Ten questions for Gugu MsibiR
1.What are the biggest challenges the MDDA will face in 2008?
The main challenge is to revise funding agreements with the partners, increase funding contributions, as well as build strong monitoring and evaluation capacity in order to ensure we can measure the impact of our work.
2. What new projects will the MDDA be working on during this year?
We will be meeting as the board to go through a review of the strategic approach and then publish our strategic plan.
The strategic plan developed by the board in March 2007 for three years, remains relevant. It includes plans to fund at least one community media per district municipality; fund at least one provincial hub (aimed at providing support for projects in many different ways, programme production, training, marketing and advertising, printing, distribution, etc.); looking at the question of media ownership and control in our country and to what extent it impacts on diversity; promotion of media literacy and the culture of reading, and a number of other projects.
These projects need to be supported and championed by the MDDA in order to make a difference and promote media development and diversity.
3. What goals have you set for yourself and the MDDA for your five-year tenure?
The mandate of the MDDA is enshrined in the Act. In the main, it is to ensure that all citizens can access information in a language of their choice and contributing to the transformation of media access, ownership and control patterns in South Africa. Further, it is to help create an enabling environment for media development and diversity that is conducive to public discourse and which reflects the needs and aspirations of South Africans.
Therefore, my aim is to work with the team towards the achievement of the objectives of the Act. Generally, I want to ensure that we continue the path of clean audits, good corporate governance and build a strong agency with the ability to support new initiatives that will enhance media diversity.
4. Do you think South Africa’s media landscape, which is dominated by a handful of powerful media companies, makes it difficult for smaller and independent community-based media to survive?
The MDDA is set up to create an enabling environment for a diverse media and, as such, has a mandate to help (amongst other objectives) support, encourage and promote community and small commercial media. From the reports produced and conducted by the MDDA, there are challenges faced by this media ranging from (on the print media front) printing and distribution, and generally community and small commercial media face challenges of sustainability, skills development, advertising and marketing, etc. The agency therefore has to develop support strategies and interventions in these regards.
5. What kind of gaps do you see in the South African media market? If you could launch a new media product now, what would it be and why?
South African media (in particular print and television) is not widely available to all citizens in the languages of their choice. So many years into democracy, there are communities that still do not have access to television and some even radio. Therefore, support needs to be given to the poor and historically disadvantaged communities to enjoy the rights of access to information, to communication, to a choice of media that is enjoyed by other citizens and taken for granted.
6. What is your biggest criticism of the local media?
The continued development of skills, professionalism and diversity of views and opinions is a challenge that needs to be confronted head on in order to grow and sustain our media.
7. Last year, GenderLinks released the “Glass Ceiling” report into the state of gender equality in the media. Have you ever experienced the so-called “Glass Ceiling” in your career? And what impact do you think studies such as the “Glass Ceiling” report have when the boards and executive levels of media houses are dominated by men?
Yes, I have experienced it. I believe that these reports create a much-needed dialogue and bring about awareness in a very patriarchal society we live in.
8. What have you achieved in your career that you are most proud of?
Starting a media company with two partners and building it from scratch into one of the leading agencies in South Africa.
9. Do you have any career regrets, and if so, what are they?
I have lessons learnt but not regrets.
10. Your favourites:
Ã¢Â€Â¢ What book are you currently reading? The Measure of a
Man by Sidney Poitier
Ã¢Â€Â¢ What is your favourite…
TV show? “Oprah” (don’t laugh)
Radio show? “Redi Direko” on Talk Radio 702
Newspaper? !_LT_EMMail & Guardian!_LT_/EM and the !_LT_EMSunday Times!_LT_/EM
The Media magazine asked the following two questions to the new members of the MDDA board:
1. The MDDA is committed to promoting media diversity but relies on funding from powerful media companies who certainly do not want to see the emergence of new competition. Do you believe this situation creates a conflict of interest for the MDDA, and why or why not?
2. If you could launch a new media product in a vernacular language in South Africa, what would it be and why?
Professor Guy Berger:
1.The companies came on board the MDDA idea because they saw the value of media diversity. The more media in South Africa, the bigger the media market. Their interest is also because promoting diversity pulls the carpet out from under those who want to accuse the big fish of being monopolies. They do not interfere with the MDDA at all, which is also a sign that the agency is doing its job. Certainly, the monies they give have been far more effectively used than in the telecoms sector where companies are unhappy with the Universal Service and Access Agency of SA.
2. Some kind of interactive journalistic content on mobile, like on a Mixit, focusing on news of interest to young people. It’s a gap in the market, and there’s probably a market in the gap as well. An existing media institution could profitably expand into this role.
1. It needs to be pointed out that powerful media companies are not the only ones involved in the funding of the MDDA.
There is a huge slice that comes from government and to a lesser extent, from smaller donor companies. At the same time, the MDDA is currently exploring further opportunities for funding outside these partners as well. This, I believe will (and continues) to create balance.
Powerful media companies, while one acknowledges their contribution to the creation of media diversity, may have to see the emergence of new ventures as healthy and critical within the context and promotion of democracy in South Africa. This, by far, does not create conflict of interest for the MDDA. As an agency we create an enabling environment for these powerful companies to see a role for themselves in the investment of diversity. After all, competition for them may be healthy.
2. This is a matter that needs to be taken back to the people of South Africa. They are the ones that would suggest what and where that product should be. It is important to note that we as the MDDA cannot “thumb suck” and decide for the people of South Africa. It is for these reasons that the MDDA is engaged in some research to look critically at this question. A simple “wish list” cannot do!
1. I personally do not see any conflict and I also do not think that the creation of community media was as a result of direct competition to “powerful media companies”.
