SABC Censorship – SONA2015

The 2015 State of the Nation address (SONA2015) in South Africa serves as an interesting current case study for journalism and ethics majors around the world. The media events (or lack thereof) on the night of the address speaks to censorship by national broadcaster to protect the ruling party, and effectively a gag order of sorts imposed on the media by unlawfully jamming cellphone signals from the parliamentary chamber.

As per a report in City Press following the event, the local broadcaster, SABC, had refused to air video and audio of opposition parties being ejected from Parliament during the recent State of the Nation address. Further, the SABC Chief Operating Officer had banned the use of commentators on both radio and television during the address.

EFF removed from parliament by security forces

Julius Malema and the EFF ejected from parliament

There were also further allegations that four of the six news rival eNCA satellites had experienced signal jamming during the period of the broadcast. eNCA later verified that this was, in fact the case, and that the satellite lines were jammed “by an unknown rogue operator”.

“What is sinister about this is that the rogue operator is transmitting a data stream with no video, audio or transmitter information on it… It is hard for us not to suspect sabotage,” said Patrick Conroy (the Managing Director of eNCA).

In spite of this, all local broadcasters used the same feed from Parliament, and yet the SABC’s coverage of the event differed from other channels. The Parliament TV feed, in particular, did not show the opposition EFF party led by the controversial figure Julius Malema, being violently removed by a combination of Parliamentary security and the South African Police service. Following their ejection from the chamber, the walkout by the strongest opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, was also not aired.

Hannes du Buisson, the president of the Broadcasting, Electronic, Media and Allied Workers’ Union, was quoted as saying:

“It has been reported by members who overheard conversations on comms and in the control room that a senior news boss instructed the director not to cut away from the feed.”

However, a number of other staff members working on the SONA2015 broadcast said the instructions on what to air and what not to came directly from Jimi Matthews, the SABC’s group executive of news and current affairs.

EFF threat to disrupt parliament image

EFF publicly declared their strategy to disrupt the parliamentary session

On a different issue of censorship, the parliamentary session began with a stream of voiced objections since mobile phone signals were unlawfully jammed in the vicinity. Again, given that the threat of disruption was present (and publicly announced), many of these actions appear premeditated by the National Executive. If this is the case, this certainly does not bode well for freedom of speech in South Africa.

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Local politicians appear to be becoming more Draconian in their measures when it comes to the media and regulating freedom of speech. With recent events, like those in France with Charlie Hebdo, the aspects of free speech vs what may be considered inflammatory (e.g. Mohammed images and other culturally insensitive cartoons), or those that can be considered of hindering the broader social good (e.g. articles encouraging people to play lottery or even simply discussing the validity of gambling on online casinos in South Africa in articles or on websites like these, have come to the fore.

Given the diverse moral views of various parties on such topics, censorship is being used increasingly to appease minority groups and the political elite. Ultimately, there needs to be some sort of independent watchdog that will help protect freedom of speech, from both broadcasters, and other social and political stakeholders.

Reporting on Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela frail photo

Frail Nelson Mandela is not being helped by the overzealous media

Nelson Mandela, Madiba, was hospitalised once again last month. His recurring lung infection appears to be getting worse and he is visibly frail. This article, however, is not about Madiba’s health. What is interesting, and rather less than savoury is the current media frenzy around him.

When one thinks of so-called ambulance-chasers, personal injury lawyers that scavenge accident victims in hospitals for clients, images of the lowest evolutionary rung of the legal profession come to mind. The last couple of weeks afforded many in the media industry to sink to the same level, if not deeper. At least ambulance-chasers aim to get something that would benefit their victims (in addition to themselves).

The scale of the travesty varies both by media company and reporter. They range from stand-offish, rather indifferent but respectful coverage by the BBC to an all-out sensationalist assault by the likes of the American CBS network. Ironically, it is Deborah Patta previously famous for eTV’s Third Degree that is aggressively covering for CBS, Mandela’s progress, or lack thereof.

Witnessing photographers and journalists scrambling around trying to get the last photo of Mandela alive, or the first one of him dead, makes one cringe. But this is in fact what they are waiting for. Mandela’s death is far from being a historic event – at least there is no indication or even reporting around what might happen in South Africa after his death… that might have provided a modicum of justification for the reporting frenzy.

