The media should use its influence to shape the developmental agenda, with a view to move South Africa forward, says Communications Minister Faith Muthambi.
“I would argue that there is greater room for the media to use its influence to shape our developmental agenda.
“Our nation is grappling with immense challenges due to our tragic past, and we need every facet of society, especially the media, to help to move South Africa forward,” said Minister Muthambi on Thursday.
She was speaking at the 2nd eThekwini three-day Social Cohesion Summit currently underway at the Chief Albert Luthuli ICC, in Durban.
“It is also indisputable that the media industry has grown in leaps and bounds since being unshackled from the yoke of apartheid in 1994. Our constitutional commitment to freedom of expression has resulted in a robust and independent media. Even though we ourselves may fall victim to the fierce independence of the media, we will fight for this independence to remain strong,” said the Minister.
She said the gathering is crucial in that South Africans need to have a serious conversation about social cohesion, or lack thereof.
The Minister said the role of media is to ensure access to information which is essential to the health of the country’s democracy and development.
“It must ensure that citizens make responsible and informed choices rather than acting out of ignorance or misinformation.
“The stories it generates must contribute to our development by allowing South Africans to make better decisions or take advantage of opportunities,” she said.
Minister Muthambi said there must be a debate about ownership patterns of the media and whether these make room for a more diverse ownership pattern, reflecting the transformed nature of the society.
She said community media and radio can be a conduit for continuous dialogue on a range of pressing issues such as safety, health, education, employment and rural development.
According to the Minister, community media and radio can lead national conversations on that which divides the nation, and provide platforms for ordinary citizens to make their voices heard.
“Community media and radio can play a vital role in our joint vision of building a united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous society.
“We continue to have a situation where big media houses dominate the playing field in South Africa. Such a state of affairs 22 years into democracy is not ideal or desirable,” she said.
The Minister also announced that the department has kick-started a conversation around media transformation that will ultimately culminate into a discussion document on media transformation.
“In keeping with our democratic principles, we are consulting widely with media owners, industry associations and other stakeholders. I trust that the finalised document will assist us in ensuring more diversity in our content, newsrooms and ownership patterns,” she said.
Since 1994, government has always sought to use the power of communication to serve the community by informing, educating and providing open access to information.
Minister Muthambi said she strongly believes that the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) remains one of the major pillars when it comes to ensuring that all South Africans are informed about government activities.
“As the SABC continues to evolve it must strive even harder to be a credible and diverse national media broadcaster.
“I believe public service media must at all times be transparent and must work towards the common good,” she said.