Public Broadcasting is of Public Value and also Needs Direct Public Funding
In his budget speech yesterday, Minister Pravin Gordhan reflected on the National Development Plan’s (NDP) articulation of South Africa’s need to “invest in a strong network of economic infrastructure designed to support the country’s medium- and long-term economic and social objectives.” Demonstrating government’s responsiveness to this need, Minister Gordhan announced an investment of R827 billion over the next three years towards building this infrastructure.
The SOS Coalition welcomes the R599 million allocation made to Sentech for the completion of its signal distribution network for the migration from analogue to digital terrestrial television. This is certainly a welcome move in ensuring the deeper penetration of reliable broadcasting services to millions of South Africans, especially those living in remote rural areas who could not enjoy these before.
The NDP also speaks of South Africa taking its place in the global information society and beginning to assert itself as an important knowledge economy in both the African content and the rest of the world. Alongside accelerating deeper penetration of and real and affordable access to information and communication technologies across all strata of our society, something which the imminent digital migration promises to enable, government also needs to invest further into supporting and strengthening public broadcasting.
In a society where millions of people rely on television for their information, education and entertainment needs, simply establishing a signal distribution network is not enough if South Africa is to have a fighting chance in realising this goal.
We need content that informs audiences about what it means to be a South African today and catalyse dialogue about what it could mean tomorrow. We need educational content that captures the imaginations of South Africans and inspires them to realise our developmental goals. We need high quality content which does all of these things while engaging and entertaining us. We need to see direct public funding into public programming on the SABC and community broadcasters.
We call on Minister Gordhan and government to begin to look at the SABC and community broadcasting as the public utility it is and as a necessary cog in the machinery that will take South Africa to new heights.
The SABC must play its role in putting together comprehensive, transparent budgets that look at the actual costs of producing this programming. As citizens we need to know that public money given to the SABC will be well spent!
The SOS Coalition represents a number of trade union federations including COSATU and FEDUSA, a number of independent unions including BEMAWU and MWASA; independent film and TV production sector organisations including the South African Screen Federation (SASFED); a host of NGOs and CBOs including the Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI) and Media Monitoring Africa (MMA), and a number of academics and freedom of expression activists.
Sekoetlane Jacob Phamodi
SOS: Support Public Broadcasting