The public, of course, have been all but swept up with the media hype. What is worse, is that conflicting reports, and likely many that have not been verified are capturing an unsuspecting audience. For example, Mbeki’s and current government officials’ statements about Mandela’s current condition appear to be miles apart from some media networks. They suggest he is weak but recovering. Patta and CBS on the other hand, claim that many of Mandela’s internal organs are operating at 50 percent, insinuating that the situation is very much touch and go.

“We’re told he hasn’t opened his eyes in days and is unresponsive. We also understand that Mandela family members are discussing just how much medical intervention is enough for an old and very sick man.” … Deborah Patta, CBS

And all this based on unnamed sources – hardly good, or even responsible journalism.

To a large extent, BBC’s Andrew Harding was quite right in his blog statement:

“We do not want to be lied to, but neither do we expect to be given private medical information. And so, when a US television network boldly declared this week that it had confirmed information about the state of Mr Mandela’s internal organs, we shook our heads, declined to re-Tweet, and understood the genuine, bitter fury of Mr Maharaj.” … Andrew Harding, BBC

In the end, the question of Madiba’s dignity is what is left hanging. Conflicting statements on his health, reporting on family squabbles and the like will certainly not add to what is a great man’s legacy.

Journalists have the responsibility to both respect privacy and individual dignity, whilst avoiding self-censorship of what they know to be true. That is a fine line and a subjective one at that. It is also the line that separates excellent journalists from the trash.

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Newsview would like to take this opportunity to thank Nelson Mandela and to wish him well. While it is unlikely that current events will tarnish his legacy, the editorial team hopes that media companies, both foreign and local, report responsibly and take cognisance of the importance of Nelson Mandela to the South African public.

Speaking of responsibility, readers who have checked out our updated South African online casino legal post or this in-depth article should be sure to gamble online responsibly. With the forthcoming elections in South Africa next year, Newsview will be doing a special feature on gambling of a completely different kind – the kind that Julius Malema is banking on to return to the South African political limelight.

Flouting the Law

Intellectual Property RightsOn a recent trip to India, I was quite fascinated by the lack of respect for the law there from a number of perspectives. For a country that’s over-burdened with an inherited bureaucracy, the most obvious flouting that strikes one is corruption. Corruption in India, however, is not always deemed acceptable practice by the public – certainly not by the likes of Anna Hazare, a prominent anti-corruption activist that even went on a hunger strike in protest. Stay a little longer in India, and one is sure to notice a more publicly acceptable flouting of the law: specifically those pertaining to Intellectual Property Rights (IPR).

The IPR challenges in India span across a number of different sectors including technology, education and more recently coming to the fore, pharmaceuticals. In the technology sector, even Microsoft has all but surrendered to piracy of their Windows platform in India. They literally cannot afford to enforce the use of genuine product there given the enormous size of the market – they would risk a move of both usage and development to alternative platforms which would likely kill their international business model.

With respect to education, the somewhat controversial Nobel laureate Amartya Sen famously commented in a public discussion with South African, then finance minister, Trevor Manuel, about the taxes on books – specifically about how short-sighted such moves are when a primary goal of developing nations such as India and South Africa is to promote and push education of the masses. He argued that government should be doing everything possible to facilitate increased penetration of books and knowledge. One wonders what comment he would have given about the free copying of textbooks and other academic material in India. Such moves certainly do help promote education and bring otherwise expensive texts within reach of many who would otherwise be unable to access them.

More recently, the Indian Supreme Court’s decision to reject a motion by Novartis, a Swiss pharmaceutical firm, to patent an updated version Glivec has raised further IPR issues in the Indian market. Glivec, their cancer drug, stands to help many more people if it remains affordable – something that will clearly not be the case had the patent gone through. This however was not the reasoning that drove the decision. India has been exceptional in ensuring that frivolous patents applications are thrown out, a move that is sure to anger many in the industry.

The decision obviously raises questions about the value of research – particularly for pharmaceutical companies who spend millions of dollars before they arrive to the market with an acceptable product. If they cannot protect their IPR with respect to their research there is no incentive for them to conduct the research in the first place – others would simply be walking away with profit at their expense – an unacceptable equation for any commercially viable business venture.

