Tag Archive | department of Communications

Government communications accused of promoting ANC

Department of communications accused of cloning ANC slogans…..

country wants youThe opposition has complained that the department of communications (DoC) and government communications information services (GCIS) are using ANC party slogans for a DoC communications and PR campaigns, such campaigns costing millions of rands.

The complaint was lodged by Gavin Davis, DA member of the parliamentary portfolio committee on communications and a DA whip, during a presentation by DoC on progress of setting up the newly reconstituted DOC with new responsibilities and reporting at the same time ion liaison with the similarly, newly re-constituted department of telecommunications & postal services (DTPS).

Brand South Africa had moved from department of public service to DoC, it was reported.   SABC remained with DOC; the Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA), previously reporting direct to a minister was now with DOC as well, and the Films and Publications Board (FPB) moved from department of home affairs. Also, important was the transfer of the (GCIS) to DoC.

At the same time, parliamentarians were told of the new mandates on matters related to the Independent Communications Authority of SA (ICASA), some of which were in the area of broadband and telecommunications and therefore had to remain with DPST. 

Hot under the collar

It was in the discussion and questions on the campaigns of Brand SA, using the combined power of this re-organisation together with the communications strategies of GCIS, that most of the questions arose. At various points the meeting became quite heated. on the issue of slogans and party posters.  Present was the deputy minister of communications, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, who could be seen at times to be visibly angry under questioning.

tv flat screenPresented by the DDG of communications, Gift Buthelezi, was a progress report of the national communication strategy, which included details of the processes to be used, media deployed and messages to be conveyed in the communications campaign of Brand SA aimed at the South African public.  The objective was “to increase pride in being a South African”.

Upfront minister

stella abrahamsDeputy minister Ndabeni-Abrahams took it upon herself to answer 95% of the questions asked during question time on the various presentations made, not the director general.   

On a number of occasions the debate reached the level of a public spat, particularly on the questions surrounding statements made in the presentations at the meeting which conflicted with statements made by senior executives of the SABC at different times and on different occasions.

First, shadow minister of communications, Gavin Davis, complained that the line adopted by the DoC campaign for all government departments and media placings, “Together We Move South Africa Forward”, was in fact an ANC slogan and used at the recent ANC conference. He said the DoC was clearly bringing party politics into government spending.

Good news

ANC athen added that the ANC had fielded a successful electoral manifesto to the whole country at the election based on this line and therefore took this as a mandate for government to also adopt this “because obviously this was what the majority wanted. She said DoC had plenty of “good news” to impart.

They (the public) had said so when they voted”, she said, and emphasised that there was nothing “sinister in this”. “Togetherness and pride in South Africa”, she added, were the key neutral expressions being used to shape the campaign, she said.

ANC members argued that pride in South Africa could be encouraged by sports events, regular communications on subjects that affected the ordinary citizen focused on the “good news”, such as cleaning up corruption and government successes.

Gavin Davis (DA) then asked the minister how DoC, as a government department, could possibly involve itself in building up such issues as “pride”. He said that pride in one’s country was a personal issue and it was not the job of a government to manipulate this feeling with what might be described as propaganda.

He also said it was impossible to neither measure such things as “pride” nor manipulate the emotion and called for detail on how this could be achieved with PR campaigns when such issues were governed or frustrated against a background of political and economic facts, which at this time were far from good.

Gupta’s “New Age”

Davis said he was also unsatisfied by the answer given to his question as to why R10m should be spent on the publication New Age for advertising when they only had some 10,000 readers and queried the media spend in general. The answer given was stated by Davis as being “totally undecipherable”.

He also asked for clarification on the statement made by DoC that a 70% quota of what was published and broadcast had to be “localised”, DoC having emphasised local news would be disseminated in future as a priority as distinct from international news. 

sabc news logoMinister Ndabeni-Abrahams said she did not necessarily agree with SABC editorial policy on this issue, the  SABC management being quoted by Davis as having said that SABC will in future broadcast the good news which would be local news”.   The minister said her earlier  statement, and that of DoC, was that  a figure of 70% for local news was the correct one.   Davies then asked if she were prepared to tell the SABC this fact.

At this stage minister refused to answer any more questions on the subject and accused the opposition of being provocative.

Other articles in this category or as background
Overhaul of broadband policy underway – ParlyReportSA
Communications bill awaited setting up consumer body – ParlyReport
More state powers for ICASA proposed – ParlyReportSA

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More state powers for ICASA proposed

ICASA to get policing role

Parliament has met to consider a proposal to convert the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), the regulator of the communications world, into an industry “watchdog”  in order to ensure adherence to government policy. The portfolio committee on communications is currently considering a mandate to bring forward a proposal for ICASA to become an Institution Supporting Democracy (ISD).   In terms of section 181(1) of the Constitution of South Africa there is provision for the establishment of ISDs in order “to strengthen constitutional democracy”. In debate, the committee indicated examples of such institutions as the Office of the Auditor General, the Office of the Public Protector, the Public Service Commission, the Human Rights Commission and the Commission for Gender Equality in this category.

