Print Media: briefing by Print Media South Africa

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17 August 2004
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report

17 August 2004


Mr M Lekgoro (ANC)

Documents handed out:

Print Media SA presentation
New Market, New Readers, New Publishers booklet - The Rise of Entrepreneurial Community Newspapers and Magazine in SA (Report by Print Development 2002)

Print Media South Africa (PMSA) briefed the Committee on several aspects of the print media industry in South Africa. Topics that were covered included self-regulation; ownership trends and transformation of the industry and the role of the Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA) in development and empowerment drives in the industry.

Members asked a number of searching questions relating to representativity in the industry. PMSA did not have the necessary information at hand but promised to gather it and submit it to the Committee at a follow-up meeting. Members also asked questions about the print media's patriotism; development of a free press in Africa; newspaper circulation figures and the rapid growth in free newspapers.

Mr C Molusi (Johnnic Communications CEO), representative of Print Media SA (PMSA), gave a presentation in which he provided background on Print Media SA, which consists of NASA, MPASA and the Community Press Association. He dealt with how they were self-regulated by ASA, the Press Ombudsman's Code of Practice and Chapter 9 bodies. He looked at ownership trends and transformation since 1994 and how ownership had become more representative and at how the Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA) is advancing development and empowerment in the industry. The MAPPP SETA was advancing skills development and he touched on the role of the ABC and SAARF in the promotion of the print media.

Ms NM Magazi (ANC) asked how many women were participating in staff training programmes.

Mr R Pieterse (ANC) asked how many disabled people and people of race were in those programmes. He commented that the number of newspaper readers was stagnating and asked if the print media had a plan of action to improve this.

Ms M Smuts (DA) asked what PMSA's view was on the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa's (ICASA) final recommendation on foreign ownership and cross ownership limitations and how the ITC reaching stage 4 affected print houses.

Ms P Scholtemeyer (Media 24 Magazines CEO) responded that in the past five to six years the number of women journalists and managers had increased significantly and that all the PMSA companies were committed to training and also went out to recruit from schools, technikons and universities.

Mr Molusi committed PSMA to doing an analysis of the industry over the last five years to establish the statistics on training of women, disabled persons and race representation.

Mr K Sibiya (RCP Media Senior Manager) added that the industry had tended to put women journalists on soft stories but that it was now following the government's example and giving women serious stories to handle.

Mr I Fynn (Independent Newspapers Editor) added that the Political Bureau of Independent Newspapers was headed up and staffed mainly by women and that most of the recent applicants for sub-editor positions were women.

Mr Molusi responded that there was no single answer to the decrease in newspaper readership but that PMSA was conducting on-going research and its support of the MDDA was in the hope that it would foster a culture of readership, especially at the entry level, which would spill over to other levels. He used the great success of the Daily Sun as an example. With regard to cross media ownership he responded that PMSA had made representations to ICASA for an increase in the threshold of cross media ownership to 49% if the company was a major print holder. The evolution of this limitation needed to be guided by South African macro-economic policy, to attract foreign direct investment and to give the companies financial muscle to survive in a market that had just had its deepest recession in twenty years.

On the issue of foreign ownership, he stated that it was important to relax the current threshold to attract direct foreign investment and to overcome the phobia of foreign control of an instrument of cultural influence. He stated that diversification of media ownership is necessary but needed to be sensitive to the targets and timeframes for implementation and that more public discourse on this issue was necessary.

Ms SC Vos (IFP) commented that on Women's Day there had not been one woman on the International Advisory Board of Independent Newspapers. She asked what the increase in readership of the Daily Sun meant for South Africa and what the government was doing to help African countries without a free press.

Rev MS Khumalo (ACDP) asked why the South African Press Association (SAPA) was not included in any of the issues being discussed, as it was a major role player in the industry.

Mr G Oliphant (ANC) asked that in PMSA's next presentation more detail should be given about transformation and the demographics of ownership and commented that the role of foreign ownership in the Zimbabwean situation should be kept in mind. He asked about the patriotism of media, the size of the industry, the reason for the difference between the global figures and those of ABC and if the PDU was disbanded what would happen to its work.

Ms C Nkuna (ANC) reaffirmed the question of patriotism and asked what gender the ombudsperson was. She suggested that the media look a recruiting more rural women, as it would improve rural unemployment.

