DCDT Revised 2021/22 APP; Media Monitoring Africa on 2021 LGE findings; with Deputy Minister

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Communications and Digital Technologies

22 March 2022
Chairperson: Mr B Maneli (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee convened in a virtual meeting to be briefed by the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies on its revised 2021/2022 annual performance plan (APP), and by Media Monitoring Africa on how the media had fulfilled their mandates during the 2021 local government elections.

The Deputy Minister referred to the absence of the Minister, who was in the Eastern Cape to ramp up installations in preparation for the analogue switch-off in the province, and said the deadline for the switch-off remained unchanged at 31 March, but if any glitches occurred, the Committee would be informed appropriately.

The auction of the spectrum had been concluded by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa. The auction had raised about R14.4 billion for the fiscus. There had been six participants in the auction -- Telkom, MTN, Vodacom, Cell C, Rain and Liquid Intelligence Technologies. The Department assured the Committee that the auction of the spectrum had come with conditions that would connect public schools, police stations, hospitals, etc.

The Department had revised its APP to align with the new priorities of the Department. The affected areas included the hosting of the information communication technology (ICT) investment conference in collaboration with the Presidency and the DTIC; the SA Post Office (SAPO) Amendment Bill, which had been approved by the Cabinet and would soon be published for public participation and comments; the Digital Masterplan; conducting a study on the digital economy and the ICT value chain; conducting work for ICT small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) for the creation of opportunities in ICT development and innovation growth; the business case for a regulatory reform bill had been put on hold; a revision of SA Connect policies; and a comprehensive review for a full Electronic Communications Act (ECA).

Members were concerned that there were issues with the feedback on the audio-visual paper and broadcast digital migration. Leading to the meeting, several Members had shared their concerns about what could happen after the switch-off date of the analogue due to public fears of possible TV blackouts and asked whether there was an intervention strategy if such a possibility actually occurred.

The briefing by Media Monitoring Africa focused mainly on how the mainstream media had generally covered the local government elections; the balance in the approach of the media coverage; how political parties had packaged their messaging; the coverage in the provinces; the dominance of male voices in the political discourse; and the effect of perceived negative coverage on influencing voters.

Members asked questions about how the political parties’ voices were perceived; the manipulation of the media by political parties; the voice of the political observers; social media coverage; gender disparities; and the overall coverage of provinces on service delivery matters.

Meeting report

The Chairperson welcomed everyone present and received apologies from the Minister and some of the Members of the Committee. The Committee would commence with the Department and media monitoring briefings, and conclude with the Committee report and minutes.

The Deputy Minister would lead with a political direction and then proceed with the briefing by the Department. The Deputy Minister should also take the public his into confidence as it pertained to the work of the Ministry, the Department and any of the entities.

Deputy Minister's remarks

Mr Philly Mapulane, Deputy Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies (DCDT), said that the Minister was in the Eastern Cape trying to ramp up the installations in preparation for the analogue switch-off in that province. The deadline of 31 March remained unchanged. There was not enough time, but they hoped to reach 31 March.

The Committee should note the conclusion of the auction of the spectrum by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA). The auction of the spectrum had been a highly anticipated activity for many years now, but it had finally come to fruition and ICASA had announced that it successfully concluded the auction of the spectrum. The auction raised about R14.4 billion for the fiscus. There were six participants in the auction -- Telkom, MTN, Vodacom, Cell C, Rain and Liquid Intelligence Technologies. As part of the auctioning of the spectrum, government had imposed some conditions, and these included the connection of schools, clinics, hospitals, police stations and traditional areas. Today, ICASA would be doing the administrative allocation to all the successful bidders in the spectrum.

The Department had revised the annual performance plans (APPs) for the 2021/22 financial year to align them with the new priorities and ensure that the DCDT achieved its mandate despite the budget cuts. The APPs had also been submitted to the Committee. He would address some areas that had been affected by the revision of the plans. The first one was the target to host the information communication technology (ICT) investment conference. The Department had opted to collaborate with the Presidency and the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTIC) to host this conference. Secondly, the South Africa Post Office (SAPO) Amendment Bill had been followed by the official tabling of the new SAPO turnaround strategy to Parliament.  Cabinet has already approved the Bill. It would be published for public participation and consultation. Once public comments had been received, they would be taken to the Cabinet and then to Parliament.

