1 Sep 1998

1 September 1998


The broadcasting history of South Africa speaks of the exclusion of
the majority of citizens, distorted reporting and corruption. The airwaves
of our country belonged to the Apartheid Government, which used them to
justify its existence, promote racist laws and preach the gospel of white
supremacy. For these reasons the previous regime had to protect their ownership
of the air waves at all costs. The Minister of Posts, Telecommunications
and Broadcasting was faced with this deeply rooted legacy when the ANC
came to power. The new Government was faced with a number of challenges,
including redress, democratisation and creating a culture of openness.
The introduction of the Broadcasting Bill is proof that these were challenges
the ANC did not shy away from.

Bringing Change to South Africa`s Air Waves

The Bill will change the course of South African broadcasting history
in a significant way by:

  • contributing to democracy and the development of society, nation-building
    and education, and strengthening the moral and spiritual fibre of people
  • protecting, enriching and strengthening the cultural, political, social
    and economic make up of the country
  • establishing a strong, committed broadcasting service which will service
    the needs of all people, and is effectively owned and controlled by persons
    from historically disadvantaged groups
  • ensuring diversity of views, news and information, providing a wide
    range of entertainment and educational programmes, and catering for the
    specific needs of women, children and the disabled
  • ensuring that commercial and community licences are controlled by people
    from a diverse range of communities in South Africa
  • encouraging investment and fair competition in the industry
  • encouraging the development of local programming material

The Opposition Resists Change

  • The NP`s campaign of inspiring fear, distorting the truth to suit its
    own needs and driving people into laagers continues. The statements by
    the NP that religious community radio stations will close down is nothing
    more than irresponsible rumour-mongering.
  • The Freedom Front fails to define itself in a broader national context
    and once again chooses to read the Bill simply in relation to Afrikaners
    and not in the diverse national context it was written in. By merely counting
    numbers the Freedom Front says it would be impossible for Afrikaners to
    get a voice.
  • The DP chooses to read the Bill in the same narrow vein as the Freedom
    Front, reflecting how close the two parties are in reality, by saying that
    Government does not provide for minority communities.
  • The ACDP has learnt some of the scare-mongering tactics that the NP
    and DP use both in the press and in the House. Their contention, without
    attempting to understand the content of the Bill, is that Christian broadcasters
    fear that they could be the losers.

The Facts about the Bill

  • the Minister cannot shut down radio stations - only the Independent
    Broadcasting Authority can
  • the IBA cannot shut down radio stations that operate according to their
    licence conditions
  • religious broadcasters are accommodated in the Bill
  • the Constitution prevents any law that aims to suppress the rights
    of groups, or discriminates against any group on the basis of race, religion
    or creed

An objective look at the points of contention reveals that there is
in reality no crisis:

  • The NP and DP have a history of opposing any transformatory legislation,
    even if they have to nit-pick about a small, non-contentious aspect of
    a Bill and twist it around to exploit the fears of people. Their aim is
    to mislead
  • The Bill recommends that licences are granted according to geographic
    areas. It decentralises powers to communities to allocate freely the frequencies
    granted to them to any radio station - the Government no longer has any
    powers to intervene unilaterally in decisions of this nature
  • The Bill will include as many community interests as possible in a
    non-discriminatory manner. It is inclusive of all genuine community interests
    and allows communities to define themselves in any way, religious, cultural
    or language
  • The ANC will ensure that everyone who should have a say in the legislation
    process of this Bill has an opportunity to do so. Therefore it has invited
    any interest group or person to make written and oral submissions to the
    Portfolio Committee. The Committee will also hold extensive public hearings
    for broad participation
  • The Bill establishes a framework to govern the development of broadcasting
    in the long term
  • It emphasises the developmental role the industry should play in uplifting
    communities in South Africa

The South African Broadcast Production Advisory Body

The Minister must establish this body to advise on how to support local
radio and television development, production and display. The Advisory
Body will also advise the Minister on how to encourage, facilitate and
offer guidance and advice in respect of any programme and to promote:

  • the production of broadcast materials that meet the cultural needs
    of the country
  • the screening and broadcast of local programmes
  • an awareness and distribution of local programmes locally and abroad
  • the correction of past imbalances in the local industry
  • human resource development to provide skills and training of local

The Role of Government in this process

  • Government has the responsibility to manage this resource in a way
    that benefits all communities in our country, in a way that gives all people
    a share of the resource
  • Government has a duty to ensure that this Bill becomes the end product
    of a process that was open to everyone to participate in through public
    hearings and submissions to the Portfolio Committee on Communications
  • The ANC Government continues its commitment to the transparent processes
    and democratic institutions it has introduced since 1994
  • It works tirelessly for the inclusion of the majority of citizens,
    especially previously disadvantaged groups, in policy and decision-making
  • The Broadcasting Bill will ensure that the air waves of our country
    belong to the people. The Government will do its level best to protect
    the notion of public ownership
  • The Broadcasting Bill is further proof that the ANC Government is step
    by step making South Africa a better place for all its citizens