So what is the acceptable rule of thumb here. Should IPR be neglected if there is clearly mass public benefit in doing so? If so, how does one factor in the social impact in IPR related court rulings. The answer is not quite that simple. Book publishers and technology companies, like the pharmaceutical companies, are profit making enterprises. For them to continue doing what they do, they need a financial incentive – the social incentives are clearly not sufficient. Using price discrimination for countries like India – i.e. charging them less and the likes of the UK or USA more, is difficult if not impossible to monitor and manage commercially. The likely solutions are government subsidies to these enterprises, or these companies refusing to engage in business with certain markets. Both of these are fraught with complications. Possibly the best solution would be to maintain drug prices at an acceptable level that keeps the medication within reach for most – now which pharmaceutical company would be altruistic enough to even consider that option?

Other laws that are being continually flouted in developing countries include those around online gambling. This is the case not only in India but is evident with the many South African online casino options available. This is despite the landmark ruling against a local online casino, Piggs Peak, based out of Swaziland. The problem once again lies not in the law but the apparent lack of interest or incentive for government to enforce them.

Post-Traumatic Reporting Disorder

Post-traumatic reporting image

Source AP: Photo by Julio Cortez

Since the advent of reality TV it appears that an increasing degree of shocking content is required to entertain media consumers. Sadly, it appears that this form of morbid shock therapy has spread to the realm of traditional news reporting. Prior to this month, an example that immediately came to mind is the televised assassination of Osama bin Laden in 2011. This month, the tragic shooting in the Newtown CT elementary school raises even deeper concerns around journalistic ethics.

With 28 people shot and killed, the story was sure to make headline news. The fact that 20 of those killed were children made the whole incident even more tragic. What was interesting to observe however was the eagerness of many broadcasters to expose those affected, including other children involved in the incident, to the public eye. In the hazy chaos that followed the event, the only thing that appeared clear was the selfish motivation of many media companies.

The expression misery loves company is certainly one that has been taken to heart by most broadcasters. This is evidenced by the strong urge to capture and communicate as much of the trauma as possible, as soon as possible, and without any real regard for the victims and others directly affected by the tragedy. For these broadcasters, it’s eyeballs over all.

There is clearly a line that can be drawn around what constitutes ethical reporting and what does not. But how does one draw such a subjective line and what can be realistically done to punish those that cross that line? The answers are unfortunately easy ones: it’s a difficult line to draw; and not very much can be done. These answers are interestingly enough driven more by public reaction to the content and this reaction barely reaches the stage of analysis around a journalist’s or broadcaster’s behaviour.

The challenge is that such shocking content actually sells. It appears to be what the rather sick public wants to consume. The gorier the better. Since public reaction is ultimately the regulatory mechanism for acceptable journalistic behaviour (e.g. if consumers don’t like something, the can complain passionately about it to the relevant state authority and force some kind of recourse, if they don’t the chances of anything happening is slim).

Following this shooting incident, there were a number of instances of these reporting vultures interviewing young children. These children, not even teenagers yet, hardly have the coping mechanisms in place to deal with this kind of trauma. Forcing an account of what happened for that precious headline quote of “we’re just glad to be alive” is what it’s about for broadcasters and publishers. The impact of soliciting the recollection of a traumatic event for a child does not really appear relevant to their eyeballs equation.

From an ethics point of view, the impact of an action needs to be considered in terms of both form and substance. That is, in this case, the process and timing of the getting the information, and the impact of the actual information itself. The argument against such practices puts the interests of those affected first and foremost, before the needs of the content consumer. The question in that case should obviously be what is best for the children> One does not need to be a child psychologist to figure out that receiving comfort, reassurance and attention from people they are close to after such an event is more helpful than stranger with a big video camera trying to suck out the next headline in between tears.

The challenge as suggested earlier lies primarily with the consumers of such content. If that is what they want and enjoy, they will not complain about it (at least not in any way that would really make a difference). News companies in turn are more than happy to oblige and give them more of the same.

