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The Battle of Ideas, Accelerating Digital Future, Media Transformation and Diversity

Table of Contents

Introduction
The Battle of Ideas
Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs)
Broadcasting Infrastructure and Services
Print Media Transformation and Accountability
Government and Legislature Communications

Introduction

The Commission:

  • Considered the NGC Discussion Document, taking into account the Resolutions of the 53rd National Conference.
  • Noted strides made to implement the decisions of the National Conference, and observed that implementation was generally slow across a number of critical issues.
  • Acknowledged the need for stronger interaction and engagement between the NEC Communications Sub-committee and the deployees in government on critical policy and governance issues which includes amongst others broadband, digital broadcasting, print media transformation and governance matters relating to key institutions such as the SABC and the SA Post Office.
  • Recognize the obligation for the ANC NEC to continuously monitor and evaluate the implementation of the resolutions of the National Conference and produce regular reports to track progress.

The Battle of Ideas

Noting that:

  • Members affirmed the report presented as a true reflection of the state of implementation.
  • The ANC should lead the battle of ideas at all levels of society.
  • The outcome of the raging battle ideas has a bearing on our ongoing effort to create a non racial, non sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa
  • The ongoing onslaught against the ANC and the broader democratic movement by forces in the extreme ends of the political spectrum – neoliberalism and pseudo leftist extremism- is not informed real politics of ideology and arguments about the fundamental transformation of society, but their ideas are about the lust for power as an end in itself.
  • The role of the mainstream press to facilitate – consciously or not - oppositionist politics against the ideological hegemony of the ANC and its government will continue as long as the media remain untransformed.
  • The battle of ideas is not confined to the mainstream media, although the role played by the media cannot be ignored. Advances in communications technology have created new platforms for the battle of ideas
  • The ANC and government still have access to strategic platforms to engage in the battle of ideas.

Further noting that:

  • The existence of an untransformed superstructure of the generation and dissemination of ideas including academia, the media and journalism schools. These institutions also influence the cultural expression of South Africa.
  • Progress made towards the re-establishment of the ANC Department of Information and Publicity to oversee and coordinate the communications activities of the movement.
  • The establishment of the war room although its activism is largely confined to the election periods.
  • The need to expand and transfer strategic communications capacity throughout the structures of the organization including branches and regions.
  • The ANC has started to develop new media Apps, eg NGC App and the media reports on it
  • The development of the National Communications Policy though still in draft form. At the core of this policy is the responsibility of the leadership and general membership to communicate in a systematic and coordinated way.

Hereby recommend that:

  • The ANC should accelerate the implementation of outstanding decisions of the National Conference. Where necessary create task teams to drive and monitor the progress and the implementation of ANC policies.
  • Our approach to the battle of ideas should include the use of direct communications and unmediated platforms such as public participation forums as a way of mobilizing various sections of society to advance and defend the National Democratic Revolution (NDR).
  • The ANC should establish structured, strategic relationships with various social sectors including the superstructure of the generation of ideas (the media, academia and journalism schools).
  • Government should introduce a new curriculum about the history of the national liberation struggle and continuously participate and lead the development of the cultural expression of South Africa in order to influence and or inform the outlook of society.

Further recommend that:

  • Leaders of the ANC at all levels (including councilors and members of parliament and the legislatures) should be empowered and capacitated to lead in the battle of ideas. Branches should be empowered with information to play a role in the battle of ideas.
  • The ANC should establish a content hub and disseminate information through social media to reach members, supporters and the general public.
  • The ANC should establish the Battle of Ideas Councils at all levels to steer the war room programmes within the ANC, government and legislatures.
  • The ANC should proactively distribute content to the membership, and resourcing branches to use communications tools.
  • Create whatsapp networks in branches to facilitate ongoing discussions.
  • Branch secretaries should be assisted with modern information and communications tools.

ICT Sector

Noting that:

  • ICTs are tools to facilitate economic growth and social development.
  • Significant strides have been made to promote universal access, empowerment, competition, consumer protection since the 53rd conference.
  • The transformation of the ICT sector remains very slow and there are still barriers to entry for small players.
  • The traditional telecommunications and broadband segments are dominated by monopolies in the fixed and mobile markets. These control over 80% of licensed market activities, dominate the key radio frequency spectrum bands and own the infrastructure critical to promoting competition and innovation in the sector.
  • Conference resolved to introduce a new policy and regulatory landscape underpinned by open access networks linked to the licensing of scarce radio frequency spectrum.
  • The advent of open access networks constitute an orderly, radical transformation of the ICT sector to achieve universal access and social inclusion, competition, consumer protection and seeks to strengthen the strategic role of the ICT sector in economic growth and development.

