Transforming Journalism as Democracy Emerges

Green, Pippa
September 2004
Nieman Reports;Fall2004, Vol. 58 Issue 3, p41
This article deals with challenges in the reformation of the broadcast media in South Africa as of 2004. ten years after the region's political leaders negotiated the transition from apartheid to democracy. When South Africa's political leaders negotiated the transition from apartheid to democracy in the early 1990's, the first and most urgent task was to reform the state broadcast media into a public broadcaster. But the nitty-gritty of that transition has not been easy. The pressures are threefold: how to reconcile the duties of a public broadcaster with commercial imperatives; how to distinguish legitimate political pressure on the broadcaster from abuse of power; and how to build a culture of journalism at the public broadcaster to ensure news is credible and interesting. Commercial pressures are a reality for many news and current affairs shows in the region, and broadcasters are therefore often pressured to endorse commercial products on air. So far public broadcasters have been able to resist doing straight endorsements, but have agreed to having them announce sponsorships, in which they state that the news bulletin or program is being brought to listeners by a certain company or organization. Political pressure is more subtle, nothing like it was in time of apartheid. More of a nag than coercion, it comes from politicians in the governing party as well as in the opposition parties.


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