Anton Harber, professor of journalism at Wits University, has set out a summary of his beliefs on media issues, in response to SABC chief Dali Mpofu calling him a neo-conservative. Writing on his blog The Harbinger, he explains his belief in public broadcasting,Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â local content regulation and other issues, and asks: Are these the views of a neo-con?
SABC boss Dali Mpofu called me a rightwing neo-conservative in the weekend papers. It is the second time he has done that. But you can judge for yourself.
Let me spell out a few things about myself.
I believe in a public broadcaster, and I would like it to get greater state support and become less dependent on advertising so it can make editorial decisions with greater freedom than the commercial media. The public broadcaster should be able to do more things which commercial media canÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t do – those things that may not make commercial sense but make for good journalism, education and public debate. I believe the public broadcaster should be setting the standards for journalism in this country.
I believe the government should, through the Media Development and Democracy Agency, be putting more resources into growing community media. Small, local media is the bedrock of media diversity and will feed the bigger national media. We need more of it, and the governmentÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s role should be to enable and stimulate it.
I support local content regulations and would like to see them gradually increased to promote local drama, music and our indigenous cultural industry.
I believe we need more media in more of our official languages and the government should be subsidising this through channels such as the Pan-Language Board.
I believe the government should be closely watching the development or potential development of media monopolies, or over-powerful media groups, in order to protect and encourage diversity. I believe the state should be ensuring that we have an equitable and accessible newspaper distribution system which is open to all and encourages new and more voices, and is not controlled by the big at the expense of the small players.
I believe we need to strengthen the broadcasting and telecoms regulator and take the power of appointment of councillors away from the Minister, who has too great an influence on this body. I believe we should encourage them to license more television and radio stations.
I believe the state should be much more aggressive and interventionist in promoting cheap broadband access for all South Africans. We cannot fully exercise our economic and political rights without it.
I believe the state should stop taxing books and spend a lot more on libraries and related services.
I believe in a journalism which is fiercely independent, critical and outspoken. I donÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t care much whether stories are positive or negative, but I do care if they are insightful, probing, informative and thought-provoking. I believe journalists are there to prod us into thinking about things, to cause trouble for the complacent, and to get up the noses of anyone with power and authority. I believe that patriotic journalism is when we play our proper role in ensuring that power is not abused and that political and financial power is wielded with accountability and transparency. I believe that we practice developmental journalism not when we spend our time telling everyone what government, business or NGOs are doing, but when we ask tough questions on behalf of those who canÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t ask themselves, and demand proper answers.
These are all views I have expressed from time to time in my writings. You can decide whether these are the views of a neo-con.