A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.
COMMUNICATIONS PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
24 October 2006
GOVERNMENT COMMUNICATION AND INFORMATION SYSTEM; MEDIA DEVELOPMENT AND DIVERSITY AGENCY AND INTERNATIONAL MARKETING COUNCIL 2006 ANNUAL REPORTS: BRIEFINGS
Chairperson: Mr M Lekgoro (ANC)
Documents handed out
GCIS Annual Report [available at www.gcis.gov.za]
IMC Annual Report [available later at www.imc.org.za
MDDA Final presentation
MDDA Annual Report [available later at www.mdda.org.za]
The Committee heard presentations from the Government Communication and Information System, the International Marketing Council and the Media Development and Diversity Agency on their 2006 annual reports. There was general concern about perceptions of SA and how these would be changed before the 2010 Soccer World Cup. Other concerns included the impact of rude Immigration officials on tourists, funding for community television, the international marketing of SA and distribution of official documents.
Government Communication and Information System briefing
Mr T Maseko (CEO) conducted the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) presentation, which focused on expanding access to information such as the Vuk’uzenzele and Batho Pele programmes, improving the performance of the GCIS through enhancing, amongst other things, its capacity to communicate. GCIS also sought to improve its administration function via the better management of resources. It also emphasized the building of partnerships to ensure better communication to society of government’s activities. He noted that the main achievements over the last year were the increase in readership of Vuk’uzenzele and the increased traffic in the Batho Pele Internet Gateway.
Media Development and Diversity Agency briefing
Ms K Mkhonza (Chairperson) and Mr L Mtimde (CEO) conducted the Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA) presentation, which focussed on the context and background of the organization such as the Act under which they operate. There was also focus on their mandate and objectives. They also looked at how the MDDA received its funding through various contributors. They noted the main highlights of the financial year in terms of finances and achievements. These included the funding of various research projects and providing capacity building support. They outlined the future challenges to the operations of the MDDA including a few financial challenges and those including funding, the challenge of reaching communities in secluded areas and some challenges faced by projects on new media.
International Marketing Council (IMC) briefing
Ms Yvonne Johnson (CEO) conducted the International Marketing Council presentation, which focussed on marketing and communication during the build up to the upcoming 2010 FIFA World Cup. She also introduced the projects that they would be working on to ensure that the marketing of the country and Africa as a whole is well conducted. These initiatives include the Brand Champion Programme, Country Managers and the launching of the South Africa Diaspora initiative amongst others. She revealed their research on external perception conducted in some countries abroad, which will help the IMC assess how the international community views South Africa.
Mr R Pieterse (ANC) commended the MDDA for giving exciting hopes for community television. He noted that the Southern Cape did not have a community radio station after the demise of Suid Kaap Stereo. There was only major focus for development on big city community radio stations. He therefore said that the Independent Communication Authority of South Africa (ICASA) should be alerted to this fact that there are fewer radio stations as you move further out of the big cities. He gave Khayelitsha and Laingsburg as examples and said that these and more rural areas and the poor people need a voice.
Mr Mtimde responded that ICASA has two window periods that it opens up in inviting applications and so they will make sure to support those provinces that do not currently have radio stations so that they can successfully apply for licenses.
Mr Pieterse also commended the IMC on their work. He asked if they could bring their work and workshop to members of parliament. This would help in correlation of the same message that is put forward by members of parliament and the IMC when abroad. He also jokingly requested that he be one of the people put on the shortlist as a volunteer. He then noted that it was United Nations Day and he wanted to know how it can be African and how to link it to this day.
Ms Johnston responded that having country managers is very expensive. It is not practical to have country managers in Africa from a budget perspective. Leading on to 2010 that could be a need that arises and they would look into it. She also said that the idea of a brand champion workshop is a brilliant one. She said that one thing they would be doing in the next six months is host city engagement where they would have open forums in the host cities of the 2010 World Cup. She said that they would take the issue of Africa Day internally and see what they could do.
Mr Pieterse also mentioned that it was Eid and that it should be promoted that South Africans celebrate with fellow South Africans when it comes to religious celebrations.
Mr T Trew (GCIS Deputy CEO: Strategy and Content Management), representing both the MDDA and GCIS, agreed that a higher profile should be given to such days.
Mr Pieterse asked the GCIS if they could get the yearbook earlier in the year. He also noted that the 29 schools that he distributed the yearbook to used it and that it should be distributed to all schools. He said that getting them earlier would assist in budgeting and planning. He also mentioned that Africa Day is celebrated on 25 May and that it is usually not commemorated in parliament. He asked that there be more acknowledgement of this day.