The other areas were the digital masterplan; conducting a baseline study in terms of the digital economy and the ICT value chain, and taking into consideration the industry players and stakeholders. Work had been done regarding consultation with ICT small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs), with the call for government to create more opportunities for ICT enterprise development and innovation growth. The Department has started work to create an enabling environment to support local innovation. The business case for the Regulatory Reform Bill had been put on hold, given the new direction the Department had to take on this matter. It was also working on absorbing the Electronic Communications Act (ECA) into the Digital Transformation Bill, or a comprehensive review of the full ECA, which was currently under discussion in the Department. The ECA required revision due to some rapid developments in technology. There was also revision of SA Connect, which had also been approved by Cabinet, and they are hoping to implement it in the next three years with the broadcast digital migration.

There were four provinces left in the preparation for the analogue switch-off, but they were ramping up the preparations in those provinces. So far, the deadline was still 31 March, but if any changes or provisions needed to be made, the Department would inform and brief the Committee on that.

DCDT on revised annual performance plan

Ms Nonkqubela Jordan-Dyani, Acting Director-General, DCDT, took Members through the presentation, which further highlighted the background behind the revision of the 2021/22 annual performance plan (APP); a summary of the revised targets; the Departments’ priorities, and brief financial information.

Regarding the revised 2021/22 APP, DCDT have revised a number of targets on the 2021/22 APP to align to the new priorities to ensure that the mandate of DCDT is fully achieved owing to the budgets cuts and fiscal constraints.
The Department therefore undertook a revision of its 2021/22 APP, largely based on the following:
-ICT Investment Conference hosted – the Department opted to collaborate with the presidency and DTIC in the hosting of the SA Investment Conference rather than hosting a separate forum.
-SAPO SOC Ltd Amendment Bill submitted to Cabinet for approval to introduce to Parliament: DCDT spent time on SAPO Turn Around Strategy which needed to inform the Strategic repositioning of SAPO, following the separation from Postbank. Therefore, a SAPO Strategy of Tomorrow was developed which informs the re-tabling of the SAPO Amendment Bill, which will take place in 2022/23 Financial Year.
-The Digital Master Plan has been affected as part of reviewing the APP, as the DCDT need to first conduct a baseline study in terms of the digital economy and ICT Value Chain and take into consideration the industry players and stakeholder
-Work has been done with regards to consultation with ICT SMMEs with a call for government to create more opportunities for ICT enterprise development and innovation growth. Therefore, the Department has started work to create an enabling environment to support SA innovation in tech.
-A Business Case for the Regulatory Reform Bill and Electronic Communication Bill has been put on hold given the new direction the Department has to take on this matter and subject to further clarity on the direction on the ECA e.g. absorbing the ECA in the Digital Transformation Bill or comprehensive review of the full ECA.
-SA Connect: Cabinet approved a revised SA Connect implementation plan, set to connect SA in three years. The previous work done by DCDT on a feasibility study for SA Connect Phase 2 required R57 billion which the state was unable to fund. The revised model requires state capital funding of R2.5 billion and will ensure that government achieves its target of 80% broadband access by 2024.
- Establishment of the Project Management Office for SA Connect Phase 2: the project team had been appointed which consist of representation from the entities within the portfolio and the department to implement the revised SA Connect Phase 2 Model.
-Broadcasting Digital Migration (BDM) projects target which deals with subsidised digital television has been reviewed, following Cabinet approval of the revised implementation. The new target consolidates the work towards Analogue Switch-Off by 31 March 2022.

In terms of financial transfers, R15 million allocated to SAPO had been identified from savings within the Department to reduce the financial pressure faced by SAPO. There was R3.9 million additional compensation of employment (COE) budget for salary adjustments, and R200 million allocated under goods & services for the Broadband Access Fund from the Presidential Employment Stimulus Fund.


Ms N Kubheka (ANC) appreciated the way the Department had revised its APP to also align with the budget.

