By Catherine Sasman
The Southern African Broadcasting Association (SABA), an association of state-run broadcasters in the region, has identified the 2010 World Cup to be held in South Africa, as one of its focal points for the years running up to the global event.
Advocate Dali Mpofu, President of SABA and Group CEO of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), said a Memorandum of Understanding has been signed to ensure continental broadcasting enhancement during the World Cup.
State broadcasters gathered in Windhoek yesterday to commence a three-day annual general meeting – its 15th this year – to discuss public broadcasting and regional integration.
The meeting will, among other things, discuss sport rights of the World Cup and CAN 2008, challenges for broadcasting in the drive to regional integration, public broadcasting reforms, and digital migration of broadcasters.
Speaking on behalf of President Hifikepunye Pohamba, Minister of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development, John Pandeni, said long-term planning for capital investments must be carried out to develop modern broadcasting infrastructure that can enable the region’s citizens to have access to electronic media, especially radio.
He said the regional integration of public broadcasting, which includes sharing of scarce resources, technologies and joint efforts in the acquisition of broadcast rights is crucial in light of the upcoming African Cup of Nations (in Ghana next February) and the 2010 World Cup.
“By working together, we will be better positioned to enable our broadcasters, more so the public broadcasters that do not have access to big budget allocations to broadcast these special events,” said Pandeni.
He further said public broadcasters should keep abreast with the latest technological developments in the industry, especially in view of the fact that the International Telecommunications Union resolved that analogue transmitter technologies would no longer be produced after 2015.
Pandeni also cautioned public broadcasters to do so in a “responsible manner”, saying “because in the wrong hands, the media, especially radio, can become a very destructive tool”.
“Thus, the airwaves should not be hijacked to preach hate speech, character assassination and other negative expressions that will be counter-productive in the context of nation building and mutual respect among citizens.
Mpofu said that broadcasters had committed themselves to empower their citizens to drive the “new struggle for democracy and development”.
He said the African continent is ready to enter a “new-wave revolution”, or “second revolution” after protracted anti-colonial struggles the continent has experienced.
He said a “mistake” that was made in the anti-colonial wars was that there was an assumption that with the removal of colonialism and apartheid, this would “automatically result in democracy and prosperity”.
“Our second mistake was to embrace foreign notions of democracy instead of communal and collectivist notions of freedom which are more suited to the African way of life, to our culture and values,” said Mpofu, adding that another feature of neo-liberal democracy is the “veneration of profit over people”, or “market fundamentalism”.
He said to counter the mistakes of the past, the association should increase institutional capacity and earn a “buy-in” of the citizens and political leaders of the region to the notion that public service broadcasting is in the long-term interest of all.
“A politician must know that now and again he or she will be annoyed by an independent and fearless public service broadcaster, but that in the long-term the preservation of democracy will make sure that, if one day he or she finds himself in the opposition, then democracy will ensure that he or she is not thrown in jail without trial or murdered for his views,” said Mpofu.
“The citizens must know that without public service broadcasting, their cultures, languages, music, their stories, their art, their history, their heritage will disappear from the face of the earth.”