Mr Trew responded that they did distribute one copy of the yearbook to all schools making it 27 000 copies. These are well received but there is a logistic constraint to the numbers that they can handle. There is also a problem with the numbers for Vuk’uzenzele. They try to monitor the distribution of the magazine. They have to promote sharing among people in the communities.
Ms D Smuts (DA) exclaimed that it is wonderful that the MDDA is about to embark on a whole new era and that it has established a good reputation by putting its operation in place and that the timing could not have been better. She also noted that the scope of their work is about to expand dramatically and that the committee may need to rethink their working models.
Mr Mtimde responded that there was no push for the rethinking of the models but there would be possible proposals for amendments of these models.
Ms Smuts also said that she was pleased to see that the MDDA is doing feasibility studies into the low interest loans that the small commercial media should get. She said that she did not care for the distinction but a community radio station or TV station is not more worthy that a small commercial enterprise. The commercial enterprise would have a longer-term sustainability and should never be neglected. She asked the MDDA to explain what is meant by “Treasury has further agreed to earmark equity for such a loan”.
Mr A Chaytoo (former Chief Financial Officer) responded that the Entity Board would be reviewing the first draft of the study in their November meeting. That study will gauge whether it is viable for the MDDA to get involved in low interest loans. According to the regulations the MDDA cannot really offer low interest loans. They would have to partner with somebody. In terms of the statement on Treasury Mr Chaytoo said that if the board sees that it is viable they would have to make a separate application to Treasury for more funds.
Ms Smuts further pointed out that the MDDA said that they had a problem with some community radio stations airing irrelevant programmes. She asked if these stations did not fit into the definition of what a community radio station is supposed to be. She asked if this could be a problem because then it would show that the model or conception of what a community radio stations ought to be did not really reflect what the audience wanted to hear.
Mr Mtimde said that they were not suggesting that there were in fact irrelevant programmes on community radio stations but rather that they should ensure that there are relevant programmes being aired at all times. This means that the stations have to ensure community participation that they relate with the community organizations, NGOs and so forth. In terms of sustainability in that area it needs to be looked at closely.
Ms Smuts asked for clarification on the issue relating to the change in funding. She wanted to know if all the funding would go into community TV. She said that she hoped that the percentage does not change when the MDDA starts getting real money. She hoped that the money that goes towards administration stays the same. She also said that they would need more staff since they have always functioned with a small staff and maybe that was the secret to their success.
Mr Mtimde responded that that was not the case and that they still have regulations that guide them in terms of where they placed their funds. With increased funding they will be able to fund the more expensive projects like community television.
Ms K Mkhonza (Chairperson) added that their process of funding is linked to the process of licensing. Because of the two window periods given by ICASA, the MDDA sees an increase in the number of licences. She said that the 25 percent cap on administration costs is linked to all their contracts, not only with government which stipulates that they stick to ten percent. This is in the regulations created by the Minister. The MDDA is bound by this regulation. The funding they receive from Public Broadcasting Partners also stipulates that it should be used in a particular way.
Ms Smuts said that in her view it was the public broadcaster’s job to make people feel good by taking a visionary marketing and branding approach. She said that the SA Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) is a journalistic enterprise. She raised concern that the work that IMC does internally is slightly different to that abroad.
Ms Johnston responded that the mood of the country is a strange thing and that they see their task as proving information. If people use that information and it makes them feel good about then country then it means that the IMC is doing a good job. The information provided is fact based about real people. She said that she believed that the SABC has a role as a nation builder in terms of providing good success stories of real people.
Ms Smuts asked about research that cost GCIS R6m. She found the results of the research very interesting. She also asked to hear the rationale or justification for a government communications agency to establish how good or otherwise South Africans were feeling about themselves and the country.
Mr K Moremi (Managing Director) responded that it is the role of the GCIS to conduct such research. Their mandate is that of developing a brand. He said that there are two parts to a brand: the first one being the promise and the second one being the experience. The brand experience refers to a brand promise that is kept. It is critical to work on the mindset and the behavior of the people so that at different points of contact the promise is kept between the people of South Africa and those abroad. The significance of the research done domestically is to understand the touch points within our own people in the society that we can leverage on in order to change how they think and behave in order to build the brand promise. He mentioned two national research projects that were under way; one being the National Consumption Audit and the other an omnibus-like study that is tagged on to GCIS. The second study has shown the significance of pride to determining the level of commitment that each South African has towards country. Therefore working on the pride of the people will help in increasing the commitment and this will make people do the right thing for the brand.
Mr Maseko commented further about the issue of the mood of the country. He said that we all have a responsibility for a great mood in the country. He said that when talking to marketers all over the world they all say that South Africans are their own worst enemies. The people who say the most negative things about the country are South African themselves.
