SA Media Regulation: Under a Microscope

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South Africa is going through a process of profound social transformation. In such transformation, many ideas, empirical perceptions, and attitudes ingrained in peoples thinking come under the spotlight. Mind-sets are challenged and paradigms are put to the test. Freedom of speech, access to information, and a free media are entrenched in the Constitution and the media operate in an environment free of oppression, persecution and the repressive legislation which sought to restrict and control the media (Anonymous, 2012:1).

Media policy distinguish external and internal media regulations, external regulations, and policy refer to the laws and regulations applied to the media and communication sectors, where internal regulation refers to those rules and codes of conducts formulated by the media organisations (Fourie, 2010:22) . These two regulations will be described in depth and their aims will be stated. Also two newspapers that are published on the same date will be compared looking at both their similarities and their differences in their articles and the reasons for these differences.

External regulations such as the Constitution protect and provides for the freedom of the media, freedom of expression and access to information. This is further supported by the legislative framework giving effect to the Constitution, including the Broadcasting Act of 1999, Independent Communications Authority of South Africa Act of 2000, Access to Information Act of 2000, Media Development and Diversity

Agency Act of 2002, Electronic Communications Act of 2005, Promotion of Administrative Justice Act including Chapter 9 of the Constitution which sets up institutions to support democracy. The legislative framework establishes an Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) to regulate broadcasting, telecommunication and postal in the public interest. The regulator acts within the parameters of the policy and law, prescribes regulations, impose measurable license terms and conditions, monitor compliance to the license conditions and manage frequency spectrum (Anonymous, 2012:1). The purpose of the external regulation is to formally organise and direct media ownership and to protect society against possible harmful influences of the media (Fourie, 2010:22).

Internal regulations have the aim to achieve and maintain a high level of professionalism, ethical conduct, and adherence to the laws, rules and regulations of external regulations (Fourie, 2010:22) media organisations such as South African National Editors Forum (Sanef) are examples of these along with the Press

Ombudsman where print media is regulated under, a body it established and funds. The Press Council, the Ombudsman, and the Appeals Panel are a self-regulatory mechanism set up by the print media to settle disputes between newspapers and magazines, on the one hand, and members of the public, on the other, over the editorial content of publications. According to the media this mechanism is based on two pillars: a commitment to freedom of expression, including freedom of the press, and to excellence in journalistic practice and ethics. But there is another school of thought that this self-regulation mechanism by design only serves the interest of the media as opposed to serving the interest of the broader South African society.

 

The impact of gate keeping at the level of the individual journalist or editor, acting as a gatekeeper in terms of the news gathering and selection of news items from external sources, collective gate keeping in the form of explicit or implicit communication routines policies about the use of official or formal sources and the backwash effect of deadlines and the logistics of having to publish. Organizational gate keeping (e.g. organizational socialization which leads staff to adopt the value system of the news organization that employs them, and the group think phenomenon in which the pressure to reach consensus may override the contributions of individual members of staff (Looms, 2011:15).

For example the style of editing in “The New Age” is different to that in “The Times” this is according to the style of writing that is accepted in each news paper. This concludes that journalists working for either of these newspapers will have to write their articles in the style acceptable to that particular newspaper.

Self- Regulation a peer review system operating within a set of self-imposed rules by media. It consists of representatives from the media profession passing judgement of complicated matters of journalistic reporting using a journalistic code of ethics. Independent regulation implies independence from both the media and government.

The Press Council of Ireland embodies qualities of independent regulation where the Press Council itself and the Press Ombudsman are independent of government and in operation independent of the media. Co-Regulation is understood as a combination of government and the media industry regulation (Mtimde, 2012). The Press Freedom Commission (PFC) is an example of Co-regulation as it is a mixture of journalists, media owners, assistance from the state and it membership consists of media representatives and public figures.

Statutory regulation is realised when a regulatory body is either set up by statute or controlled by the government. The Models of government regulation differ worldwide and are not customised to set a formula hence the level of government involvement differs an example of this is ICASA which regulates both the telecommunications and broadcasting sectors in the public interest (Mtimde, 2012).

This concludes that external regulations, and policy refer to the laws and regulations applied to the media and communication sectors, where internal regulation refers to those rules and codes of conducts formulated by the media organisations (Fourie, 2010:22).

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