A comparative analysis of the coverage of the South African electrical energy crisis during the period 2005-2010 by Cape Town newspapers

Holtzhausen, Jacobus Petrus (2012-03)

Thesis (MPhil)--Stellenbosch University, 2012.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Electrical energy has become an indispensable part of the modern world, supporting industries and economic systems. Any disruption of supply is felt immediately in all spheres of life. The operation of a power system is a complex process involving rotating machines that may fail from time even though they are maintained regularly. The overhead transmission system is likewise prone to faults caused by environmental factors such as pollution and lightning. Power authorities therefore operate their systems in such a way that they have sufficient reserve capacity available to allow for contingencies. In the last decade of the previous century a condition developed, for various reasons, that the reserve margin was too small in the South African electricity supply system. At the end of 2005, a spate of failures occurred at Koeberg power station and later in 2007 serious coal supply problems developed at the large power stations in Mpumalanga, aggravating the situation. This research project focuses on the complexity of the task of the reporter when reporting on occurrences such as these. It is required to convey the factual situation to the readers, avoiding alarmism and sensationalism. At the same time the reporter also has a role to play in educating the readers. It was a difficult task, seeing that the reporters were not necessary versed in the technical field. They therefore had to rely on Eskom’s spokespersons. In this project newspaper clippings of various Western Cape newspapers containing the word Eskom were analysed. The method of analysis was content analysis. Firstly the quantitative content analysis was used to obtain distribution of articles over the period and among newspapers. Thereafter the topics covered and the types of article were obtained for the various newspapers and years. Next articles for 2006 and 2008 were investigated using qualitative content analysis. Certain attributes in the articles were detected manually and a profile was obtained for each newspaper for each year period. Questionnaires were sent to reporters responsible for some of the articles and to a technical expert who was consulted regularly by the news reporters. It was found that the number of articles and style of presentation vary among the newspapers. There is evidence of framing of Eskom as incompetent.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Elektriese energie het ¢n onontbeerlike deel van die moderne wêreld geword wat nywerhede en ekonomiese stelsels ondersteun. Enige onderbreking van toevoer word onmiddellik in alle lewensfere gevoel. Die werking van kragstelsel is komplekse proses met roterende masjiene en ander toerusting wat onderworpe aan faling is, selfs al word dit in stand gehou. Die oorhoofse transmissiestelsel is ook onderworpe aan foute wat deur omgewingsfaktore soos besoedeling en weerlig veroorsaak word. Kragvoorsieners bedryf daarom hul stelsels so dat hulle voldoende reserwekapasiteit het om toe te laat vir gebeurlikhede. In die laaste dekade van die vorige eeu het die toestand, om verskeie redes, ontwikkel dat die reserwemarge in die Suid-Afrikaanse stelsel te klein geword het. Teen die einde van 2005 het reeks falings by Koeberg kragstasie plaasgevind en later in 2007 het ernstige steenkoolvoorsieningsprobleme by die groot kragstasies in Mpumalanga ontstaan en dus die situasie vererger. Hierdie navorsingsprojek fokus op die kompleksiteit van die taak van die verslaggewer as oor sulke gebeure verslag gedoen word. Dit word vereis om die feitelike situasie oor te dra sonder alarmisme en sensasie. Terselfdertyd moet die verslaggewer ook rol speel om die lesers op te voed. Dit is moeilike taak daar die verslaggewers nie noodwendig belese in die tegniese vakgebied is nie. Hulle moes dus staatmaak op Eskom se spreekbuise. In hierdie projek is koerantuitknipsels van verskeie Wes-Kaapse koerante wat die woord Eskom bevat, ontleed. Die metode wat gebruik is, is inhoudsanalise. Eerstens is kwantitatiewe inhoudsanalise gebruik om die verspreiding van artikels oor die tydperk en tussen die koerante te verkry. Daarna is die onderwerpe wat gedek is verkry vir die onderskeie koerante en jare. Vervolgens is artikels van 2006 en 2008 ondersoek deur kwalitatiewe inhoudsanalise te doen. Sekere kenmerke is in die artikels opgespoor en profiel is verkry vir elke koerant en elke jaarperiode. Vraelyste is aan verslaggewers wat sommige artikels geskryf het en ook aan tegniese deskundige wat gereeld deur verslaggewers genader is, gestuur. Dit is bevind dat die getal artikels en die styl van aanbieding wissel tussen die koerante Daar is ook tekens van raming van Eskom as onbekwaam.

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