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Local papers important, says publisher

Johannesburg - The country's communities should have an independent voice through which they can tell their stories, publisher Anton van Zyl said on Thursday.

“An independent voice is important, instead of having a community title owned by a big company sitting in Johannesburg or Pretoria,” said Van Zyl, who publishes the Limpopo Mirror and owns the Zoutpansberger.

He was making a presentation to the Print Digital Media Transformation Task Team.

The task team is holding public hearings on how to improve and transform the media industry.

A community newspaper, the Limpopo Observer, closed down after being bought by Media 24, said Van Zyl.

“The survival of community newspapers is important to safeguard that independent voice.”

The ANC is expected to make its presentation to the task team on Thursday afternoon.

The team is headed by former City Press editor Mathatha Tsedu and was established by Print and Digital Media SA in August to help the media industry develop a common strategy for transformation.

It is examining issues such as ownership, management, employment equity, skills development, and the low level of black ownership in many large media groups.

It was established after Parliament's portfolio committee on communication criticised the print media sector and called for a transformation charter.

The task team said on Monday that the public hearings would be indefinitely postponed on Thursday as the Times Media Group had informed it on Friday that it was pulling out of the process.

“Times Media Group is the second company of the major four to do so, citing an on-going investigation by the Competition Commission into anti-competitive behaviour,” the task team said in a statement.

Caxton pulled out of the hearings in January, also because of he investigation by the Competition Commission.

The commission is probing the alleged sharing of markets and information by Caxton, Naspers, Times Media, and the Independent. The were informed of the probe in December.

The allegations of anti-competitive behaviour first surfaced at a Competition Tribunal hearing in March 2012 about a proposed merger between Media24 Limited, Paarl Coldset, and the Natal Witness Printing and Publishing Company. - Sapa

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