|STATEMENT OF THE ANC NEC SUBCOMMITTEE ON COMMUNICATIONS ON THE COMMUNICATIONS & BATTLE OF IDEAS DISCUSSION DOCUMENT TOWARDS THE 4TH NATIONAL POLICY CONFERENCE|
The African National Congress (ANC) presents today the Discussion Document on Communications and the Battle of Ideas. The document is themed “ Towards the Fourth Industrial Revolution: Catalysing economic growth, building an inclusive society and advancing a public discourse” and presents ANC policy perspectives in the following policy areas:
- The Battle of Ideas
- Information and Communications Technologies (ICT)
- Postal Services and Post Bank
- Broadcasting and Content
- Print Media Transformation
The document draws from and builds on successive ANC resolutions, including amongst them the 53rd National Conference held in December 2012 and the 4th National General Council of June 2015. It seeks to develop a framework for the discussions at the National Policy Conference to be held in June 2017, guided by the following objectives:
- Repositioning the ANC to effectively participate in the battle of ideas
- Strengthening the communications capacity of the executive and legislative branches of government.
- Developing roadmap towards the realisation of the NDP Vision 2030.
- Within the context of the NDP, developing a roadmap to effectively harness opportunities offered by the Fourth Industrial Revolution
The Fourth Industrial Revolution is the fourth major industrial era since the 1st Industrial Revolution of the 18th century. It is a technological revolution characterized by the increased use of ICT in human activities, fusing physical, digital and biological worlds; fundamentally altering the way we live, work and relate to one another. Ours is to prepare South Africa for the Digital Economy and the 4th Industrial Revolution; acknowledging its possibilities to disrupt current economic and social structures. As a country, we must engage proactively with these rapidly evolving technologies to mitigate against any negative impact on jobs, service delivery, production of goods and services. We should also embrace technology whilst remaining vigilant against the potential of economic exclusion, widening the digital divide, skewed distribution of resources and reproduction of inequality amongst our people.
The ANC must lead society in preparation for the impact of 4th Industrial Revolution and help different segments of society and the economy to adapt to this disruptive epoch. For this to happen the ANC must be prepared and organized to lead. The establishment of an ANC 4th Industrial Revolution Commission is the first step to create the enabling environment and capacity within the ANC. The reskilling of our people, the development of digital and other entrepreneurial skills must be considered in order to manage the challenge that will arise with the advent of digitisation.
The discussion document further identifies the media as a site of struggle, with the 54th National Conference to be held in December 2017, taking place against a backdrop of a hostile media environment characterised by greater media convergence (combination of print, radio, television, radio and online media ownership, production and consumption) and consolidation. Hegemony of dominant media houses continue to entrench editorial positions that are adversarial on the National Democratic Revolution (NDR), government programmes and ANC as leader of society.
Media convergence has created monolithic oligopolies; consolidated and hegemonic – contrary to our vision of a pluralistic and diverse media. Challenges and divisions within the ANC and the broader democratic movement have opened up a window of opportunity for local and global opponents of the ANC to attack the organisation. Communication is no longer a one way street but a dialogue where society generates its own content, and news is produced, disseminated and consumed at an unprecedented pace due to the advent of new media.
The SABC and other organs of state have lurched from one crisis to another thus eroding public confidence and entrenching a trust deficit now opportunistically filled by forces hostile to program of fundamental socio-economic transformation.
Engagement in the Battle of Ideas as an ideological tool to defend the ideas and ideals of the ANC and the gains of the NDR across all platforms and using all organizational, suitable and effective tactical approaches is more important at this current juncture than before.The document therefore centers on radical transformation of the media industry and the building of a plurality of voices within society.
Our approach to the Battle of Ideas should be underpinned by organisational unity, high moral ground, discipline and the delivery of adequate services to the people of South Africa. We must develop deep research capabilities and strengthen ideological training and progressive voices in civil society, academia and business. Amongst the proposals made is the introduction of interactive web based and biometric systems aimed at removing gatekeeping & promoting alternative forms of engagement and broadening participation in line with ANC Constitutional imperatives.
The ANC must prepare for the digital future as a model user of ICTs, harnessing the power of technology for organizational work and mass mobilization. The adoption of ICTs will help the ANC to promote online interaction with members, strengthen branches and broaden ongoing interaction with the general population and potential ANC base using the digital online platforms. A long term plan, based on innovative ideas supported by the use of digital platforms, will help reach more South Africans especially the women and the youth to draw them into structured programmes.
On Information and Communications Technology, the Discussion Document recognizes the role of ICTs as an economic sector on its own but most importantly as catalyst and enabler of economic activity. It seeks to harness the potential of ICTs to foster economic growth, social development and cohesion. We further call for the digitising of Government services (Post Offices, Police, Education, Health, Home Affairs etc.) and the fast tracking of the deployment of broadband connectivity aimed at creating SMART communities (including SMART villages)
Government must accelerate the implementation of the Integrated National ICT Policy with a strong emphasis on the following priorities:
- introduction of a new market structure based on open access principles to enable competition
- effective regulation and enforcement of regulations through the establishment of two new regulators one being for content and the other for infrastructure
- the establishment of the Digital Development Fund as a dedicated instrument to support SMMEs and digital development initiatives
- acceleration of the roll-out programme to connect schools, clinics and government offices
- lowering the cost to communicate and the cost of data (colloquily referred to as #DataMustFall)
In the implementation of this programme government will engage with all sectors of society and the economy.
