In an open letter addressed to Dr Stephen Mncube, chairperson of the Indpendent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), the SOS: Support Public Broadcasting Coalition requests clarification on the Broadcasting Regulatory Policy Review Process.
The letter, which is copied to Minister of Communications Dina Pule, reads:
1. The SOS: Support Public Broadcasting Coalition (“The Coalition’) represents a number of trade unions; independent film and TV production sector organisations including the South African Screen Federation (SASFED); and a host of NGOs and CBOs including the Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI) and Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) as well as a number of academics and freedom of expression activists.
2. The Coalition notes the contents of Notice 891 published in Government Gazette No 34828 dated 8 December 2011, the Issue Paper on the Review of the Broadcasting Regulatory Framework Towards a Digitally Converged Environment (“the Broadcasting Regulatory Review’).
3. The Coalition will, of course, participate fully both in writing and at the oral hearings in this process.
4. The Coalition is concerned however at the timing of the Broadcasting Regulatory Review.
5. As ICASA is no doubt aware, the Minister of Communications has promised to undertake a broad-ranging review and updating of broadcasting policy which has not been done since the 1998 Broadcasting White Paper.
6. The Coalition is thus concerned that ICASA’s Broadcasting Regulatory Review is taking place in a context of outdated legislation which is in urgent need of amendment. Indeed ICASA’s Findings Document on Ownership and Control (Notice 624 published in Government Gazette No 34601 dated 15 September 2011) specifically recommended that a number of amendments to the Electronic Communications Act, 2005 (“the ECA’) be made on a range of ownership and control issues.
7. The Coalition formally requests ICASA to communicate with it on the following matters:
a. – how ICASA plans to ensure that its Broadcasting Regulatory Review dovetails with new broadcasting policy, assuming that this is formulated in 2012;
b. – whether or not ICASA intends to wait for necessary amendments to the ECA and perhaps also the Broadcasting Act, 1999, before finalising its Broadcasting Regulatory Review; and
c. – how digital migration and general digital policy is to be included in all of the above processes.
8. The Coalition is anxious to see urgent broadcasting reform, at a policy, legislative and regulatory levels. However, it is concerned that these processes appear to be happening in tandem which, we fear, may result in an incoherent overall broadcasting environment. In this regard the Coalition believes that it is critical that the process develops in a coherent, orderly and participative manner starting with policy development, moving onto the legislative reforms and finally the passage of regulations that are in accordance with updated legislation and policy.
9. To assist this process the Coalition has in fact crafted a detailed document to contribute to the policy review process, entitled – Ensuring Innovative Citizen-Orientated Public Broadcasting In South Africa: Vision of the SOS: Support Public Broadcasting Coalition (“SOS Vision Document’).
The Coalition has requested a meeting with Dr Mncube at his earliest convenience to discuss the issues raised in the letter and to share with him the latest version of our SOS Vision Document.