Monthly update of topical issues in Southern Africa

misazimThis is a monthly update of topical issues in the broadcasting/telecommunications/ICT sector in Southern Africa. In this issue: Botswanas state broadcasters face further curbs on editorial independence as ruling party feud continues.

1. Botswana: Radio Botswana journalists summoned to Office of the President

2. Namibia: Search for NBC chief brought to a halt

3. South Africa: Commonwealth Broadcasting Association discusses public broadcasting

4. South Africa: Investigations into alleged governance transgressions at SABC start

5. South Africa: SABC in World Cup bungle

6. South Africa: ICASA races to license mobile-TV operators

7. South Africa: Government to improve relations with media

8. South Africa: Zuma rebukes ANC youth leader for harassing journalist

9. Namibia: Minister admits to slow progress on ICT

10. Note from the Editor: Noose tightens on Botswana’s state broadcasters

1. Botswana: Radio Botswana journalists summoned by Office of the President

The Head of News and Current Affairs, her deputy and a presenter of Radio Botswanas morning show Masa-a-sele were summoned to the Office of the President to answer charges of why they interviewed the spokesperson of the newly formed Botswana Movement for Democracy, (BMD), a break away from the ruling Botswana Democratic Party.

Sources told MISA Botswana that the three Keitirele Mathapi, Sakaeyo Jannie and Thuso Letlhoma were read the riot act by the Minister for Presidential Affairs Ms Lesego Motsumi for interviewing BMD spokesperson Sidney Pilane and then opening the phone lines for public comment.

Radio Botswana had hitherto not been reporting about the crisis within the ruling party, ignoring the breakaway faction and only reporting views from the President, the Central Committee and other officials of the ruling party.

MISA Botswana and other civil society members, opposition parties and other observers have criticised the state media for selective one sided coverage of issues. The state media have been moved from the Ministry of Communications to the Office of the President a move which MISA Botswana condemned as a sign of the further tightening of screws on state media comprising Radio Botswana, Botswana Television and the Daily News.

Source: MISA Botswana

2. Namibia: Search for NBC Chief brought to a halt

The Namibian Broadcasting Corporation could go on for longer without a permanent head, after the process of appointing a new Director General was brought to a halt. Political interference was cited as the cause of the current setback, which is said to have brought a rift between the NBC board of directors and Information Minister Joel Kaapanda.

President Hifikepunye Pohamba is said to be siding with Kaapanda. The President or the minister is said to have called off the short-listing of candidates indefinitely because they could not agree on the candidates and the possible DG.

At the centre of the dilemma is Asser Ntinda, the editor of the ruling SWAPO party newspaper Namibia Today. It is understood that Ntinda was the boards favourite.Kaapanda and Pohamba allegedly objected to Ntindas possible appointment pointing out that he is too SWAPO. This allegedly angered some quarters in SWAPO power circles, who questioned what too SWAPO meant. It is not clear who Pohamba and Kaapanda favoured for the NBCs hot seat.

Ten people have served as NBC director general in substantive and acting capacities since independence in 1990. Some attribute lack of interest in the position to political interference in the running of the national broadcaster. MISA is against political appointments and party activists put at the helm of national broadcasters as it opens them to gross political interference.

Source: The Namibian /MISA

3. South Africa: Commonwealth Broadcasting Association discusses public broadcasting

The Managing Director of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), Mark Scott, has criticised opponents of public broadcasters and emphasised the role of public broadcasters in relation to commercial and pay-TV broadcasters in serving the needs of all citizens.Speaking at the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association conference in Johannesburg on April 20 Scott said independent public broadcasters still have a big role to play in the digital age and a responsibility to deliver programmes the public want, but which the market struggles to deliver.

Scott was responding to criticism by James Murdoch, heir apparent to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation empire, that the existence of a government-funded broadcaster – in this case the BBC – is “a threat to pluralism” and is throttling the market. Scott argued that commercial broadcasters “walk away if a product does not deliver profits” because they have no “overarching commitment to journalism as a public good”, or holding “government and private institutions accountable”.

Broadcasters such as the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), and the ABC have been the subject of debate about their role, their funding model and whether they should provide services already being provided by commercial broadcasters.

MISA position is that public broadcasters fulfill a public interest role and will be relevant more than ever in the multichannel environment, and that broadcasting cannot be left to the dictates of the market. It calls for adequate funding of public broadcasters to enable them to make good quality programmes. MISA also calls for legislative and policy reforms to convert state broadcasters into independent broadcasters which truly serve the public, free from political interference.