So what is a healthier alternative when reporting in such circumstances? Broadcasters could opt for interviewing local politicians, community leaders, clergy, etc. For a first hand account, those adult teachers that volunteer for interviews may have been a better source. Responsible journalism would also emphasise and promote constructive ways forward for the community in question – details on support organisations and interviews with relevant medical staff that deal with such trauma would fall in this category of coverage. Such journalism is less opportunistic and at the very least does not play lottery with the future mental health of young children.

If you viewed some of the post-shooting coverage and were unhappy with the way the reporters conducted themselves, particularly with respect to interviewing children, then take action and file a complaint with your local (country) broadcasting authority. Otherwise you, the viewer will remain as much to blame for bad journalist behaviour.

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As an eventful 2012 draws to a close, NewsView wishes readers all the best over the festive season. Have a great start to 2013 and be sure to join us as we investigate the legality of online casinos in South Africa and the related social issues associated with the online gambling industry. If you’re based abroad and those are not issues you care about, why not try your end-of-year luck and gamble online here in Australia or on this Indian website if you prefer.

In terms of more internationally relevant analysis, NewsView also has the latest articles in our series of technology changing journalism coming up in January – stay tuned on more informed opinion on citizen journalism and the role of social media in broadcasting.

US Elections 2012 – Romney vs Obama

The journey to the election showdown between Republic candidate Mitt Romney and incumbent Democrat Barack Obama has been both entertaining and scary in some respects. NewsView thought it would be worthwhile providing some context based on Obama’s term thus far as voters prepare for the 2012 US Elections in early November.

Ron McCune of Policymic summed the opposing positions in a nutshell:

“This election is a choice between two different opposing views. Romney will extend the Bush tax cuts for the rich and cut other taxes for the rich, Obama won’t. Romney will let oil companies drill anywhere with less regulations and give them tax breaks, Obama won’t. Obama will help develop alternative energy, Romney won’t. Romney believes in voodoonomics (more wealth in the hands of the rich spreads throughout an economy helping the poor), Obama doesn’t. Romney will make abortions illegal, Obama won’t. Romney will get us into a war with Iran and others while also getting Israel into a war with Iran and the Palestinians. Obama won’t. Romney wants to increase the military budget. Obama won’t. Obama gives all of us health care, Romney won’t.”

Obama vs Romney US Elections 2012 photo

US President Barack Obama and contender Mitt Romney after the first presidential debate. Photo by Jason Reed/ Reuters.

The above quote is perhaps an over-simplication of key issues but it sets out in stark terms the perceived differences between the candidates. In order to appreciate if in reality there is such a stark difference between them however, it will be worthwhile to take a step back and review Obama’s actual performance over the past four years.

Barack Obama was elected in 2008 at the height of a major economic crisis – the meltdown of major U.S banks had placed the global economy on a knife-edge. It was also a time of deep conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan and, in general, in relations between the Islamic world and the Judeo-Christian “West”. The third issue of major and looming concern was the ecological crisis of global warming and the uncertainly surrounding energy security.

Now all these crises were largely the result of policies followed by the American Right in the shape of the Oil and Military-Industrial lobbies. Their representative presidents, the father and son, George Bush senior and junior (and before them, Ronald Reagan) instituted policies that greatly favoured the super-rich on the economic front and warmongers outraged by any action that challenged ‘Rule America’ – whether that be Al-Quaeda or Chavez. This was the mentality of ‘Shock and Awe’.

As such, when Obama won the 2008 election, he had an exceptional opportunity to redefine American society; his election being a resounding victory for those classes (the middle and working) who were the primary casualties of neo-liberalism. Indeed, the world gasped and celebrated the audacity of a seemingly docile American electorate in electing a black man who espoused radical politics and had given form to an outpouring of hope and optimism that the Bush doctrines could and would be overturned.

From an American perspective, this reversal of neo-liberalism entailed bringing the corrupt and swollen finance system (typified by Wall St) under stringent control, restoring worker rights as well as rebuilding the American manufacturing base. As importantly, it entailed terminating the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, putting real pressure on Israel to recognize a viable Palestinian state, putting similar pressure on China to recognize Tibetan rights and so forth – in short, to change American foreign policy so that the ‘empire’ truly advanced democracy, accountability, fair trade and equal rights in all societies. This mandate to Obama was a very clear and strong one – and excited social democrats all over the world. But what has been the reality? Has Obama kept his promises?

