SOS writes to the Minister of Communications on the ICT Policy Review

The State of the Nation Address 2013 – SOS Calls for ICT to be a Key Focus Area
Feb 14, 2013
State of the Nation Address 2013 – SOS Disappointed that ICT and Broadcasting Issues Forgotten
Feb 18, 2013

SOS writes to the Minister of Communications on the ICT Policy Review

The Minister of Communications
Ms Dina Pule
iParioli Office Park, Block C, 1166 Park Street, Hatfield, Pretoria
South Africa

7 February 2013

Dear Minister Pule

ICT Policy Review Process

On 30 January 2013, the SOS Coalition’s Working Group met to discuss a number of issues concerning progress on the ICT Policy Review Process.

From the outset, we would like to congratulate you on appointing a Panel to advise and steer this process. From its inception in 2008, the Coalition has called for an overhaul of outdated public service broadcasting policy and legislation.

The Coalition believes that if we are to become a knowledge economy and a key player in the global information society, South Africa needs forward-looking and citizen-oriented ICT policy. It is our strong belief that public broadcasting is integral to realizing this goal. While it forms only one of the three areas of concern in the overall policy review, we call on you to ensure that broadcasting policy is given adequate prominence and attention in the review process.

We are aware that panelists were required to sign confidentiality agreements. While we respect the importance of ensuring that Panelists exercise discretion about sensitive information which may undermine the commercial interests of industry players, we urge you to ensure that these are not used to detract from an open and transparent process. We believe that openness, transparency and full public participation must be the key principles underpinning this entire process. As a matter of course, we would like the public to have access to all documents gathered.

Further, we would like you to release your schedule for deadlines and deliverables. We note that in the past deadlines have been missed. Going forward the SOS Coalition believes strongly that the Ministry should make every effort to ensure that these new deadlines and deliverables are met. The ICT sector can ill-afford any further delays.

One further critical issue is important – the Coalition is concerned that the Ministry seems to be pursuing a number of policy processes outside the policy review. Two recent examples include the ICASA Amendment Bill, 2012 and the recent proposals tabled at the Department’s community television workshop. The ICASA Amendment Bill calls for far-reaching changes to the independence of ICASA. The community television proposals are equally far-reaching. The Coalition believes that the fact that these processes are being pursued outside of the ICT Policy Review undermines it. SOS believes that all policy issues the Department seeks to address should be included as part of this process.

The SOS Coalition has developed a vision to create a public broadcasting system dedicated to the broadcasting of quality, diverse, citizen-oriented public programming committed to the values of the Constitution. We would like to share this document with you and your panelists. We see this as our first formal contribution to the policy review process. We hope that there will be a number of opportunities to make further verbal and written submissions to both clarify and further motivate our proposals.

The SOS Coalition represents a number of trade union federations including COSATU and FEDUSA, a number of independent unions including BEMAWU and MWASA; independent film and TV production sector organisations including the South African Screen Federation (SASFED); a host of NGOs and CBOs including the Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI) and Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) as well as a number of academics and freedom of expression activists.

Yours Sincerely,

Kate Skinner
Acting Coordinator

Sekoetlane Jacob Phamodi
Campaign Organiser

On Behalf of the SOS: Support Public Broadcasting Coalition