Statement of the ANC NEC SubCommittee on Communications and the Battle of Ideas ahead of the 54th National Conference

5 December 2017

Allow us to first thank you for attending this media briefing on the work of and the policy proposals towards the 54th National Conference emanating from Communications and the Battle of Ideas.

Today is a bittersweet day as we remember and continue to mourn the life of the Former President of the ANC and founding father of a democratic South Africa, Isithwalandwe/Seaparankoe Comrade Nelson Mandela, who passed on this day four years ago.

We remain inspired by Comrade Madiba's life's work - especially instructive to us, in the ANC NEC Sub-Committee on Communications, were his words that "If you talk to a man in a language he understands, the message goes to his head.If you talk to him in his language, it goes to his heart."This has been and remains part of our guiding philosophy to utilize information and communication technology to build an accessible, caring and inclusive society.

This statement that we deliver today seeks to present, to the media and South Africans at large, the journey traversed by the ANC to implement the resolutions of the 53rd National Conference as well as to outline key policy proposals towards the 54th National Conference tabled for resolution by the National Policy Conference held in June this year.

Our work is coordinated around four main policy areas being:

  1. Battle of ideas,
  2. ICT, Postal Services and Postbank,
  3. Broadcasting,
  4. Print media transformation and diversity.

Battle of Ideas and Government Communications

The African National Congress has continued to engage in the fiercely contested space that is the battle of ideas, understanding the difficult and sometimes hostile terrain in which we operate. During the term we delivered a state of the art media briefing facility and began laying the foundation of a resourced and capacitated Department of Information and Publicity.

We completed and presented to the organization communication protocols to guide and align ANC communications within the organization and across its various structures. Such protocols once fully rolled out will apply to all members of the ANC utilizing media both traditional and new (social) media platforms.

Amongst our key focus areas for the Conference would be the development of capacity which allows the ANC unencumbered and unmediated platforms to communicate with the people of South Africa and beyond.

The decisions of the 53rd National Conference relating to government communications have not been fully implemented. The GCIS , in particular, is also weakened due to lack of leadership and instability at management level. More work still needs to be done to ensure that government communications reach our people effectively and in a sustainable manner. This should also include the government working with community media at local level to ensure that information and news reach the communities that the government serves. This should start with the finalization of the Government Communications policy going-forward.

ICT, Postal Services and the PostBank

During this term, the ANC implemented the resolution of the 52nd and 53rd Conference to craft an overarching integrated ICT framework with the publication of the ICT White Paper.

That policy paper advocates for, amongst others,the creation of a separate economic regulator and a content regulator. It further calls for the establishment of a digital development fund and rapid deployment of ICT infrastructure.

Another important output of the policy framework is the Open Access Network and the allocation of the high demand spectrum to achieve the objective of the ICT white paper.Government is seized with the implementation of this white paper policy outcomes.

The South African Post Office (SAPO) has been stabilized with adequate capacity at management and board level. We have further made significant progress to license the Post Bank as a fully fledged state bank and expect this process to be completed soon. We welcome the decision that the Post Bank will become the primary distributor of social grants from April 2018.

We further urge government, as a whole, to move with speed to enable the fulfillment of the resolution that the Post Bank shall be the bank of first choice of government and a primary platform for government and citizens' transactions.

The ANC must ensure the implementation of the resolutions to support the Post Office, including that Government business must be availed to Post Office through intergovernmental framework and not supply chain management processes.

ICASA has managed to lower the prices for voice call rates (from R2,85c to R0,66c) through their regulatory interventions and we encourage ICASA to continue the fight against high costs of communications by addressing the Data-Must-Fall concerns and the monopolization of data. This is regarded as stifling economic inclusion.

There is a need to strengthen our organs of state including ICASA and departments tasked with Communications. It is imperative that we haveprovincial champions at provincial and district government level to drive this agenda. Targets for youth, women and blacks in the equity of service providers in the ICT industry must be established as part of the radical economic transformation.

We must also engage government to ensure the speedy establishment of the 4th Industrial Revolution Commission. This Commission must develop a strategic response to the technological advancements which, while contributing of the advancement of humanity, may also have negative consequences on workers and society in general. The Commission must come up with a program to mitigate any such negative consequences.

The role of the Commission must also include the preparation of the country in terms of skilling, reskilling, innovation, research and development, digitization, SMME readiness. The 4th Industrial Revolution Commission should prepare for amongst others investment readiness leveraging on the new opportunities provided by this new way of doing things

Broadcasting

The 53rd National Conference had mandated the then incoming NEC to ensure a stable corporate governance environment within the SABC in order to ensure long-term sustainability. This included amongst others, strengthening the SABC's accountability to parliament, the shareholder and the public.

To this end, we are pleased to report that during this term a thorough going enquiry into the affairs of the SABC was conducted by parliament and produced a considered report to turnaround the affairs at the public broadcaster.

A very effective interim board was appointed which was succeeded by a new Board which commenced its work in the latter part of this year. Both have pursued the SABC turnaround with vigor.

We have also made significant inroads to realize the vision of reducing the significant barriers to entry in the pay commercial broadcasting sector. In this regard, Icasa and the Competition Commission are practically looking at the transfomatory object to open up pay television to all South Africans and reduce the monopoly in the pay TV space.

Government must undertake a holistic broadcasting policy review which process should apply to the entire broadcasting landscape and not just the SABC & should be underpinned by the desire to create a diverse broadcasting landscape.

Policy should aim to attain over 70% local content quotas within five years from the National Conference. By 2018 we must have migrated from Analogue to Digital broadcasting, towards this end, conference should be given the necessary guarantees and concrete action steps.

On Media Transformation, media diversity and accountability mechanisms

The 53rd National Conference had mandated the then incoming NEC to review the ANC Media Charter and conduct a Parliamentary inquiry on the desirability and feasibility of a media appeals tribunal.

The parliamentary enquiry would include the Press Freedom Commission (PFC) outcomes. It further instructed that government should introduce an empowerment charter to promote Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment in the print media sector, and strengthen the Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA) to support community and commercial entities towards more diversity. We welcomed the promulgation of the Marketing Advertising and Communications sector, believing it is an important steps to achieve meaningful transformation in the marketing, advertising and communications industry.

We will be recommending before the National conference that our ANC led local authorities must priorities community media i.e. radio, television and newspapers for disseminating information to the locals. This will go a long way in strengthening and ensuring sustainability of community media.

Past five (5) years laid a foundation for us to enhance and speed up radical economic transformation. The 54th National Conference of the ANC must emerge with concrete mechanisms to increase and accelerate black ownership in the telecommunications, pay television and print media space.

Issued by

Jackson Mthembu
Chairperson: ANC NEC SubCommittee on Communications and Battle of Ideas

Enquiries
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