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ROLE/IMPORTANCE OF COMMUNITY MEDIA IN COVERING THE UPCOMING LOCAL GOVERNMENT ELECTIONS 

MDDA CEO

MANDATE OF THE MEDIA DEVELOPMENT AND DIVERSITY AGENCY (MDDA):

The Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA) is a statutory development agency for promoting and ensuring media development and diversity.

It is a partnership between the South African Government and major print and broadcasting companies to assist in, amongst others, developing community and small commercial media in South Africa.

It was established in 2003, in terms of the MDDA Act No. 14 of 2002 and started providing grant funding to projects on 29 January 2004.

IMPORTANCE OF COMMUNITY MEDIA IN COVERING LOCAL GOVERNMENT ELECTIONS:

 

The community media play an indispensable role in the proper functioning of a democracy.Within electoral contexts, community media often focuses on the “watchdog” role: by unfettered scrutiny and discussion of the successes and failures of candidates, governments, and electoral management bodies, the media can inform the public of how effectively they have performed and help to hold them to account.

Yet the community media also have other roles in enabling full public participation in elections:

  • by educating voters on how to exercise their democratic rights;
  • by reporting on the development of an election campaign;
  • by providing a platform for the political parties and candidates to communicate their message to the electorate;
  • by providing a platform for the public to communicate their concerns, opinions, and needs, to the parties/candidates, the government, and to other voters, and to interact on these issues;
  • by allowing the parties and candidates to debate with each other;
  • by reporting results and monitoring vote counting;
  • by scrutinizing the electoral process itself, including electoral management, in order to evaluate the fairness of the process, its efficiency, and its probity;
  • by providing information that, as far as possible, avoids inflammatory language, helping to prevent election-related violence.

Monitoring the media during election periods has become an increasingly common practice, using a combination of statistical analysis and the techniques of media studies and discourse analysis to measure media’s role in an election.

PROPOSED INTERVIEW QUESTIONS: 

1.The mandate of the MDDA in relation to support of community and small commercial media?

In 1994, South Africa emerged from apartheid with a highly monopolised media industry, characterised by very limited diversity of news or opinion, and suppression of the voice of black people.

The new democratic South Africa recognised the urgent and critical need for transformation of the media environment based on the key principle of freedom of expression, a right enshrined in our new Constitution.

In addition, media diversity and the invaluable role of the media to ensure access to information were from the start cornerstones of our democracy.

Diversity was – and is still seen today – as a way in which new voices / sources can be incorporated in the media environment, providing wider access and wider choice of media.

The need for such diversity has only increased in importance as, globally, media has become more concentrated, limiting access, expression of diverse views and opinions and choice of sources of news.

Ban Ki-moon, previous Secretary-General of the United Nations, said; “Building sustainable cities – and a sustainable future – will need open dialogue among all branches of national, regional and local government. And it will need the engagement of all stakeholders – including the private sector and civil society and especially the poor and marginalized.”

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It goes without saying that media is a critical tool through which the engagement of especially the poor and the marginalized can be ensured.

As we approach 20 years since the promulgation of the MDDA Act, the government is as committed to supporting the sector as a vehicle for nation building and for public participation, and as a sector that is crucial to the democracy of the country.

Government established the MDDA in 2002 because of the need for a vibrant community media sector in the country, to safe guide our democracy and we fully recognise that the need is as great today as it was then.

2.How MDDA is going to capacitate community media in terms of covering the upcoming local government elections?

The MDDA hosted  the Local Government Elections Training Workshop 2021 on the 11 October– 12 October 2021. The aim of the workshop was to provide community and small commercial media  with an understanding of the Local Government Electoral system in preparation of the 2021 Local Government Elections.

The training was aimed at equipping community media with skills to cover Local Government Elections in a fair, prominent, and balanced manner – among others.

3.What do you think is the role of community media in terms of promoting the upcoming local government elections?

Community media is a critical tool through which the engagement of especially the poor and the marginalized can be ensured. A healthy democracy needs an informed and active citizenry and community radio, print and digital plays a crucial role in the following ways:

  • as a public watchdog to keep politicians and public officials in check by promoting transparency and accountability.
  • making citizens aware of economic, cultural, social, and political developments.
  • as a platform for dialogue and debate.
  • as an advocate for democracy, rule of law and good governance by for example reporting on election broadcasting and educating voters about how government is run. Well-informed voters are vital in ensuring an accountable and responsive government.
  • As a means for the communities to bring their grassroots issues to the national stage, issues that are often ignored by the mainstream media.
  • As a channel for local stories to be told.
  • In the context of the current Covid-19 pandemic, it is well recognised that the media plays an enormously influential role in public responses to health issues.
  1. How  MDDA support community media in terms of content development to ensure that communities consume fresh news?

Section 2 of the Media Diversity Agency Act of 2002 stipulates that the nature of support provided by the Agency to community broadcast projects may be in the form of financial support or training opportunities and capacity development in all areas of media.

Grant funding is one of the central factors towards ensuring successful empowerment, sustainability, and transformation in the community media sector. The other crucial element is capacity building within the community media sector with regard to governance and management of these community-based organisations.

5.Are there any regulations/rules that govern community media in terms of equitable coverage?

The Independent Broadcasting Authority Act, No. 153 of 1993, was the first major piece of legislation to deal with broadcast media in a post-apartheid context.

The Act introduced the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA), an independent regulator for broadcasting responsible for the licensing of community services as well as public and commercial services.

Other broadcast laws that have affected the community media sector include the Broadcasting Act, 4 of 1999, and the Electronic Communications Act, 36 of 2005.

The Broadcasting Act of 1999 was enacted to repeal the Broadcasting Act of 1976 in order to establish a new broadcasting policy framework for a young South African democracy. The Act reaffirmed the legislative recognition of a community broadcasting service as first defined in the IBA Act of 1993.

The Broadcasting Act acknowledges that the South African broadcasting services are owned and controlled by South Africans; and that the system uses radio frequencies that are a limited public resource to provide programming that is in the public interest and necessary for the maintenance of a South African identity, universal access, diversity and equality.

The Act resolves to ‘align the broadcasting system with the democratic values of the Constitution and to enhance and protect the fundamental rights of citizens.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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