ANC says all SA media houses are ganging up on it

Reading Time: 5 minutes

The media, including its diversity and transformation, and what the African National Congress (ANC) calls “the battle of ideas” forms a key part of the policy documents released ahead of the ruling party’s up-coming National General Council (NGC) this weekend.

The discussion paper released on the topic speaks to issues of ANC internal communications, government communications, ICTs, the broadcasting environment, and the print media’s transformation, accountability, and diversity, amongst other things.
Straight of the bat, the document states “the news media has been filtered with raging attacks” against the ANC’s very nature and character.

“There is a ganging up on the ANC and the movement’s representatives by the media analysts, media commentators, the ultra-left and ultra-right forces. All the media outlets, including unfortunately the public broadcaster outlets, are dominated by the persistent attack on the NDR (National Democratic Revolution),” it states.

It looks inward as a cause for this, saying designated spokespeople are isolated voices, and that ground level ANC members need to be trained to respond to “the growing onslaught against the movement I all the media.”

Speaking to SABC Digital News Mondli Makhanya of Avusa Media Newspapers denies that the media is being hostile towards the ANC and government.

“Well, I don’t think they [the ANC]are necessarily very accurate and I think in fact they are very wrong in that they portray the media as being hostile to the ANC and government. What the media does in any society, democratic societies, is that the media reflects what is happening in the country. The media comments on what is happening in the country and the media provides space for different sections of the country to debate and that is what the media in South Africa has been doing and we have been giving very solid coverage of right and wrong, of good and bad in South Africa. “

She continues, “I think what bothers the ANC is that there is a lot of stuff that has come out about the organisation about government which is not very flattering. But they have to accept when you are the dominate party in the country when you are the party in government they will always be greater attention to you. The spotlight will be shone on you more than any other player in society. So it comes naturally, it comes with the territory and what the ANC should be saying is that the public expects more of us that when we do wrong we should be corrected,” says Makhanya.

Karima Brown, Executive Editor of Independent Media, however says: “The ruling party in some instances does have a point. There is a tendency amongst the print media to almost take an oppositional stance on the ruling party on occasion. “

“There needs to be a more balanced narrative around the ruling party within the media. There needs to be a more accurate reflection of what the ANC is about. “

A solution put forward by the ANC, is “engagements with strategic allies and other progressive forces that can influence media.” The ANC must also “identify Schools of Journalism of Choice,” and attempt to influence community media, seen as an “additional potentially progressive opportunity for the ANC.”

The discussion document states: “Strengthening the ANC’s own network of sympathetic analysts and journalists is very important.”

The policy document’s onslaught on the media in general is relentless.

Amongst its critiques count:
• South African journalism deteriorating to “gutter journalism”;
• Media graduates having little training in government communications;
• A basic education system that does not promote media literacy or a culture of reading;

It is in the print media section in particular that the party focuses on “the battle of ideas” and addressing transformational issues such as an agenda that is set by “(amongst others” a white monopoly media.”

Brown says: “I think the NGC documents on the media are quite comprehensive. I think that there is quite a lot of food for thought around some of the challenges that are faced by the media particularly in relation to issues of transformation. Transformation not just of ownership structures and transformation of journalists in the newsroom but also transformation of the actual narrative of the south African and African stories. And I think Independent media we have been taking the issue around transformation really seriously. We are the only big commercially black owned media company in South Africa. We are definitely focusing on bringing an alternative narrative to the South African narrative landscape. Particularly around issues around the continent particularly around South Africa’s relations around countries like China, countries that are part of the BRICS formation.”

Brown says they share the sentiments expressed in the NGC documents around the slow pace of transformation. “We share those sentiments, we agree with those sentiments. We are not in favour of statutory regulations of the media.”

The ANC documents state that the Competition Commission should investigate possible anti-competitive practices within the print media sector.

The discussion paper reaffirms the need for Parliament to investigate the feasibility of a Media Appeals Tribunal,

With regards to the SABC, the documents refer to a series of crises at the broadcaster, and a need to restructure the organisation to prioritise public services in the digital age. It says the public broadcasting system is beset by many structural, managerial, and funding problems, adding to the need for a restructuring.

– By Christelle du Toit and Busisiwe Radebe