Communications Minister Faith Muthambi has emphasised the need for media which is accessible to all the country’s citizens, saying the sector still lacks transformation.
She was addressing delegates at a Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA) stakeholder engagement breakfast in Parktown on Friday.
“The objective of the MDDA is to ensure that all the citizens can have access to information in the language of their choice. It’s an issue we’ve not done enough about as a country. It’s about universal access,” she said.
“There’s a huge challenge for us. We want stories of women, young people and vulnerable people in rural areas to find expression through the MDDA.”
She pointed out that feedback received from a media colloquium held in August last year had indicated that the transformation of existing media platforms had not taken place.
Muthambi criticised the lack of diversity in the mainstream media, claiming that certain media houses had a monopoly over print and broadcast media.
Other anti-competitive practices by certain organisations, particularly in the knock-and-drop community newspaper sector, stifled the growth of other community newspapers, she claimed.
“There’s a need for broader public mobilisation around the role of public media,” she said.
This was essential to ensure that all voices in society were heard and that people’s opinions and views were broadened through access to information.
“The objective of the MDDA is to promote development and diversity in the country’s media in all the country’s provinces and municipalities.”
Responding to concerns of delegates surrounding the lack of support for community radio stations, Muthambi suggested an indaba be held before March in order to address issues in the sector.
“We have already done a strategy called the community media support strategy. Our self as government, we take you very seriously. You’re at the heart of our approach in developing communication. We will give you ample opportunity [to give] input in our communication media support strategy.”
She said she was speaking to mayors and premiers to make it mandatory for them to provide financial support to community media.
Muthambi wouldn’t comment about the controversy surrounding her involvement at the SABC.
She also refused to answer questions on the broadcaster put to her by News24. Her bodyguards whisked her away as she brushed off the questions.
On Thursday, MPs at the SABC inquiry could not reach consensus on the role that Muthambi and Parliament had played in the public broadcaster’s recent decline.
During their debate, opposition MPs said they felt strongly that Muthambi was central to the dysfunction of the SABC board.
According to witness testimony, Muthambi placed “undue pressure” on the board in July 2014 to illegally appoint Hlaudi Motsoeneng as permanent chief operating officer.