Media Development and Diversity Agency: briefing

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LABOUR AND PUBLIC ENTERPRISE SELECT COMMITTEE

LABOUR AND PUBLIC ENTERPRISE SELECT COMMITTEES
17 SEPTEMBER 2004
MEDIA DEVELOPMENT AND DIVERSITY AGENCY: BRIEFING

Chairperson
: Ms S Ntwanambi (ANC)

Documents handed out
MDDA Annual Report 2003/2004: Part 1
MDDA Annual Report 2003/2004: Part 2
MDDA Annual Report 2003/2004: Part 3
MDDA PowerPoint presentation

SUMMARY
The Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA) presented an annual report on its history, progress, challenges and key future plans. The Committee then raised concerns about implementation capacity, gender representation, office location and breakdown of funding received from government and various agencies. Members also raised concerns about the continuing exclusion of women, elderly, youth and people with disabilities from media access.

MINUTES

Media Development and Diversity Agency briefing
Ms Khanyi Mkhonza, Chairperson, and Ms L Lloyd (CEO) reported that the MDDA had been established with the MDDA Act of 2002. In January 2003, their board had held its first meeting with nine members, seven of which were appointed by Parliament, and four of whom came from electronic and print media. The MDDA started functioning in January 2003 and the Chief Executive Officer was appointed in August 2003 with a support staff of seven. There were three project managers in the field working with media groups, while the rest of the staff were administrative.

Their regulations were published during the first year of operation and contained the criteria for funding. This had to be done before any funding could be provided. The regulations also contained the strategic plan that guided MDDA work.

The mandate of the MDDA was to create a conducive environment for media development and diversity, which reflected the needs of all South Africans; to redress exclusion and marginalisation of disadvantaged communities; and to provide support to community and small commercial media projects through grants, loans and capacity skills building. The advertising industry had worked closely with the MDDA to provide training for community media. Managers in the community media had also benefited from bursaries.

The MDDA had participated in forums where issues of diversity were discussed, especially around the use of marginalised languages like XiTsonga and TshiVenda. Funding had been provided for a magazine published by people with disabilities.

Projects funded included community radio and print publications. However, the latter were very expensive to sustain because they were expected to be cheaper than commercial publications, but printing and distribution costs were huge. The bulk of rural and poor communities were illiterate and publications were mostly in English.

The initial grant from the Government Communication and Information Systems (GCIS) was R3 million for 2002-03, then R4 million in 2003-2004, and R3 million in for the 2004-05 financial year. Media organisations such as Johnnic, PriMedia, the Argus group, Caxton, SABC, E TV, and MNet had also funded the MDDA. All the electronic media groupings had contributed R1.2 million, with the exception of E TV that had provided R300 000. The commercial media groupings had been slow to transfer funds to the MDDA bank account.

The MDDA had received an unqualified report from the Auditor-General's office. One of their key challenges was to decide whether to be simply a funding organisation, or a developmental organisation. Some 60% of the budget had been spent on community media and 35% was spent on administration. The rest had been kept over for emergencies.

Projects funded included community radio and print publications. However, the latter were very expensive to sustain because they were expected to be cheaper than commercial publications, but printing and distribution costs were huge. The bulk of rural and poor communities were illiterate and publications were mostly in English.


The media was predominantly in English concentrated in major urban centres such as Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban. That concentration has tended to alienate rural communities. Community media was faced with critical shortage of media management skills. The content of major community radio stations was not developmental in nature. Instead those stations tended to mimic commercial stations. The print media faced similar challenges but there were distribution difficulties and high printing costs. The printing press was owned by large commercial concerns, which charged huge sums.

The MDDA had concentrated on funding core running costs and once off projects for community media aimed at sustainability. Research aimed at promoting media development and diversity was also funded.

Projects supported included seven Community radio projects, one community print project and one small commercial print project. All those projects had cost R3.6 million together. Moletjie Community Radio in Polokwane had been funded to build a studio, and Takalani Community Radio in the Eastern Cape had been funded for mentoring. Radio Mams in Mamelodi and Khathorus Community Radio were funded for running costs. Radio Teemaneng in Kimberly had been provided with a lightning conductor. Radio Vukani in Cala in the Eastern Cape had been funded for operational costs and infrastructure. A high school community print project in Cape Town had been funded for training students for one year. The MDDA had also funded training and equipment for the Free State News and research for Big News Magazine.

There had been no funding applications from the North West Province. Money provided by the print media could be only used for print and money from the electronic media could only be used to fund electronic media projects. The MDDA did not fund equipment but the Department of Communications did so.

Community radio stations were still lacking in institutional capacity. For instance, many stations did not have bank accounts. Key plans for the MDDA included garnering more support for community media, and implementing mentoring plans. They also planned to facilitate soft loans for community media project, and progressively target underserved communities through the SABC, NDA, and Post Offices.

Discussion
The Chairperson asked about the state of community radio in Mpumalanga, and what criteria had been used to invite participants to MDDA training workshops.

Ms Mkhonza responded that there were two community initiatives in Mpumalanga, Moutse radio and Inkomazi Newspaper. All interested parties had been invited and existing stations had identified training providers. Rhodes University had offered to provide training on media management. The MDDA had to provide funding for such training. Information had been distributed through the National Community Radio Forum and roadshows.

Mr Sibiya (ANC) asked about the existence of provincial offices, and if trainees could assist on project work. What kind of follow up measures had been taken to ensure that the training was utilised effectively? What was the role of the SABC in helping the MDDA to achieve its goals? What was MDDA 's position concerning funding women- and disabled-focused media?

Ms Mkhonza responded that the women-focused journal; Agenda, was funded by the MDDA. People with disabilities were running a publication called Ability that was also funded by the MDDA. The MDDA had been looking at conducting further research around access to media for the elderly, youth, women and people with disabilities.

She continued that they were based in Johannesburg and had no capacity for provincial offices. However, they were looking into utilising Multi Purpose Centres to ensure better information distribution. The SABC had provided them with R1.2 million and free airtime for their infomercials. The MDDA had been looking at how to utilise former and present SABC personnel in the mentoring process. The SABC had also helped by providing their facilities for training purposes.

Mr K Sinclaire (NNP) asked who appointed board members. He further asked for a numerical breakdown of the financial contributions from the print and electronic media.

Ms Mkhonza responded that R300 000 had come from E TV, the SABC had contributed R1.2 million, Kagiso Media R1.2 million, and R5 million had come from the print media for five years. The government had contributed R7 million after the initial R10 million when the MDDA was set up.

The Chairperson commended the MDDA for their work and further suggested the use of constituency offices in the rural areas. The MDDA had been criticised by communities for their complicated application form.

Ms Mkonza reiterated that the MDDA's doors were always open to explain any difficulties in the application process. She added that the Board of Directors had been appointed by government for five years. Out of the nine board members, two came from the print and electronic media respectively.

The Chairperson asked about the gender representivity of the Board.

Ms Mkonza said four members of the board were women and five were men.

Mr Sibiya asked how rural communities could contact the MDDA in Limpopo Province. Ms Mkhonza answered that Limpopo citizens had been very proactive in contacting the MDDA, especially after an interview conducted by Thobela FM on the role of the MDDA.

Mr Sibiya cautioned against the reliance on Multi Purpose Centres as these were inaccessible for rural communities.

Ms L Lloyd, CEO, stated that the MDDA was aware of the inaccessibility problem, but they were looking at working with the Post Office to utilise its wider distribution network. The MDDA was unable to open many offices throughout the country. The SABC had been very helpful in sharing its facilities.

The meeting was adjourned.

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