Adv P Swart (DA) thanked the various institutions for the presentations and documentation. He raised concern about the distribution of official documents and gave a personal account of seeing documents laying around in stacks in government departments. He asked the GCIS how they distributed the 1.1 million copies of documents to make sure that they reached the end users.
Adv Swart raised concern over the average voter’s lack of understanding of the rule of law and separation of powers and the rights that go with them. He asked the GCIS about the informational function they had in educating the public on such issues. He also asked which seven languages were on the Batho Pele Gateway website and how these were monitored in terms of traffic and how they were being promoted.
Mr Trew responded that the seven languages were English, Sotho, seSotho Lebowa, Tswana, Xhosa, Zulu and Afrikaans. These languages cover most of the country. Ideally from a translation point of view they would have started with fewer because problems always crop up. He gave the example of translating phrases like ‘environmental impact assessment’. This phased approach will be completed next year with the rest of the languages being incorporated. He further said that they have instituted the tracking of web statistics so they can tell the number of people who have accessed the different languages sites. The call centre already does this and they can tell the proportion of the different language users.
Adv Swart asked the IMC for information on the Diaspora initiative. He also asked about how the impact of the negative perceptions that were revealed in the surveys affect the Diaspora initiative and if the perceptions made it hard for the IMC to continue with it.
Ms Johnston responded that Global South Africa is a Diaspora initiative that they are starting and that she was seeing the President later in the day to get his go ahead. The initiative will not happen without his support. They have looked at different models and the ones that stood out were the Australian and Scottish models. The Diaspora is a web-based initiative where people are invited by post personally by the President to join a network where they share their knowledge with the sole purpose of bringing investment into the country. It is a network where people can find out what to do to mentor, to train, and to build South African capacity.
Mr K Khumalo (ANC) expressed his concern over the fact that GCIS when speaking to the nation on TV appears to speak for cabinet and it does not look like there is a proper government communication strategy.
Mr Maseko responded that they did have a communication strategy, which is presented on an annual basis to the cabinet lekgotla. Whatever the GCIS does is guided by that communication strategy. The GCIS does reflect on the decisions of cabinet and cabinet lekgotla in their press conferences. This has to do with the fact that the communications systems in the country are highly decentralized. Each and every department speaks about their own policies and activities etc. and the idea is always to make sure that the executive talks about all those policy issues and programmes. It is better to do it that way. He said that the issue of the extent to which they communicated regularly with the public is an important one. There is a need to have another look at the present model to see if it meets all needs.
Mr Khumalo noted that it would be easier to broadcast what is written in Vuk’unzenzele on radio or TV in order to reach some areas in the country that do not have access to the magazine.
Mr Trew responded that they do use radio as a medium but they were looking specifically at trying to disseminate the information both from the magazine and the second economy gap through radio.
Mr Khumalo recommended that they revisit the operation and mandate of the MPPCs because they all operate differently due to the funding they get from government. He said that there was a need to review the funding mechanisms for MPPCs.
Ms I Mckay-Langa (GCIS Deputy CEO: Centralised Services) responded that she was aware that the portfolio committee and the GCIS conducted regular visits to the MPPCs. She said that they should make sure that presentations are made prior to the visits. There is a memo going to cabinet where they have looked at the vision and mandate of MPPCs. There are also in discussions within government around the issues of the MPPCs.
Mr Khumalo also raised concern over the discrepancy in funding between the MDDA and IMC respectively.
Ms Mckay-Langa responded that when looking at the budget allocations of both institutions it is purely based on the budget submissions made by them. The reason why the IMC budget is so high is that their major operations in terms of advertising and marketing are done abroad and are therefore very costly.
Mr Khumalo advised that the IMC use more of their market funding in Australia since there is a high concentration of white South Africans living there and that it is also there that they create a bad impression of South Africa.
Mr Khumalo raised concern over Mr Andre Fourie who is on the audit committee of the IMC but has not attended any of the meetings. He also raised concern over the fact that aboard SAA flights the only African language that tourists hear is ‘hambani kahle’. To him this meant that in South Africa African languages do not matter. He asked the IMC to look into this issue.
Ms Johnston responded that Mr Fourie had been asked to obtain assistance from the audit committee. She also made the point that their board members and audit committee members were not paid for their services. The President has appointed these members and they represent the National Business Initiative (NBI). She added that it would be a great tragedy not to have Mr Fourie on the board because of his contribution.