On the economic front he has allowed the finance houses responsible for the recession to escape the consequences of their mismanagement and corruption. The federal bailout was enacted on the basis that, notwithstanding serious deficiencies and malpractices, they were objectively ‘too big to fail’. As such, Obama reneged on a key election plank and none of the culprits were brought to account, they continue to head their banks, asset management companies etc after the largest financial rescue ever instituted. Indeed, by carrying out a rescue that did not carry penalties or include deep structural changes to the sector, Obama resuscitated Wall St. In general, he has failed to challenge the super-rich with the necessary vigour thus leaving inequality levels as deep as they were under the Bush regime, failed to effectively discipline cartels such as in oil and agriculture, and generally allowed the American economy to stagnate.

On the social level, he has taken several very constructive steps relating to the historic institution of Health Insurance for all, boosted education schemes for pre-school kids and the poor, made college education more accessible, improved support for single parents and so forth. As such, in this area, despite the great increase in unemployment (which stemmed from the financial meltdown), the Obama presidency has shown some real commitment to maintaining a social safety net for the most vulnerable. The sceptic would point out that structural reform of the economy (which would restore jobs and reduce inequality) would have a far bigger social impact than (what is essentially) poverty alleviation and that Obama is tinkering with the symptoms rather than tackling the roots of the problem.

On the political side, Obama has been uneven in his actions. A brief scan shows that the pullout from Iraq has been positive notwithstanding the fact that the country continues to be wracked by violence and lack of direction. Afghanistan is still occupied by a large American military force and operations against the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Pakistan continue unabated. Indeed, they were stepped up and led to the assassination of Osama Bin Laden. In the Middle East, Obama has not reined in Israel’s annexationist policies thus allowing a stalemate to kill all attempts at setting up an independent Palestinian state. His support for the Arab Spring was stop-start though the chance to depose Gaddafi was not missed. It is perhaps not unexpected that the Syrian civil war has gone on unchecked because that country has no oil deposits. In short, Obama’s foreign policy record has been deeply uneven – the failure to shut down the infamous Guantanomo Bay prison being a particularly galling one.

With respect to ecological issues, Obama failed to advance the need for significant carbon emission reduction at important international meetings and failed to direct massive investments needed for green energy research and advancement. Given the state of the economy however, Americans stood a better chance of success if they play lottery online than if they relied on government to actually honor ecological commitments. Regardless, the catastrophic BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was handled relatively well in that the company has to foot the lion’s share of the clean up bill but thereafter, he failed to rein in similar underwater exploration. In general, he has skirted round the edges rather than vigorously pushed a green agenda. This will prove devastating as the U>S is still the number polluter in the world and its reluctance to take action encourages newly industrializing countries like China, India and Brazil to disregard the need for global discipline.

In summary, the Obama presidency has not even come close to fulfilling its 2008 election promises. Quite frankly, it has been as erratic as a stint at some online casino and succeeded only in once again discouraging social activists from trusting this type of politics. Why did Obama back down before the right wing on so many issues? Was it fear that his own party, the Democrats, would baulk at supporting far reaching initiatives? Or is it that, like so many before him, radical action which will fundamentally affect the balance of power in favour of the ‘have-nots’, frightens those who promise it once they taste the pleasures and prestige of high office?

Having said all this, what of Romney? Romney is cut from the same cloth as the Bushes. He will pursue the same neo-liberal policies and perhaps lean even further to the right on social issues. The real question is whether Obama, despite his chequered first term, is likely to be bolder in pursuing change and honoring his election commitments knowing that the second term does free a president from the concerns of re-election? The jury has to be out on this, but given both candidates records, it appears to be a certainty that a Romney presidency will be more destructive of human needs if it comes to pass.

