GCIS Budget & Programmes; International Marketing Council: briefing

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Communications

10 May 2002
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Meeting report

COMMUNICATIONS PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE


10 May 2002
GCIS BUDGET & PROGRAMMES; INTERNATIONAL MARKETING COUNCIL: BRIEFING

Chairperson: Mr N Kekana (ANC)

Documents handed out
 

GCIS Budget Per Programme Allocation
GCIS Report
GCIS Briefing Notes [document awaited]
International Marketing Council of South Africa Presentation

SUMMARY
The presentation by the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) discussed the efforts being made to create a more effective communication environment between the South African government and its people. The achievement of this objective is facilitated by the Multi-Purpose Community Centres, an Information Technology Plan, the Presidential Imbizos and the establishment of a Presidential Press Corps.

The discussion on this presentation raised concern with the role of GCIS in shaping the media environment, the problems with underspending by GCIS, its policy on employing disabled persons, measures taken to achieve maximum population exposure of government information, the monitoring of MPCCs and the body in whom ownership ultimately vests and increasing public exposure to the budget speech.

The presentation by the International Marketing Council of South Africa (IMC) detailed the measures and objectives planned to create a marketable brand for South Africa, so that a positive international perception may be created.

The ensuing discussion highlighted the call to promote South Africa's rich indigenous culture, using community radio stations to change the mindset of South Africans and the effect of the recent spate of unspeakable crimes on South Africa's reputation.

MINUTES
The Chair commenced proceedings by welcoming the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) delegation, and asked Mr Joel Netshitenzhe, the GCIS Chief Executive Officer, to commence the presentation. He contended that the issue of media ownership is an important one, and has to be carefully considered.

GCIS Briefing
Mr Netshitenzhe informed Members on the progress made by GCIS during 2001 on certain key initiatives such as the Media Development and Diversity Bill and the transformation of the advertising and marketing industry, as well as the rollout of Multi-Purpose Community Centres (MPCC's) and the success with the recent Imbizo programme. He noted that Ms Yvonne Johnston, Chief Executive Officer of the International Marketing Council (IMC), will brief this committee on the work it has begun on marketing or "branding" South Africa.

GCIS has also made progress in creating a more effective communication environment, so that public information needs are met.

Several strategic challenges face GCIS during 2002 and in this regard a multi-media information campaign on the Opening of Parliament and the State of the Nation address was conducted. Efforts are also being made to ensure that the President's call for volunteerism, during the State of the Nation Address, is facilitated, and in this regard partnerships with civil society will be concluded. High priority will also be given to important issues such as the Moral Regeneration Movement and Growth and Development Summit, as well as the compilation and distribution of information leaflets on HIV/AIDS.

Measures also have to be taken to ensure the integration and co-ordination of the communication system. In this regard the consolidation of the Government Communicators Forum, which brings together national, provincial and local government officials, as well as efforts to further integrate the work done by the various communication clusters.

There are also certain GCIS management issues that have to be addressed during 2002. These include the production of an Information Technology (IT) Plan in terms of the Public Finance Management Act of 1999, the establishment of a Directorate for Local Liaison and Information Management, the separation of the Deputy CEO function into the Centralised Services and Strategy and Content Development branches, and the necessary budgetary adjustments that will have to be made to accommodate these initiatives.

Mr Tony Trew, the GCIS Deputy CEO: Strategy and Content, informed Members that he would not be relating the GCIS Report in detail, but would rather give two examples that best illustrate he aim of the Strategy and Content Management Directorate to achieve improved coherence.

Firstly, the recent Presidential Imbizos best illustrate the commitment to promote interaction between the South African government and its people, as well as the integration within and between departments and the different spheres of government. The Imbizos actually received a "much better response" than had been anticipated.

The role of the media liaison service to facilitate media coverage of such government events, and the recent Imbizo to the Free State served as a test ground for the institution of the Presidential Press Corps. Studies have been conducted to identify exactly what it is that the South African public wants to know about its government, and the studies found that 25% of the population wanted "face-to-face" interaction with government, with this figure rising to 40% in the rural areas. Further work in this area is done by the Policy and Research Unit.

