South Africa: The Media, Mandela's Legacy and Transformation

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interview

And I think a lot of this has to do with the fact that the transition that took place in the country that Nelson Mandela presided over, took place at a time when the balances of forces globally, I think, didn't favour liberation movements.

And as a result of that we saw many liberation movements been driven into negotiation settlements in many parts of the world that weren't necessarily entirely advantageous to progressive forces.

I think that there are a number of historians who've documented very ably the contradictions of the negotiated settlement that we went through, such as Sampie Terreblanche for instance, who has documented how there was a parallel series of negotiations with the economic powers in the country - parallel to the political negotiations that led to a series of economic compromises that I think continue to shape the kind of political economy that we've got in the country at the moment.

So I think this is also part of Mandela's legacy as well. And perhaps in time we'll come to be able to develop media spaces that will enable to ... allow us to reflect.

I think in a more considered fashion about where we are as a country at the moment. But certainly, I don't see sufficient reflection, really critical reflection, about where we are at the moment and the contribution both good and bad of Nelson Mandela and the Mandela administration towards that.

Let's get to the specifics of the media in general in South Africa. About 10 weeks ago, the Print and Digital Media Transformation Task (PDMTT) team released a report charging that the media industry in South Africa is failing to transform itself.

One of the critiques of the report was that while newsrooms are becoming more integrated, the boardrooms in the media still remain pale and male.

Can you comment specifically on this particular issue with respect to the media and what it means for how the media reflects our society - but also talk more generally about media transformation in South Africa.

Well my understanding of media transformation is that we can say that the media is sufficiently transformed when it accurately represents the society in which it operates. Not only in terms of its product but also in terms of ownership and staffing and audience as well. I think once we have transformation on all those levels we can start to talk about a meaningful transformation in the media.

Now I think of what the PDMTT report did show up was that transformation has been uneven. But also what I think is quite problematic about the PDMTT report is that it tended to equate transformation with racial transformation.

Now racial transformation is a necessary but not sufficient condition for the kind of more thoroughgoing transformation that I just mentioned earlier. I think it's important because if demographically the media is out of step with broader society then I think inevitably it's going to create a situation where people are going to look askance at the media.

It creates a space for people to point at the media and to say that because the media is insufficiently represented it doesn't understand the society in which it operates. It possibly is operating according to certain minority agendas because of that.

So I think it can serve to delegitimize the media if it's insufficiently representative demographically of society and that's not only in relation to newsrooms but also is relation to boardrooms as well.

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