Click here to leave your comment on the US 2012 Election

If you, like the latest YouTube sensation – 4-year old Abigael (whose video was posted online by her mother as she bawled in despair at constantly hearing about “Bronco Bamma and Romney”), are simply sick and tired of hearing about 2012 US Elections, now would probably be a good time to divert your attention and hopefully your fortune to some of the top South African online casinos here now. Alternatively, if you’re based in the UK then click here instead, or visit this website if you’re based in India. Given the views on the US elections above though, you may well be better off storing up all that luck and hoping that whichever candidate wins at least honors some of their many election promises!

Comparing SABC to the BBC

On a recent visit to the UK, I met a number of media companies and local journalists including a few members of the editorial team at the BBC. It was clear only minutes into the conversation that the issues facing the broadcasting industry there were significantly different from those the SABC are currently grappling with in South Africa. They were more future-focused and ranged from harnessing the opportunities brought about by technology changing journalism and interactivity, to how to manage a changing public demand for content.

In South Africa, the SABC’s key challenges appear to be almost exclusively internal. Between political bickering about news coverage, the evident SABC leadership crisis, exposed fraud and abundant corruption, there is little time to consider customer service and needs, let alone any thought leadership on the future of broadcasting. Of course, this is not to say that the BBC does not have its own internal leadership issues – it certainly does. However, the scale is different by an order of magnitude.

The broadcasting industry focus and public media attention in the UK lies more on equity, technological progress and quality of service. A quick glance at the BBC editor blogs will easily validate that. There is a substantial platform for interaction with the end customer – not only through the likes of World Have Your Say and the multitude of reporter blogs, but more directly so on BBC editorial content and general programming.

SABC photo

SABC head office – Johannesburg. Photo by Mike Powell.

In South Africa, you’d be hard pressed to find a place to voice similar opinions on the SABC, other than next to your water cooler at your own office. The fact that senior BBC editorial staff usually reply to many of the comments, concerns and feedback adds to the sense of customer focus that is so lacking at the SABC.

The recently published findings of forensic reports on the SABC shed more light on its lack of customer focus. It appears that the SABC leadership team are more concerned with self-enrichment and political positioning than with the job of broadcasting.

Consider the following findings in the SABC audit:

  1. “Irregular contracts” to the value of close to R200 Million (over US$23.5 Million) that were deemed by the SABC’s own internal audit team to have delivered “no significant value”
  2. Evidence of tender awards where there were clear conflicts of interest with the negotiating parties
  3. “Irregular expenditure” around sponsorship for events (a la ICT Indaba)
  4. Providing a politically connected family with free exposure worth millions for their newspaper, the New Age
  5. Hiring Hlaudi Motsoeneng as Chief Operating Officer after ignoring its own governance structures. This, incidently, is a person who had lied about twice failing high school matric.
  6. Appalling recruitment and due diligence practices including hiring the likes of Justice Ndaba who had forged 3 qualifications including an MBA to secure his position. To aggravate the situation he was allowed to continue working even after this was discovered!
  7. Last month, the SABC suspended its Chief Financial Officer, Gugu Duda for “procurement irregularities”.

When it comes to reporting, the question of the impartiality of the public broadcaster is always on the table. In this respect, the SABC is no different from the BBC. Locally however, the bias appears more explicitly. For example, the SABC was asked to avoid media coverage for local firebrand Julius Malema since he has become a thorn in the ruling ANC government’s side. Complying to this kind of direct request is unlikely to go down well in the UK. In South Africa however, it seems par for the course.

It is unfortunate that there is a complete lack of accountability at SABC. How can it then expect tax payers to cough up an additional R6 Billion (over US$700 Million) to fund a digital strategy when its house is in disarray and there is ample evidence of what can only be described as looting? When failing to meet 68% of a total of 89 goals set for the broadcaster constitutes an “overwhelming success”, what chance is there the SABC will come even close to anything like the BBC?

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You are not alone if you think that betting on the SABC pulling itself out of its current mess is like putting your faith in online gambling in South Africa or on the likes of this excellent website in the UK. Sadly, you probably stand better odds of success if you buy lottery tickets online and keep your fingers crossed. One can only hope that the South African public raise enough of an raucous about the SABC so that the government is forced to take stock and more importantly, action, to rectify the situation.

Stay tuned for our forthcoming editorials on interactive TV, social issues around human trafficking, online gambling legislation in South Africa and more.