Source: Businessday/MISA

4. South Africa: Investigations into alleged governance transgressions at SABC start

The SABC has announced the arrival of a team of specialists from the Special Investigative Unit (SIU) to follow up on the report of the Auditor General to Parliament last year on alleged governance transgressions and weaknesses at the public broadcaster. SABC Board chairperson, Dr Ben Ngubane announced that the SIUs involvement is at the invitation of the SABC Board.

This follows investigations by the Auditor General of South Africa in 2009, which submitted a report to Parliament in September. The Auditor General noted at the time that it had been unable to complete its investigations into all matters raised by Parliament, and recommended additional areas for investigation. In his first statement as chairperson in January, Dr Ngubane announced that the incoming board will implement the AGs recommendations.

The Investigative Unit will review policies, procedures and systems of the SABC and will seek to establish compliance wit corporate governance protocols. The initial process of investigation will focus mainly on the SABCs Commercial Enterprises Division, Content Enterprises Division, Corporate finance systems and HR policies and systems. Upon completion of its work, the team will submit its report to the SABC Board which will report to Parliament.

Source: SABC

5. South Africa: SABC in World Cup bungle

Heads are expected to roll at the SABC after officials failed to secure a venue from where the World Cup will be broadcast to millions of viewers throughout Africa.This follows a bungle by SABC officials who failed to secure the Nasrec Exhibition Centre for R3,8 million.

The Sowetan reports that the national broadcaster is now expected to pay R26million for the Sandton Convention Centre as an alternative venue.

SABC chief executive officer Solly Mokoetle is so angry he is threatening to chop off some heads because of the saga. Internal SABC documents in Sowetans possession reveal that SABC producers told their bosses a year ago that Johannesburgs Nasrec centre should be used as broadcasting headquarters.

But former group executive of content enterprise Mvuso Mbebe said the R3,8 million price tag was too high and cancelled the plans.

Ten months later, in February this year, SABC executives changed their minds but by then Nasrec was fully booked. The SABC then allegedly sublet space at the Sandton Convention Centre through a contact of Peter Kwele, head of SABCs 2010 project unit.

A deal was struck. SABC would give Kweles contact advertising worth R1million in exchange for the venue but the fee mysteriously shot up to R26million.

Sandton Convention Centre management declined to comment.

SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago said the SABC does not want to divulge operational plans (including the financial resources), as it will be tantamount to exposing ourselves to competitors.

Source: Sowetan

6. South Africa: ICASA races to license mobile-TV operator

South Africas broadcasting and telecoms regulator is racing against time to issue mobile-TV licences in time for the Soccer World Cup tournament starting on June 11. The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa), plans to issue licences for the broadcasting of content via cellphones before June.

BusinessDay reported April 16 that the government has made commitments that there would be mobile-TV service during the tournament. Robert Nkuna, an Icasa councillor, said there were two multiplexes that were set aside for mobile TV. Multiplex is the transmission of several TV channels on one frequency. One multiplex can take up to 12 TV channels, depending on the technology used.

MultiChoice, which has been testing the mobile-TV technology by streaming some of its existing pay-TV content to cellphones for the past three years in conjunction with cellphone operators, is planning to apply for a licence. Its parent company, Naspers, said last year it had set aside R98m for mobile TV, which it has already launched in Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana and Namibia.

A media analyst at Africa Analysis, David Moore, said mobile TV is not going to have a huge effect because of the high handset prices. He said there are also very few handsets in the country capable of receiving the digital video broadcasting hand-held (DVB-H) signal, which was used by MultiChoice during its trials.

Source: BusinessDay

7. South Africa: Government to improve relations with media

In an attempt to improve relations with the media, the South African government will facilitate Cabinet interaction with the South African National Editors’ Forum and the Foreign Correspondence Association, to ensure increased media access to the Executive.

According to a report by BuaNews, Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane said the interactions, to be facilitated by the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS), are intended to ensure that media and the executive are able to discuss issues of mutual interest while building better relations and fulfilling their mandate of keep citizens informed.

Tabling the department’s Budget Vote in the National Assembly the minister also commended the 150 operational Thusong Service Centers throughout the country. He said strides have been made in partnership with the Department of Public Service and Administration in ensuring ICT connectivity in 55 centres.

GCIS coordinated and scheduled a link-up with 62 community radio stations to profile government economic opportunities that are meant to benefit the most marginalized and emerging entrepreneurs. In this financial year, the GCIS will include the use of public-broadcast radio stations, reaching a wider audience than the community radio stations.

Source: BuaNews

8. South Africa: Zuma rebukes ANC youth leader for harassing journalist

South African President Jacob Zuma reinforced freedom of expression and condemned the treatment of a BBC journalist by ANC Youth League president Julius Malema.

