The Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA) and Government Communication and Information Service (GCIS) has received the green light from the National Treasury Department to pursue the vision of an online booking system for community and small commercial media that would ensure GCIS adspend would reach that sector.
The idea is to develop – or source – a community radio software management tool that would “enhance professionalism, accountability, record keeping, reporting and good community radio management”.
MDDA representative, Nkopane Maphiri, told a forum hosted by the Advertising Media Association of South Africa (AMASA) this week that GCIS had committed itself to an increase in adspend to community media and that the money would be channeled through the proposed technology platform to create a “pipeline” of revenue to the sector.
In effect, as one person at the forum said, the MDDA would become “the commercial sales arm of community and small commercial media via the centralized booking platform. This could seriously impact on media agencies servicing the sector. “There will be collateral damage in the space,” Maphiri said.
But he added that the development and creation of such a platform would be put it out to a “public process” and that agencies currently working in the field could quite possibly already be sitting on solution and that they were welcome to take part in such a process. He said the system could only work through the creation of a private public partnership.
He said there would be a system in place to “balance what’s best for the client as well as create support for the local newspaper or radio station”. He said government wasn’t prescribing adspend “at all costs but to give community media a fair chance while generating returns for clients”.
The move by the MDDA and GCIS comes in the wake of accusations that the advertising industry has been slow to transform. The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Communications conducted “oversight” visits to various community media operations in Eastern Cape, Kwa-Zulu Natal, Northern Cape Free State and Western Cape.
It found that the advertising industry was “facing some challenges, and that “community Media projects lamented the lack of advertising support for community radio stations, small commercial media and community print media projects. This lack of support is as a result of lack of understanding by the advertising industry of the Community Media sector”.
The Committee recommended that “Government organs and state owned entities” be “encouraged to also use community and small commercial media as defined in the MDDA Act in respect of their advertising spend”.
This, said the PPC, “will not only ensure their messages reach the targeted communities but will also support the ideal of sustaining a diverse media society, viable community media and enhance democracy”.
The PPC also recommended that the MDDA and Association for Communication and Advertising meet to “discuss, consider and take all issues raised by the community and small commercial media at the oversight visits forward and report back to the committee”.
Maphiri reports that the MDDA and ACA have already agreed to host a round table discussion with the top 10 advertisers and their agencies. They have also agreed to partner in the development of training modules on Media Development and Diversity for their training institutions.
The MDDA is compiling a “comprehensive report…on the state of adspend in the sector by both the public and private sector”. They were also hoping to work with the South African Advertising Research Foundation (SAARF) to develop “credible” research. “We want to work within a system that the industry is already accustomed to,” says Maphiri.
In the meantime, though, the PPC and MDDA are keen for progress on the proposed MAC Charter, the legal blueprint for the transformation of the advertising industry. “We want to work within the parameters of the MAC Charter,” Maphiri told the AMASA forum. “Parliament must enable the promulgation of the Charter, craft it into law.”
But agencies have expressed reservations about funding. The creation of an online platform could be a costly exercise, and the MDDA is often stretched for funds already. But Maphiri believes a public private partnership could solve funding issues.
In his presentation to AMASA, he says that through the MDDA partnership with AMASA , ACA and other industry bodies, “an opportunity exist to work together with the private sector to encourage it to be a partner in the development of the sector through meaningful support of this important sector of the media.
“The advertising industry through its charter will also need to commit to a proportional budget allocation to community and small commercial media as defined in the MDDA Act, along the lines of the spirit of enterprise development.”
He said the MDDA and GCIS wanted to “create an enabling environment” for the creation of the online booking platform by April.
The way forward according to MDDA:
- To engage with DTI on the promulgation of MAC charter to a binding charter.
- Monitor other entities and encourage them to commit a percentage of their advertising spend on community media as defined in the MDDA Act
- Monitor the implementation and impact of the online platform
- MDDA and GCIS continue to engage SOE’s and government departments on the online platforms
- Monitor compliance and build capacity within beneficiary projects to comply • Rollout and manage the online platform