Sunday 21 November 2010

South African Reporting

Government/Political influences (Including reporting before and after the Apartheid)

Even though the government doesn’t actually own media bodies in South Africa, they have a great influence on what is printed and in many ways regulate what is printed. During the Apartheid era, newspapers that were published more than eleven times a year had to apply for registration through the government. There were also heavy restrictions on what could and could not be printed – especially anything that was against the Apartheid for example, how prisoners were treated and more importantly the activities of the security forces. The 1980’s proved to be a very tough year for the media on anything that was anti-apartheid or questioning any of the government’s laws. The South African broadcasting corporation (SABC) through an act of parliament was brought into action in 1936. Originally controlled by the White Party this resulted in the SABC being accused of bias reporting. They were said to be “more for the National Party” however, more recently since the end of the Apartheid era in 1994. During 1996 there was a revolution for South African media as the SABC became a service that reflected the new democratic society. It has now in more recent years been accused of favouring political party ANC mainly in the broadcast medium.

Here we can see many similarities in thedc

English media – in both countries political influence is seen to be a very controversial area. The BBC is seen to be a broadcaster ‘for the government’. Influences such as William Beverage in 1947 started to criticize the British Broadcasting Corporation for some of the same reasons as the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA). The Beverage report claims that ‘the ideal society would be run by neither Parliament nor dictators, but by professional administrators – ‘social doctors’ – who would organize society ‘to adapt the social and economic relations of clients so as to produce the maximum economic health’.’ In the first half of the eighteenth century, English newspapers would receive a clandestine government grant (the last English newspaper to do this being the Observer in 1840); however by dismissing these grants the papers could then gain more independence and would not rely on ‘prior intelligence’ from the government. With the rise of commercial advertising and channels such as ITV and channel 4, government input decreased. Referring back to MISA, this was a new era for reporting in Southern Africa – MISA is a non-governmental organization launched in 1992, MISA focuses mainly on promoting free independent media. MISA’s vision wants to maintain that the media ‘enjoys freedom of expression, independence from political, economic and commercial interests and pluralism of views and opinions’.

Types of media in South Africa

SABC is the biggest broadcast corporation in South Africa providing 18 radio station and 3 television broadcasts one of the more popular channels being E T.V.
Caxton, Avusa and Media24 are three of South Africa’s largest publication corporations. Together with foreign-owned Independent Newspapers they own a massive 95% of SA newspapers.

Caxton is probably the biggest out of the three owning South Africa’s leading daily newspaper, ‘The Citizen’. Caxton owns or co-owns 88 newspapers (some being free) and 15 magazine titles ranging from family magazines to lifestyle. The Citizen a Tabloid newspaper and the only main English newspaper in South Africa, is said to be favorable to the ruling National Party under apartheid, it would be fair to say that over half of Caxton’s ‘The Citizen’ is based around government or politics, this continues most days.

The Citizen does cover worldwide news such as celebrities, there is also good coverage on sport, again as well as South African sport there is also coverage from Asia, Europe and America. Similar to English tabloid newspapers such as ‘The Sun’ and ‘The Mirror’ for example, all aspects of news covered in the Citizen generally reflects the interests of the South American audience. For example, event’s happening in South Africa will be covered in much more depth than a similar event in the UK. The stories are of general importance to South Africans, also lack of coverage on more Western Countries may be due to the fact that foreign correspondents is costly with few media organisations being able to support independent newsgathering abroad. With America and the UK being the major media giants their coverage of foreign news may be more in depth and in some cases more accessible then South Africa. The BBC may have correspondents all over the world in all seven continents whereas South Africa may have one or two correspondents covering the entire world.

In respect to news values it could be argued that the most important and more relevant would be reference to Elite Nations and reference to elite persons, as mentioned previously government and political parties have a huge influence on south African media – therefore a lot of what is published in all media formats often reflect upon these two news values. For example elections are an area covered by almost all media formats on a daily basis – even though there are other areas covered such as world news, sport and celebrities e.t.c. The government still use some media as a way of protecting their own messages and ideologies, “The press was seen as a cultural and political weapon for the promotion of the Afrikaans language and political independence, as well as for drumming up support against the perceived threat of Black Nationalism.” – South African Consulate General.

Recent media changes, not just in South Africa, but on a global basis, are trying to survive on purely the income from sales and not rely on government contributions as much – as this does prove to be problematic not just for the media companies but for the consumers as well. For example, when the government contribute to print products, as they often do in parts of Africa because it is poor and can’t simply survive off advertising, Elite persons or groups would expect some of their values and opinions to be injected into the mainstream media in return. This in turn will block out certain concepts while emphasising others.

News24 is an online news source that offers around the clock news coverage worldwide. This website offers an extensive range of media coverage with more in depth and accessible media. At the top of the webpage you will find a ‘hot topic’ subheading were the most talked about and priority subjects are highlighted. Many journalists have certain ideological subject areas to emphasis on. For example one if the ‘hot topics’ on any particular day is ‘Aids’. Obviously this is an issue affecting people worldwide – however Africa being the country some may say is more ‘affected’. Journalists will have certain news values to stick to one of the most important news values for this particular subject being negativity and threshold. This subject area is of huge importance so African people as this is something they need to know about and something that will/could affect them or those close to them. This is another example of how certain things must be reported – regardless to what medium it is presented in.

Degrees of Bias

There are degrees of bias in many countries or mediums when, it would seem that with journalism comes bias. It could be argued that much of the bias media in South Africa is government related – as even though there are certain acts and agencies in place to help provide freedom of information, power of these elite persons over powers of journalists resulting in many South Africans receiving very underreported news – if they receive it at all. Ideologies will vary from country to country – with more western countries such as the UK and USA reporting very stereotypical stories to western audiences were as south African news seems to be very much the opposite to what we would expect to see. For example, even though there are many stories to do with crime especially, there are also a lot of light-hearted stories, stories about positive community work, sports and positive business stories. Referring back to what we, as a western audience, would expect to see. It would be rare to associate South Africa with any type of wealth as this is much underreported here and within the G8.

What we can expect to see from any one particular newspaper

Similar to here in England, South Africa has an equal proportion of tabloid and broadsheet newspapers. It has its own version of The Star; again this is tabloid, attracting the same type of audience – working class. There are not that many celebrity stories however, like we would find in our version of ‘The Star’ for instance, sadly a lot of the stories in this newspaper are of feuds between government officials, crime including rape and GBH offences. Through the whole of this newspaper there was only about 20% light hearted stories compared to The Citizen were it is quite the opposite. The Star is though, however a newspaper for the whole of the country so they will have less space to cover less important, light hearted stories and only those that have real importance and high news values. As we are aware even in this country – “bad news is good news”.

So, overall the typical balance of content within all major newspapers in South Africa is mainly focused on politics, economy and crime. A factor we must remember here is that journalists (where ever they are in the world) ideology and cultural framework, sticking with a particular gender just like here in the UK. One may argue that a lot of the news may become quite predictable as consumers will get used to the particular products agenda, this in turn could cause confusion if their typical everyday issues are not mentioned or go underreported.

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