This year kicked off with public hearings on transformation in the media, but the process was dealt a blow when one of the major media groups in the country pulled out. Now the task team has announced that hearings have been postponed. TheMediaOnline reports.
Last year, Parliament seriously discussed the possibility of creating a Transformation Charter for the media. Before it could take the idea much further, the Print and Digital Media of South Africa (formerly known as Print Media South Africa), jumped in and offered to deal with the matter internally. This led to the creation of the Print and Digital Media Transformation Task Team.
It kicked the year off with public hearings in Durban, before moving on to Johannesburg. The idea of the task team is for the media to take ownership of the transformation question, and come up with its own ideas from within on how to fix any anamolies, instead of having Parliament stepping in.
However, Caxton has since announced that it was pulling out of the transformation task team, because it had been informed that the Competition Commision was investigating anti-competitive behaviour by the four major print media companies in the country, including Caxton. It argued that the work of the task team and the Competition Commission would overlap.
As a result of Caxton’s withdrawal, the task team said the hearings needed to postponed.
Mathatha Tsedu, PDMTTT project director, said: “As a result of the Competition Commission investigation, Caxton has pulled out of involvement with the work of the task team as they feel participation may compromise their case.
“The other three print media companies have decided to continue their participation but have asked for a postponement to the end of February to allow for full consultation with their lawyers.
“PDMTTT has granted the postponement. The Government Communications and Information Systems (GCIS) has also asked for more time to consult within government, and the ANC will also be heard at that time.”
The other media companies are Media24, Independent and Times Media Group (formerly Avusa).
Some hearings were held before it was decided to postpone. Tsedu said hearings were held in KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and Johannesburg. Local and regional publishers from different provinces had an opportunity to make submissions. Genderlinks also made a pesentation on gender representation in the media.
Tsedu said the Task Team would at the end of the process produce a report for PDMSA which will potentially form a blueprint for transformation of print and digital media in the country.
Areas being looked at include:
· Management, control and employment equity
· Skills development
· Preferential procurement and enterprise development
· Socio-economic development
· The low levels of black ownership within many large media groups
· The extent to which concentration and market power results in anti-competitive behaviour that blocks new entrants
· The need to develop new media products for regions and communities as well as the languages of those publications.
· Diversity of voices.
“These cover all areas of the industry, including advertising, printing and distribution and include newspapers, magazines and digital for mainstream, community and small commercial publishing,” said Tsedu.
The Competition Commission inquiry arose from a merger last year between Media24, Paarl Coldset and Natal Witness Printing and Publishing Company, where allegations of market sharing and information sharing emerged.
Image: Project director, Mathatha Tsedu