The Marikana Massacre

Lonmin Marikana violence photoThe massacre of 34 people by police in Marikana, South Africa last week shocked not only locals, but the world. The conflict has many dimensions but the chief factors that led to it are being analysed in a very thorough way by the media, numerous political entities and NGOs.

The analysis will show two things for certain: that the mining industry must once and for all be shaken out of its neo-liberal, ANC supported, ‘profit at all costs’ mentality and assume proper social responsibility or face radical opposition which may lead to nationalisation; and that the trade unions active in it must wake up and service their members in a far more proactive and comprehensive way so as to offer real leadership and protection from exploitation.

Even a cursory glance at the background to the Lonmin miners’ revolt demonstrates the following:

  1. That the company violated an in-force wage agreement by unilaterally giving a section of the work-force an increase thereby creating massive tensions within the ranks of those who did not receive the unprocedural increase; this is yet another example of company contempt for building genuine industrial relations based on a partnership that benefits all stakeholders and respects labour law;
  2. That the majority union, NUM, did not act timeously nor effectively deal with this unfair labour practice; that its leadership has for some time been completely out of touch with the rank and file membership and hides behind the police and the company;
  3. that the minority union, AMCU, had neither the authority nor leadership capacity to guide workers intelligently with the result that wild expectations of immediate and massive increases were built up; new unions challenging for organisational rights must be careful not to incite workers with populist rhetoric that can have no positive result;
  4. That the squatter camps surrounding the platinum mines in particular (but not exclusively) are a time-bomb waiting to explode because both the mining companies and government are leaving them to fester without most of the basic services that people need and keep demanding; that the migrant labour system (which we thought had ended with apartheid) is still very much alive and is leading to major tensions between migrant workers and local communities who ought to have first choice of local labour opportunities;
  5. That provision of decent housing for miners is still a major problem and needs an urgent industry/government response; the lack of sufficient properly serviced housing leads to a multitude of social problems in the areas adjoining the mines as thousands of single men lack the stabilising influences of the families they have left elsewhere;
  6. That the super profits realised by the platinum industry over the last decade be taxed at a higher rate than is currently the case so as to benefit the communities living along the platinum reef;
  7. That the ANC must wake up to the fact that such revolts will become endemic if its fat-cat, business bias mentality does not change and change fast; if the rot has gone too far for reform of the organisation then South Africa will slide into a new period of militarised dictatorship as the black elite uses the police and armed forces to control working class anger and frustration stemming from abysmal living standards and conditions while seeing the elite enjoying lives of luxury;
  8. That the crowd control training given to the police is grossly inadequate and that its leadership is similarly ill-equipped to deal with flash points like strikes and other demonstrations of mass anger;
  9. That the need for an over-arching social contract (an economic Codesa) has never been more urgent – otherwise the fruits of a relatively successful political settlement will entirely dissipate and our society will again be faced by massive instability and violence.

SAPS shooting at Marikana photoGiven the above points, we may come to see the Marikana Massacre as an important watershed. The tragedy has thrown the contradictions inherent in our society into very sharp relief and demands firm and decisive action from all parties if they are to be resolved. Indeed, the responses by all parties to the conflict will be critical to our future, not only in the mining sector, but across the board. Big business must wake up to its responsibilities – not only to its direct shareholders but to the wider society within which it operates. And if the ANC cannot guide such development effectively then workers will soon draw their conclusions and form a political organisation that can truly advance their interests.

NewsView looks forward to reading your commentary on Marikana Massacre. Please leave your opinion on the topic here.

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If you were fortunate enough not to have been directly involved or affected by the Lonmin Platinum tragedy, this would possibly be a good time to push your luck and click here for some online gambling action in South African rands. Alternatively, if you’re in India and fed-up with local strike action, visit this website for Indian rupee options. With our latest expose on online gambling and its social impacts in the developing world coming soon, such opportunities may not be savoury for very long!

How Technology is Changing Journalism

Earlier this year, some of my journalist colleagues and I participated in an informal strategy think tank in South Africa. The topic under consideration was how changing technology and increasingly quick take-up rates will affect journalism in the future. The goal was to come up with some key ideas about the next steps in developing the newsroom of the future, and to determine if there were any opportunities media-savvy or tech-savvy entrepreneurs could capitalise on.