Speaking at a news conference in Durban on April 10 he said “We must accord journalists the freedom to do their work unhindered. Should there be a need to take issue with anything that is being reported, it should be done in a manner that promotes frank and open engagement. We should engage them professionally and with dignity. The manner in which a BBC journalist was treated at an ANC Youth League press conference is regrettable and unacceptable, regardless of any alleged provocation on his part.” Certainly there must be consequences for such behavior, Zuma warned.

The statement by Zuma was sent to all newsrooms. Even though he did not mention Malema by name, he was clearly referring to the populist youth leader, whose conduct he said was ‘alien’ to the ANC.

Meanwhile Raymond Louw, veteran editor and media rights campaigner, told local media that “while the President’s statement is unprecedented and quite strong in relation to his previous statements about Malema – or his lack of them – when the man has behaved outrageously, it certainly could have been much tougher and contained actual censure, if not stronger action, directed at Malema by name.”

MISA condemned the attacks and called on the South African government, ANC Youth League and the police to respect freedom of expression, press freedom and create an environment for journalists to operate without fear.


9. Namibia: Minister admits to slow ICT progress

Namibia’s new Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Deputy Minister, Stanley Simataa has told Parliament that Namibians have not yet reaped the benefits of modern information technology, but the Namibian government will soon put out clear strategies and targets for the sector.

Our Ministry will soon use the outcomes of a conducted ICT infrastructure audit to develop a co-ordinated ICT infrastructure rollout strategy with clear targets and timelines, Simataa said during the budget debate.

He said benefits still had to be reaped as the country continues to acknowledge the potential of ICT without making concerted efforts to locate ICT at the centre of its developmental efforts. Simataa said even though ICT in education has taken root, there is no coordination of interventions by government and industry efforts in realising integrated ICT education, which has led to duplication of efforts, the net result being limited impact of ICTs.

Source: The Namibian


As reported in this edition three Radio Botswana News and Current Affairs staff were summoned to the Office of the President for granting an interview to an official of the newly formed Botswana Movement for Democracy, a break away from the ruling Botswana Democratic Party. It is sad, but not surprising that staff of the state broadcaster were reprimanded for granting an opposition party the right of reply.

The reprimand of the three journalists comes against the background of an unprecedented outcry from political parties, labour groups, the media, civil society and members of the public about what they describe as blatant abuse of Botswana Television (Btv), and Radio Botswana by government and the ruling party. Some of the following occurring recently and in the past are cited as evidence of the abuse:

Btv and Radio Botswana not reporting about activities and pronouncements of the breakaway ruling party faction, but only activities and pronouncements of the BDP Central Committee and the President

Btv and Radio Botswana not reporting in its news and current affairs programmes about the turmoil within the ruling party, but having a field day when its opposition party feuds

Btv covering and not broadcasting former Secretary General Gomolemo Motswaledis resignation from the ruling party

Btv and Radio Botswana covering and not broadcasting a press conference convened by the lawyers of John Kalafatis who was executed by security agents

Some Btv current affairs programmes cancelled because the ruling party was unable or unwilling to send a representative, while representatives of all other parties were present

The above incidents are however not unique to Radio Botswana and Btv. State broadcasters across the region typically display the following characteristics:

His Masters Voice; telling the public what to think and how to lead their lives, always putting the interests of the state authorities first Programming is politically correct; does not reflect reality on the groundNo open forum for democratic debate; divergent views are seen as anti-government and are not welcome Government and ruling party officials have exclusive automatic access

Sunshine Journalism; focus only on what the state wishes to promote Staff governed by civil service codes, not journalistic codes and ethics Top management is appointed by the Minister; as opposed to public and transparent recruitment processes

Lacks credibility; which may lead to dismissal of programmes as government propaganda

It is against this background that there needs to be policy and legislative reforms to transform national broadcasters like Radio Botswana and Btv into public broadcasters which are accountable to all strata of the people represented by an independent board, serve the public interest, avoid one sided reporting and programming with regard to religion, political belief, culture, race and gender, as espoused by the African Charter on Broadcasting.

In contrast, a true public broadcaster would be editorially independent, free from political and commercial interests, a forum for democratic debate and host a diversity of viewpoints. We hope the government of Botswana will start the ball rolling to implement the necessary reforms and entrench democracy through public broadcasting.

Finally on a related note, we commend Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba and Information Minister Joel Kaapanda who have reportedly thwarted efforts by the board of the Namibia Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) to install a known activist of the ruling SWAPO party as Director General of NBC. We hope they will not be intimidated by the SWAPO cadres who see nothing wrong with this arrangement. Leadership and democracy mean doing the right thing, not what is politically expedient.

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