Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu says the number of community media houses is proof that government is playing its part to support the growth of the sector.
"As we celebrate 25 years of our democracy, we now have more than 200 licensed community radio stations, more than four community television stations and more than 100 community and small commercial newspapers throughout the country, servicing a significant readership, viewership and listenership," the Minister said.
Addressing the Community and Small Commercial Media Engagement on Monday, Mthembu said initiatives that have been implemented by government have resulted in community media being owned and controlled by communities, empowering citizens' voices and creating democratic platforms of two-way communication.
These initiatives, the Minister said, were implemented through policies and laws, and the establishment of organisations like the Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA).
Mthembu said the sector must optimally use the support given to it to grow and improve its community participation, operational systems, compliance, management, governance and sustainability.
"This is important as there is no growing purse to continue supporting the sector," the Minister said.
He said the limited resources available through the MDDA should be used to consolidate, strengthen and grow media development and diversity.
"Twenty-five years into our democracy, some projects, particularly those in urban areas... that have had significant advertising income, should now be self-sustaining.
"This will enable the limited resources to be used to support projects based in rural areas and semi-urban areas, where there is little or no economic base to support them. We need to improve efficiencies in our operations, management and governance through the improved use of new technologies and digitisation," Mthembu said.
The Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) is engaging with National Treasury on the challenges experienced by Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) on the implementation of the minimum 30% ad-spent of government expenditure on community and small commercial media and what can be done from a regulatory perspective.
"We are aware of the number of other contributing challenges like non-compliance by the sector with South African Revenue Service (SARS) requirements, proof of airing adverts, etc. We have instructed MDDA and GCIS to continuously workshop and capacitate community and small commercial media on how to meet the requirements and comply," the Minister said.
The Minister's department is also engaging the private sector and other fundraising efforts to improve the MDDA capital base in order to be able to increase funding of print/digital media projects.
"In the next few days, we will be having a breakfast meeting with possible funders... The improvements in respect of MDDA governance, functionality and accountability will improve the confidence of the industry in supporting the pursuit of the MDDA mandate," he said.