Mr Molusi responded that 'juniorisation' of the workplace was probably the wrong characterisation and vast amounts of money are spent on middle level management. On the issue of the Daily Sun, he responded that the issue was what people were really reading and from a moral point of view, what people chose to read.

Mr Sibiya responded that editors had a responsibility to guide younger journalists and train them to be able to properly analyse news. He continued that the Daily Sun was established in response to research on the needs of the "ordinary man on the street" and to capture that market.

Mr Fynn responded that the South African National Editors Forum (SANEF) had at the top of its agenda development in Africa, including Zimbabwe, and had set up a regional forum to take freedom of the press to Africa. The SANEF Charter also mentioned South Africanism in response to patriotism and local language newspapers were growing rapidly.

Mr Molusi stated that he would gather more information with regards to SAPA before responding. He continued that transformation was taken very seriously by PMSA and that more information would be gathered in this regard. He said that when the PDU ended its research, the outstanding work would be passed on to the MDDA, which PMSA financially supports. On circulation growth statistics he answered that while there had been some short-term growth there was an overall decrease in circulation.

Ms Scholtemeyer added that Media 24 had been heavily involved in the 2010 Soccer World Cup bid and that she believed that journalists and editors had reached a balance of looking at both sides of South African stories.

Mr Fynn stated that the media had to have a balance, as it was still the society's watchdog.

Ms Scholtemeyer stated that the role of women in advertising was a well-researched topic and that the responsibility of media owners was to find the fine line between what is commercially viable and what is acceptable to society.

Mr Molusi estimated that the print media was a multi-billion Rand industry but that he would have to gather more information to be accurate.

Mr D Gamede (ANC NCOP) asked about the number of people with disabilities in the industry and how the industry is dealing with its social responsibility.

Ms L Yengeni (ANC) reminded the presenters of the ombudsman question, asked about its structure and if any media group was not covered by ombudsman control over the print media. She asked if black editors had the proper support structures to fulfil their functions.

Mr S Kholwane (ANC) asked how many people were employed in the industry and what the impact of technological advances was on the creation and maintenance of employment.

Mr A Maziya (ANC) asked if the growth in the industry had created employment and why certain papers were distributed free in cities but came at a cost in townships.

The Chairperson asked if PMSA had any plans of expanding in the area of local language papers and what the racial, disabled and gender make-up of newsrooms was like. He asked if there was any measure of the readership of freely distributed newspapers.

Mr Molusi responded that PMSA did not have its own funds for social responsibility, but that individual member groups, such as Johnnic, had programmes that they ran and supported financially.

Mr Sibiya added that disabilities had been overlooked as the focus was on gender issues and that there was a bias toward males as ombudspersons.

Mr Molusi responded that the ombudsperson was not a gender specific role even though a man held it at present and that a new ombudsman was to be appointed the following year where this issue could be addressed.

Mr Sibiya responded that Nasionale Pers (NASPERS) editors are independent even though a board of directors appointed them. Editors were not told what to write but had to be in line with the policy of the paper. The editor also appointed his or her own staffers.

Mr Fynn continued that the readership determined what the paper printed and that editors had a very strict job description that included the company's policies. Editors also had to be independent from financial pressure, which meant they could reject advertising if they felt it was inappropriate.

Mr Molusi state that the general principle was that the board set editorial policy, which was publicly available, that defined its market interest and left it up to the editor to pursue those interests. On the issues of employment, the numbers and the influence of technology, he committed to getting hard data to answer those questions.

The Chairperson asked what PMSA's plan was in response to the national agenda of creating employment.

Mr Molusi responded that the decision to charge for newspapers was entirely up to the papers themselves and that there had been a 65% growth in free papers and advertisers believed it to be a very successful and cheaply accessed market.

Ms N Stretton (PMSA General Manager) stated that research showed that free papers were very successful and attracted vast amounts of advertising.

Mr Molusi answered that local language newspapers were selling very well and that there were plans to increase the number of indigenous language papers. The MDDA had a category that funded indigenous language papers. With regards to the make-up of newsrooms, he promised to revert to the Committee.

The Chairperson stated that at the next meeting PMSA would need to be ready with all the information it had committed itself to gather and that the Committee would plan an industry visit.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting.



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