation of plans to establish a media tribunal.
The ANC took a resolution at its national conference in Mangaung in 2012 to call for Parliament to investigate the establishment of a media appeals tribunal.
Nzimande, who has in the past labelled the media as opposition, and part of the “ liberal offensive”, on Monday said he had nothing against the media personally and was merely worried about the slow pace of transformation in the industry.
“The ownership in the media is monopolised. There is no diversifying,” said Nzimande.
‘MDDA has failed’
He said the Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA) – a statutory development agency established by the government to promote and ensure media development and diversity – had failed to carry out its mandate.
“The MDDA is a spaza shop. We need a radical transformation and demonopolisation of the media,” he said, adding the MDDA had failed to protect community media who are often swallowed by big players such as Naspers.
“We are concerned about the undue influence by Naspers on the media,” he said. Nzimande and other alliance leaders want the deal in which the SABC sold its archives to pay-TV heavyweight MultiChoice for R55-million to be scrapped.
“The SABC is a sham. It has been captured by capital. How can we fight so hard for the SABC and after 25 years we hand it back to the Broederbond? We are going to fight,” said Nzimande.
He said his criticism of the SABC had nothing to do with his wife Phumelele Ntombela-Nzimande, a group executive, being fired from the corporation in 2011.
“People say [we fight] because my wife was fired. But now I know why she was fired. She was not going to agree to the MultiChoice deal,” said Nzimande.
System ‘effective and stringent’
Sanef deputy chairperson Moshoeshoe Monare said the self-regulatory system of the press Ombudsman has since been reformed.
“We have reformed the old self-regulatory system of the press ombudsman and established a co-regulatory system that include members of the public. The system is effective and stringent and there have rulings against publications that did not adhere to the press code.
“I am surprised that the SACP has decided to attack the system and call for another regulatory system based on its unhappiness about media coverage and the so-called editorial attitude of the press,” said Monare.
He said Sanef were in the process of finalising and upgrading the current code and give the ombudsman the extended jurisdiction to adjudicate cases involving online content.