MEDIA policy watchdog Media Monitoring Africa together with the SOS: Supporting Public Broadcasting Coalition is imploring the South African government for a reasonable extension to the deadline for public submissions on the proposed controversial Public Service Broadcasting Bill, from December 7 to the end of March 2010, according to a media release.
The Bill proposes a number of fundamental changes to the public service broadcasting environment, and based on this, MMA and the SOS Supporting Public Broadcasting Coalition argues that it would be in the interests of all affected by it to take the time necessary to debate, discuss, research and address the various proposals included in it.
Among other important issues:
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¢Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â The Bill includes two new charters ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ one for the SABC and one for community broadcasting.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¢Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â The Bill aligns broadcasting to the ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œdevelopmental goals of the RepublicÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â and the developmental state. Previously broadcasting was aligned to the Constitution.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¢Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â The Bill introduces fundamental shifts to the broadcasting funding environment. It calls for the scrapping of TV licence fees and for amendments to the Income Tax Act, 1962, to ensure that up to 1% of personal income tax is set aside for broadcasting.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¢Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â In terms of funding it introduces a new Public Service Broadcasting Fund to be administered by the Media Development and Diversity Agency, requiring that the MDDA Act is amended. The Fund is mandated to fund a wide-ranging set of issues including the public service division of the SABC, including regional television and international broadcasting services; content development; community broadcasting services; and signal distribution. The MDDA at present funds small commercial and community media and is specifically barred from getting involved in editorial independence issues.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¢Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â The Bill introduces far-reaching new powers for the Minister of Communications. The Minister can now issue directives to the SABC and community media on ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œany matter connected to public service broadcastingÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â if the entity is unable to ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œperform its functions as prescribed in this ActÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¢Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â Previously the SABC was split into two divisions ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ public and public-commercial. The SABC is now to be divided into three separate divisions ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ public, commercial and international.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¢Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â Sentech has now been designated as the common signal distribution carrier, requiring amendments to the Electronic Communications Act, 2005.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¢Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â Finally, and very importantly, community mediaÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s role has now been reconceptualised. A new Charter has been introduced for the community media sector specifying the ways in which the community media sector needs to be organised. Further, the Bill ensures community media forge partnerships with their local municipalities.
Media Monitoring Africa is requesting the South African government to not rush public submissions into this key piece of proposed legislation, given the complexity of the changes proposed.
We are running a campaign on our website, www.mediamonitoringafrica.org, launched today, for all interested to submit a simple electronic letter to the Director General of Communication, Mamodupi Mohlala, requesting for the deadline to be extended.
The campaign can be accessed here: http://www.mediamonitoringafrica.org/petition
Contact: William Bird, Director, Media Monitoring Africa
Mb: +2782 887 1370, Tel: +2711 788 1278, Fax: +2711 788 1289