In an exclusive interview with The Media Online, Primedia Group CEO Omar Essack spoke about a variety of topics.
Read the first part of the interview here.
Touching on how he sees this year unfolding for South Africa he stresses, “I’m hopeful that the election will deliver a strong mandate for leadership to get on with it. You read all the time that we are held back by policy uncertainty and political parties playing politics with people’s lives. This election needs to result in leadership who can deliver the jobs and the opportunities that South Africans deserve. Our catastrophic unemployment rate is the single biggest challenge to economic freedom for the vast majority of our fellow citizens.
He adds that he’s delighted that the key pillars that keep South Africa free, an independent judiciary and a free media, are in good shape.
Elections benefit media
Commercially, media benefits from an election year, as the Independent Electoral Commission and political parties spend money on encouraging people to exercise the hard won right to vote. However it’s also a time when the media is under the greatest scrutiny to ensure that there is balanced and fair treatment of all political parties.
“It’s going to be a lift from an advertising economy point of view, not massive but it will happen. Editorially, we’re getting ready and at EWN , 702 and Cape Talk we’ve done it like clockwork every time there’s an election,” says Essack.
Regulations hindering media growth
Asked about expansion plans for Primedia Broadcasting, and whether the group will be pursuing any other broadcast licenses, Essack says that regulations are a challenge, and that “our best bet is to continue to talk to the new Minister of Communications”.
He adds that with a clear commitment from President Cyril Ramaphosa to want to encourage investment in all sectors, one of the ways to do this in the media industry is to loosen regulations.
Allowing media houses to own a certain percentage of overall assets in the space, which was a recommendation that ICASA previously pushed for, “has to be back on the table” Essack strongly advocates, explaining that increased investment in the sector and job growth will follow.
The other recommendation he gives is lifting the foreign ownership cap, which currently sits at 20%.
“If we’re open for business and open for investment then we have to change regulatory policy in the country to make the media industry more attractive,” believes Essack.
The big problem Essack identifies with the OOH advertising space is the amount of legitimate inventory versus illegal inventory. “You don’t get a true picture when you look at the massive number of billboards across Johannesburg. It’s not as bad in Durban and Cape Town is very strict,” he says. Clearing out all the illegal clutter will create more opportunities for legal players and deliver value to advertisers and to the city itself, which benefits from sites on the property that they manage.
Regarding radio, Essack doesn’t believe the space is overly congested, still seeing opportunities in South Africa. “There’s space for niche formats and for talk radio in various cities,” he reveals.