Mr Khumalo also asked the IMC how they dealt with their ambassadors who say negative things about South Africa. He said this relating to Felicia Mabuze who spoke negatively about the crime stats of the country. He also asked if the IMC were happy with the work that their ambassadors did in general.
Ms Johnston was happy to announce that Ms Mabuze is not an ambassador for the IMC but rather one for SA Tourism. She also said that something had been done to control the damage from that incident.
Mr Khumalo wanted to know if the funding strategy of the MDDA was just a distribution mechanism in terms of giving the amounts to certain projects. He wanted to know how they determined the sustainability seeing that some community radio stations and newspapers are not consistent in terms of media development.
Mr Mtimde responded that the funding they received came in phases and that they also disburse their grants in phases. In terms of projects, Mr Mtimde said that this sector in the context of a developing country would encounter such problems. Their hope is to improve sustainability strategies. More projects survive than fail.
The Chair asked the IMC to elaborate on the African Footprint.
Ms Johnston responded that the 2010 World Cup is the initiative that would give the IMC a boost to start doing work in Africa. She said that the Commission for Africa and the Investment Climate Facility all had whole sections on marketing of Africa. The IMC is involved in all those forums. She further said that in her view we cannot re-brand Africa and that it is up to the individual countries in Africa to brand and promote themselves and then Africa can be branded as a collective. She said that some of the projects that the 2010 team would be doing includes projects like “Africa: the Good News’. Most of these projects can be infiltrated into the whole continent. There would be a small executive committee that would consist of contributors and three members from the IMC to make decisions about which projects to embark on. The set criterion is that work done in South Africa should be translated to the continent. The focus is more on Africa and most countries are becoming aware that they should start telling their own stories. The IMC has been accepted by the tourism authority to conduct the media monitoring at the CRC for Ghana at a very nominal fee, which saves them the initial set up cost of R5/6m of their equivalent CRC. The IMC will provide them with all their reports. This project gives revenue to the IMC and allows Ghana the services that are experienced in South Africa.
Ms S Vos (IFP) asked the IMC if the training of staff at the OR Tambo Airport would include the grumpy, surly and uninviting Home Affairs Immigration officials.
Ms Johnston responded that they would be looking at special training for the staff although it has been hard to hold a meeting with them. The IMC is trying hard to get the message of “brand champion” through to Home Affairs. They had given immigration officials prepared scripts for welcoming visitors.
Ms Vos asked what they were learning about the attitude of readers to issues like HIV/AIDS from the research conducted on Vuk’unzenzele.
Mr Trew responded that the figures should not be taken to mean that the public is not interested. It is relative to what information people have received. The research on the reach of media shows that people are aware of the issue.
Ms Vos asked the MDDA about the origins of a R38 000 foreign grant.
Ms Mkhonza responded that the money came from NIZA, an agency based in the Netherlands to aid in the research of the low interest loans.
Ms Smuts asked what specialized military assets have been acquired by GCIS.
Ms P Williams (GCIS) responded that the R4.2m is for specialized communication equipment and not military in nature. She also said that since they are working on a document template it does happen that they have to use wording that does not in actual fact refer to the issues. Treasury does not allow changes in wording and this has to be looked at further.
Adv Swart asked about conflicts of interest on tenders.
Ms McKay-Langa responded that it was a national requirement to disclose if a family member has benefited from a state tender.
Mr Khumalo advised that the IMC have an African desk because the international media have a footprint on the whole continent and it is sometimes they that damage the continent’s reputation.
Adv Swart added that there could be an African desk in South Africa since it was part of Africa.
Ms Johnston responded by stressing that the African desk was a very good point and that they would have to take that on board leading up to 2010.
Mr T Seale (IMC Head of Communications Resource Centre) added that evidence shows intense international media interest in the country. That means that they must develop a comprehensive and consistent approach to working with the international media. They have recently participated in an International Media Forum in Sandton where the leading editorial executives of the major global networks offered their services and educated communicators from the private sector and government. With the build up to 2010 there will be a strong relationship with media.
Mr Khumalo said that the money they give to the MDDA is critical. He repeated the need for the increase in funds to be explained further since they were not dealing with possibilities, but with money.
Ms Mkhonza responded that the figures in the annual report referred to the different funding cycles. Money from government comes in at a particular time while that from private funders came in at different times. She said that since they disbursed their grants in phases the excess money would be reflected in the cash flow statement. The increase relates to the different funding cycles that they operate under.
The Chair asked the GCIS to prepare information on the way forward regarding the MPCCs so that they do not have to wait until next year. He further said that the issues raised about the MDDA budget are important ones and therefore they should get a strategic answer. They would also look into the quality and impact of the projects that they are supporting.
The meeting was adjourned.