The second example relates to the commitment made to this Committee during 2001 to provide online access to government information, such as government directorates and contact details. This project has been completed, and will be launched along with the GCIS budget during the week beginning May 13 2002. The savings generated by the introduction of this system covers the cost of the paper-based system, which allows an increased investment in technology, and provides those who need this information with permanently updated information. It integrates technology and information communication to better serve government and the public. All this is contained in further detail in the Report.

The Deputy CEO: Centralised Services, Ms Ilva MacKay-Langa, discussed the importance, purpose and services offered by the MPCCs as a provincial and local liaison in developing and providing a communication and information service to the public, as contained in the Report. Eighteen MPCC's had been launched by March 2002 throughout South Africa, twenty-seven more will be launched during 2002/2003 and the remaining fifteen during the 2003/2004 financial year. There are also "satellite offices" in Upington and Kroonstad. An extensive consultative process was followed in this regard, including the participation of a range of stakeholders involved in local, provincial and national intersectoral stakeholder committees and the Local Intersectoral Steering Committee.

The MPCCs also provide an important function as a liaison with local government structures, as they are "based at the ward level of local municipalities". GCIS has conducted a pilot study in the Amatole District in the Eastern Cape Province to assess the feasibility of national and provincial communication structures offering communication strategising support to local government. This will be rolled out during 2002/2003.

With regard to human resource development, GCIS is currently conducting a skills audit which forms the basis of the skills development plan. Senior and middle management is undergoing various training programmes, and the recruitment and training of "African women in middle management positions" is also being emphasised. GCIS also has to meet its affirmative action targets in terms of its Employment Equity Plan.

GCIS was allocated a budget of R124m for the 2001/2002 financial year and the total expenditure as at 31 March 2002 stood at R122m, amounting to 98% of the budget. The National Treasury has been requested to roll over the remaining funds into the next financial year.

Discussion
Ms M Smuts (DP) stated that Mr Netshitenzhe has recently been appointed as the policy head for the majority party in the Presidency, and this then creates the problem with GCIS conveying information of the government of the day. This would create further problems should any party other than the current ruling party come into power. Mr Netshitenzhe has stated that this matter is cured by a separation of powers into the two new Deputy Chief Executive Officer (DCEO) posts, but further clarity is requested on the precise manner in which this compensates for the original problem.

Mr Netshitenzhe replied that the position as head of the policy unit in the Presidency is a public servant position, and not a party political position.

Secondly, concern has to be raised regarding any possible role of GCIS in the media environment, as it would again convey the information of the government of the day, which could shape the media environment. This problem also means that they cannot be allowed to deal with matters such as media ownership, as stated.

Mr Netshitenzhe answered that this is a matter of continuing philosophical debate, and GCIS is not indifferent to the platform areas, but recognizes that it has to identify means to improve this to communicate its message properly. Furthermore, the Constitution itself states that equity has to be ensured in the media environment. As mentioned earlier by Mr Trew, the recent Imbizo's are but one platform employed by GCIS to communicate its message.

Thirdly, GCIS would play a major part in the establishment of the Presidential Press Corps (PPC) as stated in the presentation. But how is it possible, in a democracy, that journalists applying for positions within the PPC are questioned on their "intimate lives", including questions regarding their bank statements and their "psychotherapeutical medical records". It is "entirely unacceptable" that the National Intelligence Agency was allowed to ask these questions.

Mr Netshitenzhe responded that an agreement was concluded between government and the Education Department during 2001 at a meeting at Sun City that a modus operandi would be discussed by both GCIS and the Education Department to arrive at acceptable processes in this regard. This essentially entails striking a balance between the rights of the persons applying for the position and the responsibilities accompanying the occupation of that particular office. This matter was discussed continually with the PPC, as the level of access allowed into GCIS facilities and resources, as well as the office of the President is substantial, and this level of access depends on the level of security clearance granted to them. This is thus an important issue.