Hereby recommend that:

  • Government should complete the ICT Policy Review by the end of the current financial year 2015/16, at the latest.
  • The Integrated ICT Policy should facilitate radical changes in the sector in line with the over all policy thrust of radical economic transformation.
  • The envisaged Integrated ICT Policy should be underpinned by a new open access market structure , with a new spectrum policy as an integral enabler of the new radical path.
  • The scarce spectrum should be licensed to a wholesale, open access network based on clear regulatory principles to reduce barriers to entry and introduce the principle of use it or loose it.
  • Efforts to harmonise e-government and the role of various state institutions should be accelerated.
  • Government should pay specific attention to the role of SMMEs throughout the value chain of the ICT sector, with strong emphasis on SMMEs that are owned by youth and women. A clear roadmap to empower SMMEs is needed.
  • Consider introducing free WiFi in municipalities but coordinated by national government.

Broadcasting Infrastructure and services

Noting that:

  • Since 1994, the ANC and its government have made unprecedented strides to transform broadcasting to meet the needs and aspirations of all South Africans.
  • Progress made since 1994 include the licensing of over 200 community radio stations, the licensing of private radio stations in almost all provinces and the transformation of the SABC from a state into a public broadcaster.
  • Significant progress has been made to implement the resolutions of conference through inter alia the wholesale review of the broadcasting policy to introduce a new broadcasting market structure which will also deal with competition issues throughout the value chain, including a new regulatory mechanism to deal with online services that increasingly compete with local broadcasters for advertising.
  • The SABC is still faced with serious corporate governance challenges which the ANC and its government must unlock, and that opposition parties are exploiting this to advance their own political and ideological interests.
  • The implementation of the digital terrestrial broadcasting programme is ongoing. It is regrettable that we have not met the June 2015 deadline. Digital terrestrial television is a game changer with significant impact beyond the traditional television broadcasting sector.

Broadcasting Infrastructure and services

Further noting that:

  • Significant progress has been made since 1994 to build a striving community broadcasting sector.
  • Government has launched a process to review the Media Development and Diversity Agency to strengthen its role in supporting a thriving community media sector.
  • The role and impact of community media should not be measured in quantity, though important, but should be based on the quality of programming and the impact of the community sector on the lives of the citizens, especially the rural and urban poor.
  • A cohort of other policies are being introduced to facilitate the harmonization of communications across the various spheres of government. This include coordinating communications strategies and plans with state entities.

Hereby recommend that:

  • DTT should be implemented without delay to create a new broadcasting landscape that will increase the role of Free to Air television to meet the needs and aspirations of all South Africans.
  • The National Broadcasting Policy should define the entire broadcasting market including how to treat broadcasting like services leading to the development of a full competitive landscape. Dominant players should share their infrastructure with new entrants with significant black ownership.
  • Further work is needed to stabilize the SABC to ensure that it meets its role and social obligations. This include addressing governance challenges facing the public broadcaster.
  • Additional resources are needed to support the Media Diversity and Development Agency (MDDA) to strengthen its work in facilitating media diversity and development. This should be linked to ensuring that community media projects, especially radio, serve their communities and are accountable to them, and in the language that people use and understand.

Further recommend that:

  • The new policy should strengthen the growth and development of the local content industry,
  • Each province should have at least one community TV station to boost local content.
  • The establishment of a National Youth Radio station should be fast tracked (NB: Transforming Radio 2000 was once mooted as one of the options).
  • Conference resolution on the financing model for the communications regulator ICASA should also be implemented without delay.
  • ICASA should adhere to its own rules and regulations, and should ensure that they are aligned to government policy.

Postal Services

Noting that:

  • The postal sector is a significant player in the South African economy, and its contribution will grow with government’s efforts to accelarate economic growth and development.
  • The SA Post Office is the biggest operator in the postal sector with its over 3000 outlets and access points throughout the country. Parcels of up to 1 kg (letter business) are reserved for the Post Office, while the courier business is open to competition.
  • Over the years, the mail business, has been declining due to electronic subsititues like email with profound impact on the business of the Post Office. The Post Office has also lost the edge as the leading provider of courier services.
  • This has been exacerbated by governance and related financial challenges in SAPO, including the failure to implement effective turnaround strategies.
  • The Post Office is the only operator in South Africa with universal service obligations to rollout postal outlets and addresses to underserviced areas.
  • There are still South Africans (in rural areas and informal settlements) who do not have access to address limiting their participation in the mainstream economy.
  • The PostBank has a market capitalisation of about R2billion, which is largely depositors money. The Postbank maintains a separate account and financial statements.

