Government to review broadcasting policy

NOVEMBER 13, 2014

Communications Minister Faith Muthambi says government will undertake a broadcasting policy review which will see, amongst others, ensuring that the broadcasting regulation framework is brought in-line with new practices.

The Minister said this when briefing journalists on reviewing the Ministry’s plans to review the Broadcasting Act and on consultations with the broadcast industry on digital migration.

She said the broadcast media landscape had changed over the years, and that a review was necessary to ensure that the broadcast sector is revived in terms of content, transformation and funding.

“A new policy and regulatory framework is needed to support these outcomes and reposition our industry for the complex and unpredictable technological future ahead and also to enable us to respond to the mandate given to us by the President,” she said.

Minister Muthambi said in this regard, she would release a gazette next week inviting members of the public and the industry to comment.

Amongst the areas that the review will address will include:

  • Reviewing the three-tier broadcasting system;
  • Looking at the structure, mandate, funding of public broadcasting services including license fees;
  • A review of community broadcasting;
  • Regulation of broadcasting services;
  • Access to content of national interest;
  • Local content development;
  • Development of local languages through broadcast;
  • Ownership and control of broadcasting services;
  • Management and allocation of broadcasting spectrum;
  • The post analogue (broadcasting) signal switch off;
  • Existing institutional arrangements; and
  • Funding of broadcasting development and diversity.

Minister Muthambi said once public inputs have been consolidated, the department would release a paper with any issues that may emerge with responses of how government would address them.

“Given the period it took to amend the policies and noting the myriad of issues to be dealt with, the department will release a set of discussion papers.

“This is to ensure that those issues requiring intense discussions are given adequate attention,” she said.

She said three discussion papers would subsequently be released – namely the “General Broadcasting Issues”, “Public Broadcasting” and Community Broadcasting and Funding of Media Development and Diversity South Africa”.

“A comprehensive final report from these discussion documents will be published for public consideration. The report and its recommendations inform the new White Paper on Broadcasting Policy to be published later in 2015.”

Digital migration

Minister Muthambi said, meanwhile, that she has over the past two months held "extensive" consultations with the broadcast industry with the aim of resolving a stalemate between the main players on digital migration.

With government pushing to meet the June 2015 deadline to migrate from analogue to digital signal, a dispute over using a control system in the set top boxes (STBs) has delayed plans to implement the project for months on end.

The Minister said further consultations were being held with all stakeholders with a view of resolving the impasse.

Earlier in the day she said her department should be ready to roll out a communications campaign around the project – both logistically and financially.

“We have done extensive consultation with the industry and now ourselves as government and the industry, we are going out to engage on a massive communications strategy to alert members of the public that DTT is coming, it is on the way.

“As a country and the industry, we will determine the way forward.

“What is left now is government will finalise the DTT policy and then roll it out,” she said. –