Whether such questioning should not be allowed in principle is a matter for further discussion. The very issue of minimum standards of questioning was discussed by the Portfolio Committee on Intelligence, as well as the kind of responsibility that goes with the accompanying level of access to the office of the President, his convoy and so forth. This is the topic of continuing discussion.

Mr R Pieterse (ANC) stated that the underspending by GCIS is a problem, and the mere fact that it was reported in the presentation that spending patterns were on the increase does not necessarily mean that it is good enough, because GCIS has to spend its full budget.

Mr Netshitenzhe responded that this point is accepted, but GCIS has exhibited a 6% increase in its spending pattern since 2001. There are however cases in which underspending is unavoidable. For example, where GCIS budgets for fifteen directors but three of these resign during the course of the financial year, it takes at least three to four months to reappoint these officials. The result is that the statement at the end of the financial year will report a saving on the salaries that would have been paid to those that have resigned. He agreed with Mr Pieterse that GCIS should spend its full budget on productive purposes in the interests of the public.

Ms Patti McDonald, head of the GCIS's Corporate Service Agency, added that a total of R25m has been spent on advertising, with R17m of this amount being used on radio advertising and R20m on print media recruitment advertisements alone [PMG note: PMG to verify this particular amount]. GCIS is currently considering ways of recruiting in media other than the print environment.

Secondly, Mr Pieterse stated that the presentation indicated that even less than 1% of the staff employed by GCIS are disabled, which is an unacceptable figure.

Mr Netshitenzhe admitted that this is a problem.

The Deputy CEO added that GCIS has tried to establish an advertising policy on the recruitment of the disabled, which is sent to advertising agencies that recruit the disabled. Yet GCIS has not been very successful to date, but continues to work on this.

Ms McDonald added that GCIS has had at least four meetings with the office of the Presidency and the South African deaf persons society to provide sign language interpreters for all videos. In this regard the GCIS profile mirrors, almost spot on, the national trend, but how this is to be rolled out remains a problem. Efforts are being made to roll out this information via community theatre groups, so that the communications experience may be more interactive.

Thirdly, it seems that the GCIS communication policy assumes that all South Africans are literate. In Australia, such policy and message is communicated via radio broadcasts to achieve maximum exposure, and this should be considered by GCIS.

Mr Netshitenzhe agreed fully with Mr Pieterse, and assured him that GCIS is doing precisely this. It is engaged in a systematic process to have Ministers involved in radio interviews and radio dramas, as mentioned in the presentation, in an attempt to translate government information contained in written material into an audio format. This process is currently being considered.

Ms McDonald added further that GCIS meets regularly with the National Community Radio Forum (NCRF), but the problem lies with the available infrastructure and the funding needed for this environment, and in 2000 only R1,5m was spent on advertising in the community radio sector. Yet the Media Diversity and Development Agency Bill (the MDDA) seeks to address with issue in terms of "adspend" and "ad replacement". In this regard consideration is being given to centralising the marketing for all community radio stations so that more funds may be generated for the establishment of information centres. GCIS has always regarded community radio as an important voice for the South African public.

Furthermore, nine community radio stations were employed in the recent Presidential Imbizo is the Free State, and all the radio talk shows occurred during the State of the Nation Address period. This is an ongoing process, with R8,5b being spent on advertising in South Africa yet only R1,1b is spent on South Africa. This is therefore an underspent medium.

Ms N Mtsweni (ANC) requested GCIS to explain how often the MPCC's are monitored in terms of ownership and proper use, as some of these might very well belong to other state departments.

A Member of the GCIS delegation replied that the MPCC's are monitored, and a formal evaluation is being conducted by the Public Service Commission to evaluate whether synergy can be reached with the Department of Public Service and Administration to incorporate the MPCC's within its service delivery regime. The report has just been released and will be made available to Members in good time.

Mr A Maziya (ANC) stated that the presentation mentioned that eighteen MPCC's were operational within the Republic and it goes on to state that six MPCC's operate within the Gauteng Province, yet he realises that no less than seven MPCC's operate within that province.

