More than two decades after the end of apartheid and the dawn of democracy, many critics believe that the South African media appears to be struggling to change its old mindsets and accuse it of willingly sticking to old ways for the sake of commercial interests and hidden political agendas.
But in a country where more than 80% of the media ownership is said to remain in the hands of white bosses, calling for a radical transformation becomes tantamount of trying to subdue freedom of the press and redirect newsrooms to service of the ruling left.
The issue of media transformation continues to spill ink and saliva in Africa’s second-largest economy, where the ruling African National Congress (ANC) regularly clash with free-thinking commentators, journalists and editors over the battle of ideas.
Once again the issue came to the fore during a media seminar hosted recently in Johannesburg.
Senior ANC member and media expert, Lumko Mtimde, reiterated that transformation was a constitutional imperative and that media, like every industry, was not exempted to be part of this process.
“Media is also subject to the Constitution and the Law. It is now time for action towards radical transformation. The market has failed and interventions are necessary to achieve real transformation,” Mtimde, the former CEO of Media Development and Diversity Agency, said.
The African National Congress, which believes that it is being unfairly targeted through what some of its hardliners have described as ‘counter-revolutionary’ reporting, has since been calling on the establishment of a Media Appeal Tribunal (MAT) to restore responsible journalism.
But the independent media has rejected such an intervention, calling it ‘neo-colonialist’ and counter-productive, insisting that the media was wise enough to discipline itself.
“We should refuse to be diverted through a media narrative that interprets interventions selectively in order to emphasise one aspect of the actions proposed,” Mtimde lashed out at the other camp.
“To take us forward, we have to engage on a holistic intervention, touching every aspect, from transformation across the value chain, to promotion of media diversity and strengthening of media accountability mechanisms.”
Affaire à suivre.