Tag Archive | portfolio committee on 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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Communication Bills tabled in Parliament

Cleaning up on communications….

Following their cabinet approval two communication Bills have now been tabled in Parliament; firstly, the Electronic Communications Amendment Bill and secondly, the Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) Amendment Bill.

The first named, Electronic Communications Amendment Bill, is very much a regulatory Bill, the background stating that the proposed legislation was “in line with the liberalisation process of the electronic communications sector and rapid technological advancements which have rendered some of the Act’s provisions redundant.”

Needed overhaul

It says, “Because it was the first such law, over time it has become obvious that certain provisions are not capable of implementation in the way that was intended or do not have the intended effect when applied. There are also areas of ambiguity and vagueness which hamper efficient and effective regulation.”

The Bill deals with competition, promotion and limitation; access to electronic communications infrastructure; communication costs; as well as “improving turnaround time for consultative processes”. It also proposes “to incorporate the authority’s recommendation on ownership and control of commercial broadcasting services.”

The document says the Bill is aligned with broad-based black economic empowerment legislation; refines licensing issues and wishes to improve competition provisions and remove regulatory bottlenecks.

ICASA Bill follows NDP

The second Bill, the ICASA Amendment Bill, is focused, it says, on the National Development Plan; clarifies some of the powers and duties of ICASA; lines up with the Public Finance Management Act and focuses on institutional improvements to strengthen the financial and administrative independence of the authority.

Importantly, the legality of networks and services for electronic transactions is confirmed. Also, “mechanisms”, the background to the Bill says, are proposed to ensure accountability of ICASA staff and its councillors.

Finally, a full commission is proposed to handle complaints as distinct from the current ICASA complaints committee.

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Protection of Personal Information Bill almost concluded

The Protection of Personal Information Bill, known as the “POPI” Bill, now has National Assembly approval.  It is in the process of concurrence by the National Council of Provinces. Provincial mandates are not called for.

The new and much debated Bill provides a new data privacy legislative framework for South Africa with an independent information regulator body formed to govern and decide on complaints, with powers to impose penalties, such a body being accountable only to Parliament.

The new POPI law when passed will apply to both state institutions and all private bodies and persons and as a basis of ground rules on the transfer and subsequent use of information.     The proposed law is based upon the requirement to obtain consent for the processing of information received and give explanations as to why such information is required.

One of the most important clauses concerns the issuing of information and states that such should only take the form which is needed to conclude a transaction and such information should be “adequate, relevant and not excessive”.    It should be made quite clear to any individual asked for information why such information is required.

The Bill is explicit that information may only be collected for a clearly defined and lawful purpose, although the length of retention of such information is not defined. Nevertheless, such retention should not be for “any longer than necessary”.    Measures must taken by the receiver of information on the security for such information and such should exercise due integrity as receiver.

As for the body to be known as the Information Regulator accountable only to Parliament, such will have the dual role of dealing with complaints in terms of POPI and the Promotion of Access to Information Act of 2002.

The POPI law has been a number of years in the making and will bring “South Africa into line with data transfer in other countries”, the Bill says.

The regulator will be empowered to deal with “codes of conduct” for sectors of industry and commerce which may apply to a specific industry or process, specific activities or professions, to enable such bodies to meet the POPI requirements with specific regulations designed for them, thus making bulk transfer of information possible in terms of such codes and tailoring the law for specific applications.

POPI also deals with direct marketing by electronic communication, including automated calling, fax, SMSs or e-mail and prohibits such unless the individual’s consent has been received or the recipient is a customer. Solicitation will only be allowed when permission is obtained for further communication. Penalties apply in cases of abuse.

The new law, at present with the NCOP for final concurrence, also deals to some extent with international transfers of personal information, dictating that information may only be transferred to a foreign country if the receiving country has equivalent data protection laws and with provisos in some cases similar to domestic information transfers.

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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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