Secondly, the presentation fails to mention whether any MPCC's have been established in areas such as Alexandra and Soweto, and he is thus questioning whether GCIS alone is responsible for establishing these MPCC's, or whether some other department or institution is also involved.

Dr Sefora Masia, Chief Director: Provincial & Local Liaison, responded that the role of the national steering committee is important here, and it consists of more than twenty state departments and more than seven parastatals including Statistics South Africa, Sentech, Telkom, Eskom, CSIR and various NGO's. The Alexandria area is served by a large MPCC under the control of an NGO, and GCIS will work with them to add the provision of government information and services at that MPCC. A GCIS office has since been added to ensure the community has access to government information. In those areas that do not have a large MPCC satellite centres are employed.

Furthermore, the provincial steering committee has similar structures, and these MPCC sites are elected by the local government authority itself.

Thirdly, who precisely is responsible for building these MPCC's, are they owned by the government and, if so, by which Departments specifically?

Mr Netshitenzhe replied that the South African government was faced with a conceptual dilemma from 1994 to 1999 that many Departments had set up community centres, with each conceptually called MPCC's, yet GCIS believes that this title is inaccurate. The reason is that it is possible to have many MPCC's because these structures work with the communities and NGO's that provide specific services needed by the particular community to suit its unique interests. Yet these are different to the MPCC's established by government in that these serve as a "one-stop centre".

The problem with regard to the ownership of these MPCC's is that the buildings are sometimes owned by someone else before the MPCC takes occupation, and that person retains ownership of the building. The Department of Public Works builds these MPCC's, and ownership ultimately reverts to the local government authority. The problem here, however, is that this framework essentially places GCIS "at the mercy" of the decisions taken by the Department of Public Works in terms of its budgetary priorities, as that department may not have the necessary funds to accommodate GCIS and the matter would then have to be taken to Cabinet for resolution. A possible solution here could lie in the use of satellite MPCC's to serve as "one-stop centres", as is done in the Gauteng Province.

Fourthly, who has the right to lease the MPCC premises, because they are supposed to be "one-stop-shops" that provide government information?

A Member of the GCIS delegation replied that once these have been built by the Department of Public Works they are handed over to the relevant district municipality in co-ordination with the local municipality. These structures then have the right to lease the MPCC for the national departments, but the local government structures can lease the premises to the NGO's.

Fifthly, it seems that the communities are not aware of GCIS, its purpose or government programmes, yet the Member was under the impression that GCIS is a vehicle to provide government information to the communities. If they are not aware of GCIS, this is a problem.

Mr Netshitenzhe acknowledged that this is a failing, as this relates to the earlier question posed by Mr Pieterse regarding the assumption that the majority of the public is literate, but assured Members that GCIS is making progress in this area. This is evidenced by the fact that the Economics cluster has accepted a communications strategy dealing with the responsibility of government in this regard, and there is growing recognition of the fact that there is a need to do this work throughout government.

A Member of the GCIS delegation added that the communities are reached via a number of other GCIS activities, such as via the communication officers operating within each district municipality. The aim here is to have at least two operating within each area that would work "all the way down to ward level" within each municipality, and would participate in the municipal integration development planning process. These would also be responsible for conducting meetings and workshops with members of the community, so that government information may be made available to them.

Finally, Mr Maziya suggested that the statement made earlier by the Chair regarding media ownership is especially relevant when one considers that most South African newspapers publish the same information on the same story, with the result that there is no diversity at all. Since it is the responsibility of GCIS to look at media diversity, it seems that content and diversity, in this regard, go hand-in-hand. GCIS is thus requested to explain measures it is taking as far as media ownership is concerned, and whether it has planned any investigation to evaluate this matter.

Mr Netshitenzhe responded that this is a topic of continuous debate and it calls into question existing paradigms and the evaluation of the problem in context. Yet GCIS does not, as a matter of policy, deal with policy content of the South African media. An indirect intervention is, however, to be found in the form of the Media Diversity and Development Agency Bill which does propose to deal with diversity of media ownership and which, it is hoped, will translate into diversity in content.

