We call on Dr Iqbal Survé to be the champion of black journalists’ interests as far as transformation in SA’s media industry is concerned, writes Piet Rampedi.
In December, an article written by a black financial journalist in the Times Media Group-owned Business Day (Business Report’s direct competition) boldly claimed to the learned South African populace that when it came to ownership, the South African media industry was transformed, and those who believed that it was not transformed were guilty of peddling lies on social media.
Fast-forward to this month - South Africa’s very own media tycoon, entrepreneur and philanthropist Dr Iqbal Survé contradicts this claim, by revealing that Independent Media SA, the country’s largest newspaper publishing group is the only big South African media house that is black-owned and black-controlled.
The latter declaration corroborates the belief held by the Forum of Journalists for Transformation (FJT) that the media industry in South Africa suffers from a serious lack of transformation. Looking at the former’s view on what the transformation landscape in South Africa is like - it appears - on the face of it that it is members of the FJT who are being labelled as false information peddlers.
We have witnessed how major publishing groups have dealt with those who write about transformation and economic empowerment issues on their platforms. It, therefore, comes as no surprise when a well-respected player in our economy like Dr Survé makes such a bold claim.
Rightly so, the depressive economic climate has culminated into a highly competitive media industry where various houses seek to outdo each other as far as generating advertising revenue is concerned. We have not written this article to debate the merits of black ownership.
Rather, we maintain that the main cause for concern is that it is this very fight for political control among media giants in South Africa that has had disastrous consequences and impacted negatively on black journalistic excellence across the spectrum - be it newspapers, radio, online and broadcast.
Sadly, black journalists continue to be marginalised, discriminated against and falsely accused of non-performance and frustrated into oblivion when they do not fit into the bigger scheme of things as far as servicing certain political agendas.
This fight for control among our media has resulted in blatant spineless reporting and publishing of news by senior jourÂnalists and editors who continuously fail to comprehend that the country’s democratic experience means that there will be diversity and increased black participation in the South African media fraternity - whether they like it or not.
An example of this spinelessness is how successful black players in the economy are often vilified, while white businessmen are treated with kid gloves when they are suspected of similar offences. Given that the lion’s share of government advertising is concentrated in the hands of those who are inconsistent in flying the flag of transformation, surely there should be a repositioning of priorities to ensure that publications representing diversity in the media are given that slice of the pie.
Why is the government continuing to pump money into firms that do not want to transform? Why does constitutional change and diversity in our industry have to be forced through legislative measures, protests and constant servicing of agendas that are detrimental to black excellence and progress in the media? These are difficult questions that players in the industry need to answer to and we call on Dr Survé to be the champion of black journalists’ interests as far as transformation in the country’s media industry is concerned.
We are not saying that Dr Survé should be a broad-based black economic empowerment (BBBEE) saviour, but surely a media giant that prides itself as being the only black-owned entity should take the lead in rectifying the injustices that have been perpetuated by those who embrace lackeys and oppose black progress and excellence.
The FJT will continue to call on the government to set aside 50 percent of its R1 billion advertising spend for black-owned media firms. We are adamant that by setting aside a 50 percent share in the government’s advertising budget, we will be in a position to enhance the viability of black-owned enterprises in line with the revised BBBEE Codes of Good Practice.
* Piet Rampedi is the president of the Forum of Journalists for Transformation, an entity that represents journalists, media practitioners and entrepreneurs in South Africa’s media landscape.