Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Johannesburg: The Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA) has urged community media to place an increased focus on compliance and governance.

In turn, the agency has also reaffirmed its responsibility to ensuring that further resources are dedicated to governance and compliance training in order to assist community radio to adhere to their licensing conditions.

“Community media is a critical driver of media pluralism and freedom of expression, elevating voices from marginalised communities, raising awareness around grassroots issues, and increasing access by communities to information in the language of their choice,” said MDDA Acting Chief Executive Officer Zukiswa Potye.

The comments from the MDDA come in the wake of the decision by the Council of the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) to uphold the recommendation of the Complaints and Compliance Committee (CCC) to revoke the community broadcasting service licence of Karabo FM, a community broadcaster based in Sasolburg, Free State, with immediate effect.

Karabo FM failed to comply with two directives of the CCC, following a public hearing held on 21 September 2018.

Potye said the MDDA fully acknowledges the importance of compliance and good governance by community broadcasters and of the challenges facing ICASA as a regulatory body in this regard.

The MDDA further noted that the ripple effects of shutting down a community radio station pose a significant challenge to ensuring access to information for all, in particular for those historically disadvantaged groups not traditionally served by mainstream media.

As the country prepares itself to move into another election period, the role of the media, particularly community media, becomes ever more critical in order to ensure an engaged and informed citizenry.

Potye said as these community media projects are often located in provinces with limited economic activities, high unemployment and social inequalities, the sustainability of projects is challenging, making it important for the MDDA, working with other sector stakeholders, to take a developmental approach to supporting the sector.

“Increasing our focus on capacitating the sector in governance and compliance, in addition to other key skills such as financial management and marketing, is critical to our support of the sector going forward,” said Potye.

The MDDA is a statutory development agency, deriving its mandate from Section 16 and 32 of the Constitution Act No. 108 of 1996, thereby providing for freedom of expression and access to information.

It was established to, among others, promote media development and diversity by providing support primarily to the community and small commercial media projects, and encourage ownership and control of, and access to, media by historically disadvantaged communities as well as by historically diminished indigenous language and cultural groups.

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