A team tasked with looking into transformation in the media last week hit a second snag since the beginning of the year. The Media Online reporter looks into the latest setback.
Caxton was the first to withdraw from the Print and Digital Media Transformation Task Team (PDMTTT) in January this year,just as it was about to start with its public hearings.
The reason? Caxton said the hearings would duplicate the work of the Competition Commission, which announced in December that it was investigating anti-competitive behaviour by the four major print media companies in the country.
At the time, project director Mathatha Tsedu said it would cause a delay and that hearings would have to be postponed until February, pending consultation with lawyers for the remaining three media houses.
Last week, the second media house pulled out. Times Media Group’s decision meant that the hearings would now be postponed indefinitely.
“The Print and Digital Media Transformation Task team… announced that public hearings which were to be held on Thursday and Friday involving the major print media houses have been postponed indefinitely,” the PDMTTT said in a statement.”This is due to the decision by Times Media Group to pull out of the hearings.
TMG is the second company of the major four to do so, citing an on-going investigation by the Competition Commission into anti-competitive behaviour. It did however continue with hearings last week to hear out other stakeholders, including the ruling African National Congress, which warned that a failure to transform could cause the end of print media in South Africa.
Media Monitoring Africa expressed concern this week over how the matter has been unfolding.
When Caxton pulled out, MMA director William Bird told The Media Online, “The print media should be going at this full ball. Talking about transformation. Getting involved. Because if this doesn’t work, the print media will be inviting a transformation charter.”
A MMA newsletter last week said: “Bird’s words have fallen on deaf ears, it would seem. News just in is that Times Media Group (TMG) has joined its peers Caxton and withdrew from the PDMTTT hearings.
“Just as we asked in this very bulletin earlier this month following Caxton’s withdrawal from the hearings, the questions still remain: Is it safe to say that SA’s print media looks set to and is ready to go through some transformation processes? Is print media taking the hearings seriously?”
The PDMTTT was initially created in response to a discussion in Parliament on transformation in the media.
Parliament seriously discussed the possibility of creating a Transformation Charter for the media. But 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.
Its mandate was to “investigate the state of transformation in the print and digital media and make recommendations”.
Its terms of reference also included investigating alleged anti-competitive behaviour by the major companies against smaller emerging independent publishers.
“At an emergency meeting on Monday, the Task Team decided to go ahead with the hearings for the stakeholders but expressed its disquiet that two of the four major groups that tasked them to do the work have pulled out,” said the PDMTTT.
“The Task Team is to meet with the PDMSA leadership to express its views on the developments and to sketch the way forward.”
Image: Mathatha Tsedu