Committee upset

Failure of the CEO of ICASA, former Vodacom executive, Pakamile Pongwana, to arrive for the parliamentary meeting in question considerably upset MPs.     Pongwana,  previously a deputy DG for telecommunications policy in the previous department of communications, was heavily criticized for his absence, with  MPs commenting that he “should know the ropes and be here “.   Chair, Joyce Moloi-Moropa  said in her view “the situation was unacceptable. What could be  more important to a CEO than the future of his institution?”, she asked. In debating the issue, ANC parliamentarians felt that the move would have the effecting of upgrading the role of the institution from one of a communications regulator to an entity that could become a ‘watchdog’ in order to ensure that the communications sector in general adhered to the “principal pillars of South Africa’s democracy.” Opposition members, however,  noted with concern that the proposals could enable “a dispensation where government through ICASA would have increasing control over the entire communications sector ranging from telecoms, radio, to TV and even print media”.

All too powerful

The possible change in the status of ICASA follows the decision of President Zuma upon the commencement of his new government to split the communications  portfolio between the previous broader department of communications and a new telecommunications and postal services department appointed with a separate minister. Stakeholders in the industry have complained in the media that such a move could have serious repercussions for  business and the investment climate, since  general uncertainty would be the result of granting too much power to a state entity at the expense of the private sector, bearing in mind that state utilities controlled many factors in  the industry. Following this  initial parliamentary debate, an amendment to the anchor legislation, the ICASA Act would be the next step, say commentators.   This would involve the normal process of public hearings and deliberations thus providing an opportunity for concerned parties and stakeholders to make input and comment. Other articles in this category http://parlyreportsa.co.za//communications/communications-bill-sets-up-consumer-body/ http://parlyreportsa.co.za//communications/parliament-gets-final-dates-digital-tv/

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Set top box system to be overhauled

Communications dept. to revise controls on set top box system

TVsetsA proposed amendment referring specifically to the use of a control system for set top box supply (STBs) under the Broadcasting Digital Migration Policy in terms of the Electronic Communications Act (2005) has been published for public comment.

The amendment, the notice said, followed an extensive review of the system and consultations with stakeholders.

The notice said, “Although control systems will not be mandatory in order to avoid differences between broadcasters and manufacturers, certain STBs will use a control system to protect government’s investment in the local electronics industry and the subsidised STB market.”

“The policy amendment also establishes that costs will be recovered from subscription broadcasters that choose to make use of the STB control system in the future.”

The notice went on, “The amendment states that the switch-on of the digital television signal will take place by 1 April 2014 and the switch-off of the analogue terrestrial signal will be determined at a later date by the Minister of Communications after engaging with cabinet and relevant stakeholders.”

“According to the amendment the national broadcasting digital signal coverage shall cover 84 percent of the population by March 2014 and areas that may be deemed difficult or uneconomical to reach will be covered by a specified satellite system.”

The written comment period has expired and the ministers final decisions on the matter are awaited.

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Communications bill awaited setting up consumer body

Communications Bill awaiting tabling….

Dina PuleA draft communications bill probably to be entitled the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa Amendment Bill, published in late 2012 for public comment is awaited in the form of a tabling by Minister Dina Pule.

The primary purpose of the proposed bill from the documents published for comment it seems is to set up a complaints and compliance commission (CCC) as a separate body from the independent communications authority of South Africa (ICASA) and thus gain consumer impartiality.

Electronic transactions the focus

The Bill also proposes a number of important provisions regarding electronic communications networks and services used in electronic transactions.   Mechanisms are also introduced to ensure the accountability of committees, ICASA and their councillors and for ICASA to relate more closely to the Public Finance Management Act.

Early 2013 tabling

The public participation period was concluded before the end of December and the new parliamentary session should see this Bill tabled in the next few months.

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Minister Pule lines up communications bills for the future

During media briefings in late January, communications minister Dina Pule said that the Electronic Communications Amendment Bill would be released for public comment during the first quarter of 2012 and March 2013 was the deadline for the changes that will overhaul much of the communications environment in South Africa

The draft was published in November 2011 for comment and withdrawn shortly afterwards and in the light of what was said, not only by the public sector but by opposition parliamentarians. The minister commented at the time that further consultation would take place within government.

The issues evolve around the role, powers and functions of the minister herself and her relationship with and the powers of ICASA, the independent regulatory body. Much discussion involves a very limited frequency spectrum and the exact wording regarding licences, the issuing thereof and conditions of revoking.

The most recent comment comes from the minister herself, who added in response to the Budget debate that further amendments would be subject to the national development plan. Much argument originally took place over how to differentiate between the functions of the ICASA council and the chief operations officer of the body itself.

The minister also finds herself deeply involved in banking regulatory matters due their infant, the Post Office, entering the banking world despite recent scandals regarding misappropriation of funds.   Legislation is expected shortly amending the anchor Post Office Bank Limited Act which came into effect in 2010 allowing this process.

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