GCIS believes that this forms part of the work currently being done by the International Marketing Council of South Africa (IMC), and GCIS should at least "bring the mood of the media and the elite to the level of the mood of the people", which is one of optimism in this regard.

The Chair suggested that perhaps ten minutes or so should be set aside to discuss the important issue of the role of GCIS in media ownership.

Mr V Gore (DP) referred to the answers given by GCIS regarding disability, and stated that GCIS had used it as a noun rather than an adjective, which many find offensive. For this reason the proper term is "disabled person" and not "the disabled" as used by GCIS. It is expected that by this time GCIS "should get it right" because it is a communications agency.

Mr Netshitenzhe stated that this concern is noted.

Secondly, further information is requested regarding the outcomes of all the activities that took place at the Imbizo's, as it was mentioned in the presentation that over one hundred events took place. Furthermore, the Public Finance Management Act (the PFMA) requires that outcomes of activities be reported.

Mr Netshitenzhe replied that an indication of the success reached by the Imbizo's is the involvement of political principals which assisted in identifying difficulties, and these will be followed-up at the relevant levels of government. A more critical matter for GCIS here is whether government information in fact achieves the widest possible population reach, and research is being compiled on the reach of the recent State of the Nation Address as well as the outputs and outcomes of the Imbizo activity. It has to be appreciated that this is a learning curve for GCIS, as only two Imbizo's have been hosted to date.

Thirdly, the Report states that one of the GCIS plans for 2002/2003 is the development of a satellite network for community radio stations, and GCIS is asked to explain the measures to be undertaken here.

Ms McDonald replied that this matter is currently being considered by GCIS, the Department of Communications and the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC). The important matter here is the need to provide satellite access to community radio stations from a central point, which would then be broadcast to them all at the same time. At the moment the SABC only broadcasts live to them, but it is hoped that this can be expanded to provide the community radio stations with more regular information.

Ms A Van Wyk (NNP) stressed the cultural aspect regarding heritage assets, and contended that every government department has an important role to play here, especially with regard to the vast provincial asset registers. The government has contributed to the destruction of a sense of place, and must incorporate the indigenous communities.

Mr Netshitenzhe replied that this point is noted, but the bigger problem lies in the content of the media.

Ms McDonald added that GCIS is currently engaged in a project that would transform the cultural and design aesthetic of South African society: the new system of national orders for South Africa. GCIS has managed these design processes, which are important for a cultural understanding of issues such as the flora and fauna of South Africa.

Secondly, Ms Van Wyk stated that the budget speech by the Minister of Finance is an instrument of democracy and is thus an important event, and for this reason the needs and interests of the poor should be at the top of the list of GCIS priorities. Yet this is not the position with the budget, and if community radio stations are used to broadcast the State of the Nation Address the same should be done for budget day because it is an important event. This is especially resonant in terms of the prospects for the poor. The budget therefore needs much more respect from government.

Mr Netshitenzhe agreed fully with Ms Van Wyk. He stated that it is unfortunate that the budget speech has been moved closer to the State of the Nation Address as this has resulted in the two events being packaged as one. Th President now seems to provide a sneak preview of the very matters which Minister Manuel will detail in his budget speech.

GCIS distributes an information package known as "The People's Budget" together with documentation on the State of the Nation Address. The aim here is to allow the media to focus on the details of these two addresses.

Ms McDonald added that the budget could also be incorporated into the Imbizo programme.

The Chair thanked GCIS for its presentation and contribution, and informed Members that the following presentation will deal with the issue of whether South African media has its own culture. This becomes particularly relevant in view of an article in today's Business Day in which the British government has decided not to prohibit any foreign investment holdings in its media industry. It has said that it would not allow a major foreign player such as Rupert Murdoch to take full control of its media industry. It is believed that this regime will ensure a British culture in its national media, and it is hoped that the International Marketing Council of South Africa (IMC) will assist in this regard, in such efforts as the new coat of arms mentioned by Ms McDonald.