In fact, I see the emergence of community media as an extension to what the mainstream media is doing, as it is able to reach and talk to audiences that the powerful media companies do not consider to be their target audiences or their correct LSMs. I think powerful media companies have bigger concerns and challenges when it comes to competition – top of mind is liberalisation, media convergence and audience fragmentation. Whereas, on the other hand, community media seeks to deliver on a basic human right, which is access to information. What community media seeks to address is to open up a space and provide media platforms to audiences which were not catered for in the past and give a voice to wide and diverse communities, especially the poor and marginalised ones.
I see the relationship between powerful media companies and community media as a symbiotic one and we are grateful for the partial funding that came from these media houses. On a positive note, community media continues to be a training ground and a feeder of trained staff to the mainstream media. Funding and sustainability for many organisations continue to be a challenge and the MDDA is not exempt from this. As the MDDA we are willing to face this challenge head on, and hence are exploring innovative ways of generating revenue for the agency.
2. I know that there is a lot of talk and excitement around new media, but for the audiences we have been mandated to serve, issues of access to technology continue to be a barrier to millions in our communities. Some might argue that in many rural areas mobile has taken off, but at what cost can these communities participate fully in all the activities that these platforms provide without out being charged?
For me, right now radio is still king as a communication tool; it is easy to access, portable and even people in rural areas without electricity are able to access it.
1. At its establishment, there was scepticism about its existence and its role with respect to possible challenges or competition it might pose. But, in fact, these big media houses have stayed on as donors and supported the agency, and, as a result, this supposed fear does not prevail at all. Promotions of media diversity and development cannot pose a threat to anyone. It is meant to create space and a platform for more voices, and for people to make news and tell their stories as they experience them.
The MDDA cannot be conflicted; it does not disperse news or stories but supports and mentors those small and sometimes insignificant institutions that may not be reached by the big media houses. It is a catalyst for growth and expansion of access to media in a diverse country such as ours.
2. As an MDDA board member, I envisage that the MDDA will break new ground, mentor and support hubs of multi-lingual, multi-media and multi-access, and expand platforms where all South Africans can access information for development.
Who are the new board members?
President Thabo Mbeki has appointed five new people to join Felleng Sekha, Mazibuko Jara, Chris Moerdyk and Connie Molusi who are already serving on the board.
Here is a summary of the new board members’ backgrounds:
Professor Guy Berger Ã¢Â€Â“ He teaches and researches media development issues, new media, media policy, convergence and journalism education. He writes an online column for the Mail & Guardian and won the Nat Nakasa Award for media integrity in 2006.
Nomonde Gongxeka Ã¢Â€Â“ She holds a diploma in journalism and a Management Advancement Programme qualification from the Wits Business School. She has worked in edutainment and communication for social change, both on air as well as in a managerial capacity behind the scenes. In June 2006, she joined the SABC’s newly founded Business Development Unit as a Funding & Partnerships Executive.
Siviwe Minyi Ã¢Â€Â“ He holds a BA degree from the University of Cape Town and is currently studying towards a Masters degree in Media Studies.
He’s worked with several non-governmental organisations, is a founder member of Bush Radio and also worked as a trainer for the Gender Education & Training Network.
Gugu Msibi Ã¢Â€Â“ She holds a BA (Journalism and Economics), Management Advanced Programme (MAP) Wits Business School, and an MBA (Bond University, Australia). As the former executive director of Spin Media, she was responsible for media training, communication and developing public affairs strategies for different government departments and companies. She has also worked as a marketing executive at the State Information Technology Agency, as a political journalist at SABC, as a senior producer for AM/PM Live on SAfm, as head of broadcast training at the Institute for the Advancement of Journalism and as a strategy and media advisor to the Mvela Group. She is also a non-executive director of Powertel, a telecommunications company.
Baby Tyawa Ã¢Â€Â“ She holds a BA degree in Psychology with Unisa and a Masters degree in Educational Psychology from Manchester University in the United Kingdom. She is a registered psychologist with the Health Professions Council of South Africa.
She joined government’s communication services, GCIS, in Pretoria in 2002 as the chief director of policy and research. In August 2007, she was appointed deputy chief executive of strategy and content management at the GCIS.
The year ahead
The five-year funding agreements between the MDDA and most big media companies come to an end in 2009. MDDA CEO Lumko Mtimde says these agreements were signed mostly between June and September 2004 and are due for renewal soon.” (Planned new regulations) will inevitably increase the contributions from the broadcasting industry; we are hoping that the print media industry will also consider an increase of their contributions along similar lines as the broadcasters,” says Mtimde.
About half of the MDDA’s funding comes from these media houses (see box on page 29). The government has also in principle committed to increasing its funding of the MDDA for the next three years. Their current partners are the SABC, Primedia, Midi TV (e.tv), M-Net, Independent Newspapers, Media24, Kagiso Media, Caxton and Avusa. The MDDA has expressed hope that media newcomers Telkom Media, MultiChoice Africa, On Digital Media, E-Sat, Walking on Water TV, Capricorn FM, M-Power Radio and Radio North West will also come on board.
The MDDA hopes to grow the number of media in vernacular languages this year. “Even though there is a notable range of media products, the majority of South Africans remain deprived of choice due to language limitations,” says Mtimde. “In particular, indigenous languages still do not feature significantly in most media, in particular within the print media and television sector.”
In the past year, the MDDA funded 14 community radio projects, eight community print projects and 18 small commercial print projects valued at more than R24-million.
What is the MDDA?
The MDDA is a statutory development agency aimed at increasing and promoting access to the media for historically disadvantaged communities. Its beneficiaries are community media and small commercial media. It was set up as a partnership between the government and major print and broadcasting media companies, in terms of the MDDA Act No. 14 of 2002.
Ã¢Â–Â This article first appeared in The Media magazine.