South Africa’s Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) says the recent South African Post Office (Sapo) strike, which ran for over three months, is a “publisher issue and does not involve the ABC”.
Vice chairman of the ABC, Gordon Patterson, told The Media Online the issue had been discussed internally in the lead-up to the release of the 2014 Q4 results, expected early in the new year.
“From my own perspective, I think this is the correct decision as it is similar to the concerns raised in 2008 re the power outages,” Patterson said. “Publishers made a plan and installed generators. Most publishers that I’ve spoken to have made alternative arrangements to get subscriber copies distributed.”
Patterson said he expects the Sapa strike to hit business to business publishers the hardest. “I guess time will tell if I’m right,” he said.
In the meantime, specialist publishers have made good on their resolution to lodge a complaint with the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa). The complainants, from eight different publishing companies, who all rely on the Post Office to deliver their magazines, say they have suffered “significant” damages as a result of the long-running strike.
The companies include Creamer Media, Brooke Pattrick, Now Media, Technews Publishing, Interact Media, EE Publishers, Crown Publications and TE Trade Events.
The publishers said while the current strike was the culmination of years of labour unrest and poor service delivery from the Post Office. They said they have lost “all confidence in the ‘measures’ and ‘task teams’ allegedly put in place to address the widespread lack of delivery by the Post Office under its present licence conditions”.
The complainants said they want in “in depth and pragmatic” investigation by Icasa and a “transparent” hearing by the Consumer Complaints Commission (CCC). They have also called for public participation in a CCC hearing.
“In particular the complainants are requesting Icasa to consider and review their numerous complaints against the Post Office and the financial and other damage to the publishing industry caused by the Post Office’s ongoing failure to meet its licence conditions, and to sanction the Post Office accordingly,” they said in their complaint.
The sanctions could include “punitive” financial sanctions and an instruction to the Post Office to release the complainants’ payment guarantees as there is “no justifiable basis for retaining same due to the Post Office’s non-performance and non-delivery”. They want Icasa to entertain alternative licence applications to that of the Post Office and to consider additional licence applications to supplement the activities of the Post Office.
They also want the Post Office to conclude service level agreements as a commitment to performing its duties and to “provide relief and remedies for consumers in cases of non-performance and non-delivery.
The publishers have called on Icasa to revoke the Post Office’s currently exclusive licence with a “view to to opening the process up for healthy competition to the benefit of businesses and consumers”.
The publishers recently issue a tender for alternative magazine delivery services.
“It is hoped that market demand for such alternative delivery arrangements by magazine publishers will encourage the formation of an effective and profitable magazine distribution industry, initially covering the metropolitan areas of every province in South Africa, and then extending to smaller cities and towns throughout the country,” said EE Publishers’ Chris Yelland, spokesman for the Concerned Group of Specialist Magazine Publishers.
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