Hereby recommend that:

  • The Post Office should be restructured as a matter of urgency to play a bigger role in the economy and to provide the following services:
  • Extend banking services to the unbanked (through a corporatised Postbank)
  • Traditional mail business
  • Broadband access points
  • Electronic commerce taking advantage of its extensive distribution network
  • Universal address system without further delay
  • Various government transactions such as social grants, licence renewals etc
  • The Post Office should upgrade its IT capacity to be able to deal with new opportunities.
  • The Postbank is a state bank which seeks to promote universal access to banking while at the same time it provides a platform for the desbursement of various state transations such as social grants. Attempts to licence the Postbank in terms of the Banks Act, if this is the only option, should not compromise the ANC’s resolutions around the Postbank.
  • Where necessary, the Banks Act should be amended to allow the state to establish the Postbank in line with the resolutions of the ANC on the role and social obligations of the Postbank.

Print Media Transformation, Accountability and Diversity

Noting that:

  • Print media is still dominated by the traditional oligopoly comprising Naspers, Times Media, Independent Newspapers and Caxton. Until the recent transaction involving Independent Newspapers, the sector was predominantly white owned and controlled. ANC interventions on ownership transformation have resulted in an increase in BBEE in the print media. According to GCIS’ Media Landscape 2014 Caxton is still 100% white owned, Times Media Group has 55.64% black ownership, Media 24 about 45%, and INMSA about 55%.
  • The big media houses also own and control small community newspapers and other apsects of the print media landscape such as printing, packagaing and distribution.
  • Naspers and Times Media Limited also own and control broadcasting assets beyond the requirements of the cross media ownership rules.
  • Other institutions that are central to market entry are controlled by the established media houses – including the Audit Bureau of Circulation, distribution and printing outlets.
  • Small and independent print media projects struggle to gain entry and access to readers given control by the big players of the value chain.
  • As elsewhere in the world, production costs have been cut resulting in less expenditure on news content, more uniformity and poor standards in journalism raising questions about its relevance and media accountability..
  • The print media internationally is facing new challenges due to digitisation and access to the Internet

Hereby recommend that:

  • The decision of the 52nd Conference regarding the need for a parliamentary inquiry into the desirability and feasibility of a Media Appeals Tribunal within the framework of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa should be implemented. The parliamentary process should explore a system of accountability that balances the right of freedom of expression and other rights, and ensure proportional redress whenever the media infringes on the rights of others. This should include reviewing defamation laws and the need for a legislative right of reply.
  • An empowerment charter is needed to accelarate transformation in the print media sector. This should be prioritised. This should focus on inter alia demographic representation throughout the value chain.
  • The MDDA should be adequately resourced to finance small community media and the alternative press in general. (NB: the print media is no longer contributing to the MDDA leaving government as the only contributor to the diversity fund). The MDDA must play a bigger role than being confined to funding.
  • The Competition Commission should also investigate current practices in the print media sector to establish whether there are anti-competitive practices.
  • The advertising industry is critical in the development of the print sector and its ideological orientation. Transformation of the advertising industry should be accelerated. Government should accelerate efforts to transform the marketing and advertising industry, and use its adspend to promote diversity.
  • The ANC Media Charter should be reviewed to restate the vision of the ANC regarding the role of media in a democratic society.

Government and Legislature Communications

Noting that:

  • National Conference resolved that he continued fragmerntation of government communications within and across the three spheres of government defeat the strategoic role of communications as a tool for governance and service delivery. This should be addressed through a comprehensive national communications policy.
  • Amongst others, the national communications policy should provide for the use of all languages and all platforms to reach citizens.
  • Conference also noted the limited communications capacity in the legislatures and municipalities across the country, directing that the two spheres should be adequately resourced to communicate efficiently and effectively.
  • The ANC and government at all levels should coordinate messages.
  • Government adspend can be allocated in such a way that it contributes towards diversity and development.
  • Conference resolved that Comtask should be reviewed to ensure that the organization of government communications reflect the changing environment as government needs to communicate effectively across multiple platforms.
  • State owned enterprises play a significant role in service delivery hence their communications programmes should be aligned with those of government.

Hereby recommend that:

  • Government should increase the distribution of Vuk’zenzela and other media through innovative means such as the Internet and email in addition to the current Apps.
  • Government should expedite the finalization of the policy framework aimed at strengthening communications in municipalities in time ahead of the local government elections.
  • Government should continue to use and increase direct engagements with communities via Izimbizo and other public platforms. This allows government to tailor-make messages and address specific issues.
  • Government should expedite the finalization of the National Communications Policy which has already been developed and distributed to all government departments to respond.
  • Government should continue to develop new tailor-made electronic Apps targeting young people to increase the uptake and usage of government information by young people.
  • The number of government departments that use the centralised media buying system should increase and this should facilitate and contribute to media diversity and development.

Thank You