The Chairperson said that from the stakeholders, there had been an issue about the feedback on the audio-visual paper, as well as the Broadcasting Digital Migration (BDM) aspect. After the Committee meeting, several Members of Parliament had posted on the group where they were receiving concerns about what could happen post-March after the switch-off of analogue. This was more of a question of reassuring South Africans that possible blackouts on their screens would not occur, or what the intervention strategy in place would be for any issues that may arise after the switch-off date had passed.

Deputy Minister Mapulane referred to the BDM and said Members would recall that the Department had made a point several times that South Africa was being left behind. Initially, in the process of migration, it had been leading the rest of the countries on the continent. For several reasons, the migration process had been revised. Even the 2015 target to migrate was revised -- it was not an original target. From 2015 up to now, they had been grappling with the migration from analogue to digital until the President had issued a new deadline, which was 31 March. They were doing a catch-up on migration -- the rest of the countries on the continent had already migrated. The notion that South Africa was rushing the process was ill-informed and not supported by the facts and circumstances confronting the country.

Secondly, the country had decided that with this migration, – those who were earning below R3 500 a month, and those considered to be indigents, would be supported by the government so that no one was left behind. The Department had ramped up communications for support in those areas. Those who qualify and own old television sets must approach the Post Office, register and their eligibility to qualify would be evaluated. Once it was confirmed that they qualified, Sentech would then install the box. As soon as the Cabinet approved the revised model, people had been approaching the Post Office and applying, and the numbers were going up. Sentech was also ensuring that those who were approved would have their boxes installed and be able to watch their television. They had made a call that those who came in before the end of October 2021 would be connected in this financial year. However, those who registered after October 2021 would be connected within the next six months after the switch-off. This had been an ongoing process, and the Department had communicated with South Africans to come and apply at the Post Office. No one was going to be left behind as they migrated from analogue to digital. The Department was aware of organisations that had approached the courts to contest the matter, and it would abide by the outcome of the courts.

Briefing by Media Monitoring Africa on local government election coverage

Mr William Bird, Director: Media Monitoring Africa (MMA), took Members through the presentation and outlined how the entity monitored the 2021 local government elections and explained the reasons for monitoring; periods where the elections received the most media coverage; the content of the stories, with service delivery being the lowest at 7%; groups of the population that were mainly accessed by the mainstream media; how political parties fared; the racial and gender breakdown of sources; the gender breakdown of sources; election coverage in terms of regions; the fairness of media coverage, with 96% being classified as fair while 4% was biased; the election coverage produced by different media outlets, and some recommendations.

The MMA concluded that the SA media sufficiently fulfilled its mandate to inform and educate the electorate over the LGE, despite the challenges faced in 2021. The media needs to draw a distinction between party coverage and local issues and should put more focus on service delivery, gender-based violence, race and racism, unemployment and local issues. If key issues are not on the political agenda, the media should interrogate why this is so. The media should amplify and reflect the diverse voices of South Africa’s citizens: both by highlighting the important issues that affect their daily lives, and by providing platforms where the electorate can engage politicians and candidates. The media need to step backwards in terms of gender.  Media need a gender-aware approach to election coverage, encompassing greater input from and about women (and women candidates). The media should broaden the existing range of election issues, and related think which issues require particular focus. The media should continue to ensure equitable coverage across the political spectrum. The media should ensure geographical areas are more equitably represented, in proportion to the size of their respective populations.


Ms T Bodlani (DA) said the presentation was an important aspect as a young democracy, to gauge what its citizens were being exposed to. Political parties were a big stakeholder in terms of how they were covered in the media, but the Committee had not heard the voice of political parties on how they perceived they were covered during the elections -- perhaps that was not part of the scope of MMA's monitoring? Secondly, there was a mention of manipulation by political parties of the media, and she asked for more details on this -- was it something new, or something that had been happening over the years?  

One saw parties like the DA setting up their television studios to push their own messaging in their campaigns for the local government elections. Did the study pick up on this, and did it make any difference during the time of a pandemic or a lack of resources in the newsrooms? Lastly, she did not hear the voice of political observers in the report -- were they taken into consideration as key stakeholders?

