Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) has issued the following statement in response to South African Minister of Communications Dina Pule’s presentation to the media in Pretoria on 24 January.
The statement reads: MMA welcomes the speech from the Minister of Communications, Minister Pule. There is much to be pleased about in the new minister’s plans, with one particular area of concern raised below.
In particular, we welcome the invitation to work in partnership with the Minister in developing the communications and ICT sector. We also appreciate the news that the Set-Top-Box Manufacturing Development Strategy has been finalised and look forward to learning more of the details of this crucial aspect of the Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) rollout, as well as, learning more about the DTT education and awareness campaign. Media Monitoring Africa offers our support in this regard.
The value of the provision of access to the Internet to many cheaply, especially for the poor and marginalised cannot be underestimated, and is an issue that has dragged on for far too long. We, therefore, support the Minister’s plan for an ICT Indaba, as well as, plans for provision of connectivity to the rural poor.
Broadcasting Policy Review
We further welcome the development in regards to the Broadcasting Policy Review Process. This is an issue which SOS Coalition to Support Public Broadcasting, together with MMA as a member, has been arguing in favour of for over three years. The announcement of the Review Panel “to conduct a comprehensive broadcasting policy landscape and make recommendations’ is a very positive step forward. If comprehensively and inclusively handled, it will result in South Africa having a policy befitting a nation with the vision of being “a global leader in the development and … betterment of peoples lives.’
We must; however, express our grave concern regarding the suggestion in the Minister’s speech that ICASA councillors are to sign Performance Management Contracts with the Department of Communications.
While there can be little doubt that the regulator can function far more effectively and optimally, and while the current legislation gives the Minister the power to implement the suggestion, we believe that it has the potential to have extremely negative consequences for the independence of the regulator.
Indeed, concerns have been raised by the late Professor Kadar Asmal in his review of Chapter Nine bodies. In his report, he recommended that parliament make the changes to these sections, and further recommended that it should be Parliament that is the body with whom the Councillors should have Performance Management Agreements. To the best of our knowledge Parliament has not implemented these particular recommendations.
It is therefore most unfortunate that the Minister chose to make this suggestion before the Broadcasting Policy Review has been completed, which would have allowed for constitutional concerns to have been addressed. We therefore call on the Minister to delay on this decision until such time as the Broadcasting Policy Review has been completed.