The development of premium local content, the protection of Free-To-Air broadcasters, a renewed focus on youth, and the furtherance of a visionary futuristic outlook.
These were some of the issues raised by members of the broadcasting industry in an engagement session on the governing party’s Communications discussion document ahead of the party’s policy conference. The engagement session was held at the Emoyeni Conference Centre in Parktown, and takes place ahead of the ANC’s National Policy Conference to be held from the 30th June to 5 July 2017.
The meeting was convened by the ANC NEC subcommittee on Communications, led by Chief Whip and NEC Member Comrade Jackson Mthembu.
Also in attendance were ANC NEC Subcommittee Members including Telecommunications and Postal Services Minister, Siyabonga Cwele, Small Business Minister Lindiwe Zulu and ANC National Spokesperson Zizi Kodwa.
From the industry were, amongst others, representatives from the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), South African Communications Forum (SACF), ENCA, the Universal Service and Access Agency (USAASA), Multichoice, ETV, Sentech, Nemisa, the Media Diversity and Development Agency (MDDA), and a number of community radio stations.
The Document titled “Towards the Fourth Industrial Revolution: Enabling economic growth, an inclusive society and balanced public discourse” was launched by the governing party in March 2017 to guide discussions between members of the organization and society at large on policy amendments in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and related industries.
It set outs amongst others the need for the strengthening of free-to-air broadcasting services, greater support to community media and the creation of the regulatory framework of Over the Top (OTT) products such as Showmax and Netflix.
“We cannot allow outflows of our much needed resources through these OTTs to remain unchecked. We must learn from best practice from amongst others the European Union in this regard”, says subcommittee Chairperson Mthembu.
Speaking to inform the governing party’s broadcasting policies, delegates spoke about missed opportunities as a result of the delays in the roll out of digital migration. But most importantly the impact this has had with regards to South Africa remaining “in the dark ages” whilst the world embraces the 4th Industrial Revolution.
The meeting called for the accelerated implementation of ANC resolutions in this regard, and that ANC deployees in government have to implement ANC policy with urgency.
“This is a long outstanding issue in which we have not moved. You cannot speak of the Fourth Industrial Revolution when you have not even digitized,” said Mthembu.
He added that there was agreement on this matter between the ANC and comrades in government. “For every single day’s delay, South Africa is the loser,” continued Mthembu.
Participants strongly recommended that the Broadcasting Bill be withdrawn from Parliament; that focus should be on fast tracking the review of the Broadcasting Policy; and that there should be integration into the Integrated ICT White Paper.
Meeting Chairperson Lindiwe Zulu called on the many comrades of the ANC active in the ICT sector to contribute to and strengthen the work of the subcommittee.
“These discussions must transcend the necessity created by the Policy Conference to be a standing practice of the ANC towards policy creation and implementation” said Zulu.
“The ANC will always need specialists in the area and 23 years down the line we have created many of them… we must be able to draw all these people back into the organization and work with the new and developing cadreship in the sector”, continued Zulu.
Subcommittee Chairperson Comrade Jackson Mthembu committed to ensure the the views expressed by the meeting find popular expression in the recommendations of the National Policy Conference- towards the National Conference in December. The National Conference is the highest decision making body in the ANC and will then consider for adoption all recommendations made.