On Postal Services and the Post Bank, the ANC led government has adopted South African Post office Turn-Around Plan. The current focus of the document is on integration of the Postal Office and the Postal Bank in the broadband and digital developments. We emphasize the urgent licensing of the Post Bank as a developmental bank to distribute, amongst others, social grants and offer financial support to SMMEs is prioritized. The Post Bank must become the primary transaction bank of the State.
Notwithstanding the decisions of the 4th National General Council, which called for the expedited implementation of migration from analogue to digital broadcasting transmission, and the progress made thus far, the project remains far from completion. The implementation of the Digital Migration programme must be prioritized. To this end the switch-off date for the analogue signal in the entire country must be achieved by 31 December 2018. To achieve the Analogie Switch Off (ASO) date funding should be made available to ensure the availability of the devices in support of the poor TV owning households and consumer awareness. The installation of set top boxes (STB) and the provision of after care service must benefit the youth in rural areas.
On broadcasting policy, the document calls for the finalisation of the broadcasting policy review to position the Public Broadcaster within the digital future in terms of platforms, content hubs and technological abilities. It must also articulate other ANC resolutions dealing with language diversity, regionalization of services, diversity of content, local content development and the use of broadcasting to support early childhood development and lifelong learning. Government is called upon to develop a National Content Strategy to promote and protect SA linguistic and cultural diversity, patriotism and national interest. We must review the macro organization of the state to ensure it is effective and efficient in the execution of its mandate.
The document further calls for stability at the SABC through strict adherence to good corporate governance principles, compliance with the Broadcasting Act and employment of skilled and qualified persons. We need to also accelerate the introduction of public funding for the costed public mandate of the SABC in line with the decisions of the 52nd National Conference.
On print media transformation, the ANC emphasizes responsibility of the media and notes the need for accountability, in the context of media responsibility. The need for the broadening of the transformation agenda should be understood within this paradigm of media responsibility to reflect the South African society. Transformation should be understood as applicable across the value chain and not just an issue that affects ownership and control only. To this end, the document calls for the introduction of a Print Media Empowerment Charter in line with the BBBEE Codes. Further for the critical interrogation of government support and funding of community media. Government adspend and other funding mechanisms must be decisively utilised to drive the development of this sector, with specific emphasis on community radio.
The document further acknowledges that self-regulation of the media has failed and reaffirms the need for independent regulation of the media. Consequently, Parliament must urgently undertake an inquiry into media accountability mechanisms, including the feasibility of a media appeals tribunal and the amendment of defamation laws.
Government must ensure the introduction of radical legislative and regulatory interventions on crossmedia ownership. Our must be to break the monopoly and ensure the participation of Blacks and Africans in particular. The Development Funding Institutions (DFI) must be mobilized to support this transformation of the media. Funding must also extend to supporting community media, capacity building and equity equivalent. We must support creativity and innovation to promote SA initiatives in the digital media platforms, including online media and broadcasting, coding, etc.
For effective meaningful transformation in the media, the training of media practitioners and professionals must be prioritized. Journalism curriculum must be reviewed to informed by contextual reflection. The transformation of training institutions must also be prioritized, building indigenous knowledge and ensuring that lecturers are reflective of the demographics of our country.
As part of our approach to radical economic transformation, the ANC will develop a comprehensive position paper on the 4th Industrial Revolution setting out the key principles of the new economic landscape. The Integrated National ICT White Paper introduces radical economic interventions departing from the current market landscape; introducing openness, open access, open internet / OTT and open Government.
Our approach to the Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) and digital migration must also be seen in the context of strengthening Free-To-Air (FTA) Television, benefiting public, community and FTA commercial television. This will close content divide and benefit citizens with access to premium content, sports broadcasting rights, increased local content development, multi-channel platforms, high definition and interactive television.
The approach further deals with decoder monopoly, promotes interoperability of decoders and positions South Africa for the production of all-in-one decoders (decoders enabled with DTT, internet connectivity and the Internet of Things, pay TV, et cetera). South Africa must open the subscription television market, which is currently dominated by one player, NASPERS through Multichoice and DSTV.
The entry of over-the-top (OTT) services, such as Netflix and Showmax, in the South African market has the potential to result in unfair competition to existing licensees who have public interest obligations attached to their licences. The regulatory framework must be fine tuned to create a level playing field and bring these services within South Africa’s tax regime. Policy must also encourage the emergence of South African OTTs so that they can meet the needs of local content and societal needs while competing with the foreign OTTs.
Digitization of Government services and offices will ensure the growth of the e-strategy, e- Government, and SMART communities (Metros, Cities, local municipalities and villages). Dismantling monopolies must be through legislative interventions in areas like ownership and control rules, probe into anticompetitive behaviors and market structure.