International Marketing Council
Ms Yvonne Johnston, the IMC CEO, discussed the pivotal role to be played by the Communication Resource Centre (CRC) in creating a positive and marketable public image and value for South Africa.

The section entitled "Web Portal" deals with the objectives of the "world first" South African web portal.

The series of slides under the title "Brand South Africa" details the objectives of this initiative, provides a "roadmap" of key communication matters that have to be effected in "creating, nurturing and building a Winning South Africa Mindset". In this regard the important roles to be played by the tourism industry, the community itself, national icons, the Department of Trade and Industry, the youth of South Africa, the political arena as well as the marketing industry are also detailed. Three strategic directions have been identified as pivotal in effecting such change, and can be grouped under the following headings: forging a better way, ordinary people doing extra-ordinary things and active adaptability.

The essential feature under the title "Branding a Country" is that such a brand has to reflect the values of South Africa, which can be re-identified and reinforced by the President and his Cabinet. It is the function of the IMC to ensure that the international perception of South Africa is accurate, and also to manage the image and behaviour of South Africa.

Under the heading "Believe in South Africa" the IMC aims to change the way South Africans view themselves and the future of their country and as a result influence what they say about their country to one another, and to the rest of the world. A recent survey indicates, contrary to popular perception, that an overwhelming majority of South Africans from various socio-economic sectors are very proud of being South African.

In conclusion, then, the IMC recognises that it has a massive, but exciting task ahead but this task is a very long journey, that needs consistency and repetition, and only the complete commitment from the President and his Cabinet and all South Africans will bring about the measurable difference.

Discussion
Ms Smuts asked where exactly Singita hotel is as mentioned on the slide entitled "Good Stuff".

Ms Johnston replied that it is in the Mpumalanga Province.

Mr Padagi (ANC) thanked Ms Johnston for the "wonderful message" but suggested that South Africa needs a common agenda to achieve this goal, and stated that the Department is doing a good job not only for the media industry but for "all aspects of life".

Ms Van Wyk stated that she supports a common agenda for South Africa, and this accords with the aim of the NNP to make South Africa work. This type of marketing outlined by the presentation is needed to ensure a South African brand within diversity, because the country does have plenty to sell, together with the environmental assets whose worth cannot only be measured in material value. In this regard the Afrikaans language is something all South Africans can be proud of because it is an indigenous language originating from the Khoi people, yet focus is placed on the English language instead. It could, however, be conceded that English would perhaps be the appropriate language in which to market the South African brand internationally.

Ms Johnston replied that the IMC focuses on altering the mindset, and does not concentrate on the demographic aspect. It is important to note that some major Afrikaans sectors have already approached the IMC and offered their full support.

Furthermore, sincere efforts have been made since 1994 to move away from South Africa's past, yet the media and the sort of advertising campaign used in the IMC radio commercial constantly harps on the mistakes of this past. The effect is that it makes white South Africans ashamed to the extent that they feel they do not belong in the new South Africa.

The Chair contended that the effect of the recent story of the rape of the nine month old baby has done more damage to the reputation of South Africa than any other event, as the international headlines on the story indicate, purely because of one mistake by a police officer. Yet what is an even greater cause of concern is the fact that South Africans themselves believed that their fellow countrymen are capable of such atrocities. This mindset has to be changed, as stated in the IMC presentation.

It does not seem possible that GCIS could decide when it is effectively communicating the government's message to the public, and it also has to identify obstacles in conveying a positive message. Furthermore, lessons can be learnt from the Business Against Crime initiative, which started small but has achieved great results in Johannesburg. GCIS has to devise a means to inform politicians about these programmes, so that their input may be acquired.

Mr E Magashule (ANC) suggested that youth and learners should be targeted as well, and the government awareness and information programmes should be aired on all community radio stations, not just the "Top 10". This would allow the whole nation to be reached.

Ms Johnston informed the Member that there are however several financial restrictions in place in this regard, but the IMC does want to get the programme started. This would cost R15m, which has not been budgeted for.

The meeting was adjourned.

 

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