An exploration of the self-regulation of the media since the start of democracy in South Africa

Thompson, Reneé (2016-03)

Thesis (MPhil)--Stellenbosch University, 2016

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT : This study examines the self-regulation of the South African media in respect of the interactions between the media and the post-apartheid government, with a specific focus on the current mode of the regulation of the press and its successes and failures in the context of South African society, focusing on the period January 2012 to December 2013, with a specific emphasis on opinion pieces, columns and news reports published during this time in the Afrikaans newspaper, Rapport. Attention directed to the self-regulation of the South African media has been driven, in recent years, by a debate generated by the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party concerning the existing mode of regulation of the media, specifically relating to the Press Council of South Africa. The party has noted that the establishment of a Media Appeals Tribunal (MAT) would be in the “public interest”, as this would strengthen and support the current system that was provided by the office of the Press Ombudsman. In contrast, media practitioners have argued that this could restrict many of the freedoms that have been achieved in the new democratic South Africa. The liberal-pluralist theory was selected as an appropriate theoretical framework for this study because it is a normative theory dealing with the political role of the media. A qualitative research methodology, and specifically the research technique content analysis was applied in this study. The study found that in the post-apartheid South Africa, a robust debate has developed between the government and the media, where an “us versus them” approach still seems to exist; notwithstanding that the dynamic of the government-media relationship has changed since pre-democracy times. The study has drawn attention to various ANC motives for attempting to change the method of press regulation, also highlighting existing flaws in the media system, flaws in journalistic practices, and capitalistic tendencies due to the conglomeration and controlling of what it deems newsworthy. Thus, this study has found that although the government or state misdemeanours were the essential reasons for maintaining press freedom, the current press self-regulatory system is inadequate. True media transformation would be needed to instil ethics and achieve basic journalistic standards that are not based on the relic of the apartheid propaganda machine, and which do not operate with impunity, character assassination, racial stereotyping, or the peddling of corporate interests over the public good.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING : Hierdie studie ondersoek die selfregulering van die Suid-Afrikaanse media in terme van die wisselwerking tussen die media en die post-apartheid-regering, met ’n spesifieke fokus op die huidige modus van regulering van die pers en die welslae en mislukkings daarvan binne die konteks van die Suid-Afrikaanse samelewing. Die fokus is op die tydperk van Januarie 2012 tot Desember 2013, met spesifieke klem op nuwe berigte wat gedurende hierdie tyd in die Afrikaanse koerant Rapport gepubliseer is. Aandag gerig op die selfregulering van die Suid-Afrikaanse media, is in die afgelope jare gedryf deur ’n debat wat deur die regerende party, die African National Congress (ANC) ontlok is en wat verband hou met die bestaande modus van regulering van die media, spesifiek ten opsigte van die Suid-Afrikaanse Persraad. Die party het genoteer dat die stigting van ’n media-appèltribunaal (MAT) in openbare belang sou wees, aangesien dit die huidige stelsel wat deur die kantoor van die persombudsman voorsien is, sou versterk en ondersteun. In teenstelling hiermee het mediapraktisyns geredeneer dat dit baie van die vryhede wat in die nuwe demokratiese Suid-Afrika verwerf is, sou inperk. Die liberaal-pluralis-teorie is geselekteer as ’n toepaslike teoretiese raamwerk vir hierdie studie aangesien dit ’n normatiewe teorie is wat aandag gee aan die politieke rol van die media. Kwalitatiewe navorsingsmetodologie, spesifiek die kwalitatiewe navorsingstegniek, inhoudsanalise, word in hierdie studie toegepas. Die studie het bevind dat, in die post-apartheid-Suid-Afrika, ’n skerp debat tussen die regering en die media ontwikkel het, waar dit lyk asof ’n “ons versus hulle” benadering steeds bestaan, al het die dinamika van die regering-media-verhouding sedert pre-demokratiese tye verander. Hierdie studie vestig die aandag op verskeie ANC-motiewe wat poog om die metode van persregulering te verander, terwyl dit ook die lig laat val op gebreke in die mediastelsel, gebreke in joernalistieke praktyke en kapitalistiese tendense weens die konglomerasie van die media wat beheer uitoefen oor dit wat hulle nuuswaardig ag. Terwyl regering- of staatsvergrype dus deur hierdie studie as die wesenlike redes vir die handhawing van persvryheid aangeteken word, is die huidige pers-selfreguleringstelsel onvoldoende. Ware mediatransformasie, wat etiek en basiese joernalistieke standaarde inskerp, is nodig en nie een wat op die oorblyfsels van die apartheidspropagandamasjien gebaseer is of wat bedryf word met strafloosheid, karaktermoord, rassestereotipering of die verkondiging van korporatiewe belange bo die openbare welsyn nie.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/98540
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