Johannesburg - Public hearings hosted by the Print and Digital Media Transformation Task team were indefinitely postponed after the Times Media Group pulled out, the team said on Monday.
“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.
The meetings would have been held on Thursday and Friday.
However, the team said hearings would continue on Wednesday and part of Thursday with the government, the African National Congress, Sector Education and Training Authorities, the SA Audience Research Foundation, and advertisers.
The Times Media Group told the team on Friday it was pulling out.
“At an emergency meeting on Monday, the task team decided to go ahead with the hearings for the stakeholders, but expressed its disquiet that two of the four major groups that tasked them to do the work have pulled out.”
Media group Caxton announced it had pulled out in January. This was also linked to the investigation by the Competition Commission.
The commission is probing suspected anti-competitive behaviour by Caxton, Naspers, Times Media, and the Independent. It was reported at the time that the four media houses were informed in December that the commission was investigating the alleged sharing of markets and information.
The anti-competitive allegations 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.
The transformation task team, from which Caxton and the Times Media Group had withdrawn, was set up in August to help the media industry develop a common transformation strategy.
The team is examining issues such as ownership, management, employment equity, skills development, and the low level of black ownership in many large media groups. Last year, it said it aimed to conclude its work by April.
The task team was established after Parliament's portfolio committee on communication criticised the print media sector and called for a transformation charter.
Print Media SA - now called Print and Digital Media SA - rejected the idea and said the media industry would deal with the matter in its own way. - Sapa