It does not require much speculation to see how the likes of Facebook and Twitter are influencing journalism. Broadcasters from the BBC to Zee TV are already incorporating social media feeds into their programming. Whether it is displayed in a constant stream online or is read out by presenters, the presence of social media is easily felt. The question remains though, was how might this technology evolve and what would the impact be for both broadcasters as well as news consumers? Further, what are the other technology trends that are likely to affect journalism and how can newsroom prepare, if not pre-empt these changes?

Knight-Mozilla Logo imageThis is the first in a series of articles outlining the key categories in which we expect significant movement. If history is any indicator, it will be likely be a technology-driven change in newsrooms rather than a proactive, newsroom-driven one. Regardless, initiatives like the Knight-Mozilla Fellowships, are definitely steps in the right direction and it is encouraging to see the likes of BBC, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, and The Guardian being part of the process to shape the way forward.


journalism and technology convergence photoIncreased affordability has led to a proliferation of devices on which to consume news and other media. Traditional consumption took place largely through television, print, radio and later personal computers. Over the last 5 years, mobile smart-phones, various types of e-readers, and tablet devices like the iPad have become ubiquitous.

Given the experience of mobile content, more specifically mobile TV, it is clear that most consumers will continue to maintain multiple devices. While the resolution and processing power may increase on these smaller devices, the user experience is quite different from watching a large screen television. Further as technology evolves, and the amount and quality of 3D programming increases on traditional TV broadcasts, this differentiation will be even greater.

Add this differentiation to the need for different device form factors and it is easy to see that complete device convergence is unlikely. Further, even for portable devices, most users will likely opt for having both a tablet device (as a convenient portable replacement for a PC) and a mobile phone. It is less a question of the capability of the device to do things, but rather one of user preference.

The opportunity on the convergence dimension lies more with the content producers. Media consumers are likely to want their content on the best available device at that particular time. So, for example, if Joe Bloggs is sitting on a train on the way to work, it might be most convenient for him to receive the news on his mobile phone. If he is already at work, his PC or tablet device might be more convenient. When he’s at home he might prefer his large screen TV etc. The content producers however currently need to tailor their content for each device – that means they effectively need to reproduce, usually with much effort, the content for TV, for proprietary tablet devices and mobile phones.

For newsrooms of the future to stop being the whipping boys of the latest technology trend, the challenge lies in establishing a versatile content distribution framework. Much like object oriented programming, the idea is to create content modules that can easily be pulled by devices. This includes everything from text articles and sounds clips to varying qualities of video content. The content creator would need to produce these modules to the standards specified and the idea is for new devices to be built with these universal standards in mind. Think of it as a type of XML standard for multi-device broadcast content.

From a device manufacturer point of view, convergence in terms of device capability is where there is much opportunity. If Joe Bloggs only has a television at his disposal at that moment, he should still be able to do much more than just watch TV. With the latest TVs already including internet capability it is now already possible to communicate over Skype and surf the net online on TV.

If one takes the convergence one step further to integrate with the broadcaster, the user experience could be phenomenal. Imagine reading an IMDB movie review on TV pulled from a programming schedule, or having immediate access to follow-up information via a Wiki article after an interesting how-to show. Even products and services can be more tightly integrated with content – for example linking to a life coaching website through an interactive ad with a broadcast of Dr Phil, or a documentary on decluttering. Or having a feature to buy lottery tickets online here when it is announced that the most recent US Powerball has just rolled over again. Not only will this result in new revenue streams for broadcasters, it will make it easier for consumers to access the services they need while they are still top-of-mind. More about this will be covered in a future article on advertising and newsroom revenue streams.

Other categories to be covered in future articles of the technology and journalism series include:

  1. Effectively using Citizen Journalism
  2. Future Advertising Models for Broadcasters
  3. Designing for Interactivity
  4. Content Sharing between Broadcasters
  5. The Power of Direct Consumer Access
  6. Organising Information – Indexing & Distribution

Stay tuned for the next episode of technology changing journalism as we explore citizen journalism: people-powered news.

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