Print media query charter demand

South Africa's print media sector has objected to demands by Parliament's portfolio committee on communication for a transformation charter for the industry.

“They made it quite clear that they want a charter, whereas (Print Media SA's (PMSA)) position is that we don't want a mechanism that will lead to further regulation,” PMSA president Hoosain Karjieker said on Thursday.

“We made the point that any intervention of that kind will lead us down that road.”

The standoff came at a public hearing on media ownership on Monday, where PMSA acknowledged the newspaper industry had not been adequately diversified and proposed setting up a council to steer it towards change.

Under the proposal, the council would have an independent chairman working with representatives from the industry and would report back to the portfolio committee within six to nine months.

“Kholwane and the portfolio committee were not happy with that. They want something fast-tracked,” Karjieker said.

He said PMSA and the SA National Editors' Forum intended going ahead with the establishment of the council, but would heed Kholwane's call to submit proposals within three months.

Kholwane said in a statement he would ask the Government Communication and Information System and the Media Development and Diversity Agency to help the industry draft a charter.

The charter would set targets for diversifying the media in terms of ownership, content and language.

The current dominance of four large groups showed “possibly anti-competitive behaviour”, he said.

“The print media charter will address the specifics of the industry, including setting deadlines and targets to meet transformation objectives.

“These will include areas of ownership and control, language, race, gender, employment equity, conditions of employment, skills development, contributions to promoting media diversity, accord on access to printing and distribution, etc.”

Kholwane said only a diverse media could ensure “the enjoyment of media freedom by all”.

Print is the largest media sector in the country and Media24, Independent News and Media SA, Caxton and Avusa own just under 50 percent of the titles in circulation.

Last week, Kholwane said Independent should not be offered to a foreign buyer if it were sold again. He argued that a stake in the media house should go to previously disadvantaged groups. - Sapa