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Parliamentary Bulletin

1 September 1998


THE BROADCASTING BILL

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 suppliers

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 processes
  • 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

     
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