Minister in the Presidency, Jackson Mthembu, says government is committed to supporting media as a vehicle for nation building and public participation, and as a sector that is crucial to the enhancement of democracy.
Addressing the Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA) Community Media Sustainability Consultative conference virtually on Thursday, Mthembu said media diversity and the invaluable role of the media in ensuring access to information are the cornerstones of democracy.
“Diversity… is… a way in which new voices, new media sources, new language choices, diverse and representative content, in terms of class, race, gender and geographic spread, can be incorporated in the media environment, providing wider access and wider choice of media.
“The need for such diversity has increased in importance as, globally, media has become more concentrated, limiting access, expression of diverse views and opinions and choice of sources of news,” Mthembu said.
Held under the theme, ‘Building a resilient and future-forward community media sector’, the consultative conference is a pivotal milestone towards the development of a sustainability model for community media in South Africa.
Mthembu said community and small commercial media are critical in the battle of ideas, giving meaning and effect to freedom of expression and the celebration of media freedom.
“Besides its many other benefits, community and small commercial media’s overwhelmingly unique selling point is that it deals with issues not adequately addressed by mainstream commercial media,” the Minister said, adding that messaging such as the washing of hands, physical distancing and the wearing of masks, have found concrete expression in the sector during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Mthembu said government is fully aware that despite the considerable progress that has been made in establishing a footprint of community and small commercial media projects across the country, there is still much more work to be done.
“While government is currently supporting the sector as best as we can on our own, we know we can do more in terms of identifying other role players that can support it,” Mthembu said.
Government established the MDDA in 2002 in order to support a vibrant community and small commercial media sector in the country to safeguard South Africa’s democracy.
The two-day conference is expected to draw from both the local and international body of knowledge on sector sustainability strategies, and is expected to conclude with Terms of Reference for a research study that will seek to unearth the root causes for the lack of sustainability in the sector, build on its strengths and develop a responsive sustainability model.
It is envisaged that the sustainability model will categorise community media into its ability to self-sustain, partially self-sustain or not be self-sustainable at all.
Additionally, it should identify interventions such as funding, training, innovation and technology, community and government support, among others, to ensure the survival of the sector.
The model will be built in a way that it is embedded in and supports the District Development Model. It will, moreover, inform the MDDA’s future funding and support processes.