Mr Bird responded to the issue of media manipulation and said it was not an overt issue but that the media often allowed their agenda to be set by events that political parties were pursuing during campaigns. This was not an unusual thing and was a common tactic that political parties used to gain more media coverage. For example, the Economic Freedom Fighters had significantly more media coverage because of the way it could stimulate it. The EFF said the right things at the right time to get the coverage. If one looked at the SABC, the coverage of the political parties was a lot more even and balanced, even across different provinces.

The MMA did not look at the parties' social media or other platforms but focused on the mainstream media that had clear obligations and adhered to international standards of reporting. For social media, they worked with the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to help combat misinformation but did not focus on a separate analysis of how some of the political parties used social media to get their messages across.

The Chairperson said he was worried about what came out of the social media space, but as indicated this was not a dimension that the scope of the work covered. From the information made available, if the figures had been provided in terms of which political parties had received coverage -- the top ten, including new political parties -- this would have assisted. Was this a point of not being newsworthy, or an issue of access, based on what the MMA was picking up? Did this apply to the gender disparities as well?

There may have been complaints that more was reported on the negative side, with attention given to lack of service delivery at some municipalities. If one looks at the coverage in the provinces, one wonders if Gauteng had more than the others and whether this was due to access or newsworthiness.

Did the MMA provide feedback to the political parties? Some of the matters raised also talked about how society was being transformed and if the patterns did not change, there was a high likelihood of unbalanced media coverage of political parties during elections or campaigning.

Mr Bird said the media was always focusing on three provinces -- the Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, regardless of the content, issues or period. The power these provinces had tended to be reflected in the media reporting. One could see how the SABC had made a clear effort to afford equitable coverage across the different provinces, recognising that in an election period, there was a duty to do certain things and report on certain places or spaces. There were clear efforts made by some of the big and small media outlets. However, the real and local issues did not get covered and did not get sufficiently addressed.

When one looks at the negative news aspect, there was the most unfortunate critique by Minister [of Transport] Mbalula of the SABC and its coverage of local government and service delivery, suggesting that was the reason why the ANC did not perform very well. There was no validity to this kind of claim. People reporting negatively or positively on something did not determine whether people would vote differently for that party. The news media had a clear obligation to ensure that they report on what is going on in communities, and it was known that there were clear and systemic issues that various communities were dealing with.

The MMA also found that people tended to hear from the leaders and a few political analysts, but not from enough people outside of that. The news tended to be driven by the political parties themselves.

Mr Azola Dayile, Programme Manager: Advocacy, Lobbying & Litigation, MMA, said that the gender issue was a mixture of things, but it was mainly a structural issue. Women were usually marginalised in a lot of spaces and contexts, even though there were more women than men in South Africa. There were even more women who registered to vote than men, but the MMA had found that there was a greater representation of male voices, rather than a balance of voices. The media could do a lot to address that structural issue by reaching out to more women for political analysis or expert voices. The media could be proactive by looking at experts who were females. It was political parties that mostly spoke, but also most of the people who become a spokesperson in these political parties were males.  
Ms Lister Namumba, Programme Manager: Monitoring, Research and Analysis, MMA, added that the MMA had found in almost all the monitoring activities, that most of the coverage or the voices were related to the topics that were reported in the media. If the media could consider rethinking what it prioritised in its reporting, and issues such as gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF) and service delivery were prioritised, more provinces would feature in the coverage. For example, a lot of service delivery issues may be reported, which often stemmed from rural or remote areas that would not otherwise get attention or coverage.

She said the MMA shares its findings and recommendations with the relevant stakeholders when studies had been completed.

Mr Bird hoped that going forward, it could be ensured that the media would continue to adhere to fair, balanced and accurate reporting despite the circumstances in which they had to operate. The key question for the MMA was that it had heard about the success of the spectrum auction, and was considering how some of that money could be ring-fenced for media development and the production of local content.

Committee business

Report of the Portfolio Committee on Communications on the 2021/22 First and Second Quarter Performance and Expenditure Report of the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies

The report was considered and adopted without any changes.

Members also considered and adopted outstanding Committee minutes.

The Committee had applied for an oversight visit from 29 March. That application had not been approved due to changes in the parliamentary programme. The Committee had targeted to conduct these oversight visits, but this may be done in the following term, once the oversight visit application was approved.

The meeting was adjourned.

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