Cape Town - The media has allowed political parties to set the agenda for coverage of the election campaign and neglected issues affecting ordinary citizens, Media Monitoring Africa said on Monday.
In an interim report on the media's handling of the elections, the watchdog said 52 percent of all stories on Wednesday's polls concerned “party campaigning” and “party politics”.
“We would expect parties themselves to focus on these issues. We would also hope that media would have adopted a citizen's agenda and afforded less coverage to these areas as their dominance adds little to the understanding of audiences of the big election issues or parties' policies.”
A break-down of election coverage showed that corruption was the third-ranking topic, followed by election logistics. These stories however mostly focused on the Nkandla controversy and the legal woes of Pansy Tlakula, Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) chairwoman.
Much coverage was also devoted to the SABC's decision to ban campaign advertisements by the Democratic Alliance and the Economic Freedom Fighters, the monitoring group said.
It added that the coverage failed to address broader issues such as violence against women, xenophobia, land and housing shortages, and crime.
“It would appear that with some notable exceptions media have allowed their agendas to be determined by those of the politicians and parties, and not citizens,” it said.
It listed 20 public figures who were the most prominent sources for stories about the elections. President Jacob Zuma, who also presides over the governing African National Congress, Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema and Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille topped the list, while Public Protector Thuli Madonsela came in at number five.
Former ANC Cabinet minister Ronnie Kasrils, who launched a campaign encouraging people to not vote for the ANC, was number nine on the list of most often cited news sources.
The monitoring group said the ANC was the party that drew the most coverage, with 22 percent of stories, followed by the DA and the EFF with 15 and seven percent respectively.
They monitored 50 media Ä radio, television and online Ä from March 7.
Meanwhile, media survey group DDI said on Monday the ANC narrowly secured more media coverage than the DA in the final election campaign push at the weekend, but Julius Malema drew more attention than any other politician.