‘Many media outlets are pro-ANC’

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Johannesburg - Many media outlets in South Africa support the African National Congress, professor Anton Harber said on Thursday.

“In South Africa, we have a growing, increasingly dominant network of ANC-supporting media, supported by the state through the front or back door,” the University of Witwatersrand journalism professor said at a media diversity round table discussion in Johannesburg.

“This is a historical correction and certainly it is an advance on the situation where only one newspaper in 1994 unequivocally called on voters to vote ANC.”

Harber said the practice should however be stopped if the independence and accountability of journalism continued to shrink.

“I'm not concerned about whether a publication supports or opposes the ANC. I am more concerned whether the culture of that newsroom is an open one that encourages a diversity of views and opinions,” he said.

“And this is important for one simple reason - journalism is at its best when it is critical, probing, disruptive and discomfiting. Journalists are at their best when they make trouble for those with power and authority.”

Diversity in newsroom demographics, management and ownership is greater than 20 years ago, but there is a lack of diversity in content, professor Anton Harber said on Thursday.

“Before 1994, even under censorship, we had a left wing alternative media, a rightwing alternative media, (and an) active trade union media,” he said.

“Today our media is overwhelmingly located in the centre of our politics and economics.”

Harber said media diversity was critical in post-apartheid South Africa to correct the distortions and imbalances that were inherited from the past.

He said newsrooms, management and ownership demographics could be measured, but the real test was in content and audience.

Harber said protests in the country was as a result of people feeling like they were marginalised, were excluded from the national debate and that their needs and demands were not being heard.

“Behind the Marikana tragedy is the fact that we did not really hear those voices or understand what was happening in the build-up to August 2012,” he said.

“This is what happens when media is insufficiently diverse.” - Sapa

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