Minister Faith Muthambi: Communications Department Budget Vote 2015/16

Address by the Honourable Minister of Communications, Faith Muthambi, at the presentation of the Department of Communications Budget Vote 2015/16 in the Old Assembly Chamber

Department of Communications article

Honourable Chairperson,
Honourable members,
Chairperson of ICASA and other Councillors,
Chairpersons and Board members of the SABC, Brand SA, MDDA, FPB,
Members of the media,
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I stand here today to address this House on the eve of Africa Day. As an integral part of the African continent, South Africa will celebrate Africa Day, 25 May, by means of a month-long celebration. Let us use this Month to actively encourage greater Social Cohesion and Nation Building, while also fostering African unity. South Africa is as an integral part of the African Continent. Together we can build a better South Africa and better Africa. Honourable Chairperson,

Today, we are honoured to present the DoC’s Budget Vote no. 03 to this august House under the theme “New Department: New Possibilities”.

The process to establish the Department of Communications has been completed. Our mission is to “Create an enabling environment for the provision of inclusive communication services to all South Africans in a manner that promotes socioeconomic development and investment through broadcasting, new media, print media and other new technologies, and brand the country locally and internationally”. It is a task we take seriously!

Our vision as guided by the National Development Plan, envisages an active citizenry that participates in the socioeconomic life of the country. It states that in “2030, South Africans will be more conscious of the things they have in common than of their differences, and that their lived experiences will progressively undermine and cut across the divisions of race, gender, disability, space and class”. It is our firm belief that this is achievable when government is at the centre of providing effective and efficient communication to support these aspirations.

According to the Statistics South Africa General Household Survey 2013, South Africa has 12 million TV-owning households of which 62% rely solely on free-to-air broadcasting services, with the remaining 38% relying on pay services. In the recent past we have seen the introduction of new players in the broadcasting industry to compete with incumbent pay operator. We are also seeing the introduction of over-the-top television in South Africa.

With regard to the print media, little have changed since 1994. In 1994, Times Media, Naspers, Caxton and Argus were the big four media houses. Twenty one years later the picture looks very much same with 95% of the market share still in the hands of the big four, which must be a cause for concern for all of us. The question we should ask ourselves is the one that says, “what is it that we must do to ensure that this status does not remain the same for years to come”?

We do acknowledge that there is a significant number of community media players, thanks to the Media Development and Diversity Agency of South Africa.

Chairperson, The broadcasting digital migration programme remain a flagship of the Department. Utilising our collective efforts and wisdom, we will do all we can to ensure that the migration process commence during the second quarter of this financial year. We therefore make a call to all stakeholders to work together with us to realise this objective. We are mindful of the fact that the country will not meet the 17 June 2015 analogue switch off date as set by the International Telecommunications Union. We are ready to consult with Cabinet on the digital signal switch-on date.

We are happy to inform the House that in March 2015, Cabinet approved the final amendments to the Broadcasting Digital Migration Policy, which unlocks the project to enable implementation. Cabinet further approved that government to provide free set-top-boxes to the five million poor TV-owning households. This shift is a reflection of government’s commitment to ensure that digital migration happens within the shortest time possible.

The Department will be launching a focused Public Awareness Campaign in the next four (4) weeks. R22 million has been identified to enable the implementation of the broadcasting digital migration awareness campaign. Key messages have been developed. We will work with our local traditional leaders in implementing the digital migration awareness campaign. In this regard, I am joined by Kgosi Jeffrey Montshioa from Barolong boorra Tshidi in the North West Province and Chief Davhana Davhana of Hamangilasi.

We are hard at work to conclude and sign Bilateral Engagements with our six neighbouring countries namely, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Mozambique, Lesotho and Swaziland in order to minimise cross border radio frequency spectrum interference.

As we speak here, the technical team is already in Botswana for these engagements and we will join them tomorrow to finalise a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between SA and Botswana in this respect. On the 27th May 2015 and 03rd June 2015, we will be in Lesotho and Swaziland concluding the same.

We do these because we have prioritised South African communities alongside the borderline areas for the distribution of set-top-boxes in order to mitigate any potential frequency spectrum interferences.

We anticipate to expedite the rollout of Set-Top-Boxes to be completed in the coming 18-24 months so that we can switch off analogue signal and begin to realise the benefits of digital dividend to allow for the rollout of Wireless Broadband Services. The progress on this programme so far marks another good story to tell.

Chairperson, The Department is poised to deliver on its policy mandate. In this regard, we have prioritised the finalisation of the overarching national communications policy during this financial year. The primary objective of the policy is to ensure that communication across the three spheres of Government is well co-ordinated, effectively managed and responsive to the diverse information needs of the public. During this financial year we will finalise the review of the Broadcasting Policy. We have since received comments from the industry on the areas we are looking at. We will during the third quarter release a discussion document to further solicit inputs from the general public.

As more people, especially children access digital content online, challenges arise. We have prioritised the development and adoption of the Online Content Regulations Policy. Consultations on this Policy are currently underway. The policy aims to create a framework in relation to online content distribution in the country. Once adopted the policy will bring about a comprehensive and fundamental transformation for online content regulation in the country. We call upon all interested parties to work with the Film and Publication Board to ensure that this policy is finalised in order to properly classify digital content and ensure that children are sufficiently protected from exposure to disturbing and harmful content. We anticipate that this policy will serve before Cabinet in the third quarter of this financial year.

During the State of The Nation Address, President Jacob Zuma said: “Our youth is our future and their success fills us with immense pride.” In line with President Zuma’s emphasis on youth, I am hosting two special pupils from Edson Secondary School and Pfunekani Primary School in rural Limpopo, they are Unarine Collen Luthanda and Munene Murudi.

Transformation of the media remain at the apex of our priorities for this current financial year. Work is currently underway to finalise the media transformation policy. As part of finalising this policy we will also investigate the possibility of pooling government media assets with a view to support the creation of a black-owned media house in the country. We anticipate that consultations on the contents of the policy will commence early in the second quarter of the financial year. We further invite all interested parties to participate in this process.

There is a saying that “in the Broadcasting Sector Content is King”. In line with this saying and the need to prepare the broadcasting sector for the Digital Terrestrial Television, we will during this financial finalise the Audio Visual Content Development Strategy. The strategy amongst others proposes the establishment of content generation hubs in rural provinces. We will finalise the strategy during the second quarter of this financial year.

Honourable chairperson, State-owned companies are the delivery arms of the Department. We commit to ensure that all entities in our stable delivers value to the public as per the founding legislations. For the financial year 2015/16, R1.281 Billion has been allocated to Vote 03 of which, R70.7 million (6% of the total budget) is to cover operational expenses of the DoC and R1.21 billion (94%) is allocated to state-owned entities and the GCIS to carry out their various mandates.

The Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) is a primary department for information about government and the services it provides to the people. The GCIS continues to professionalise the communication system by building a reliable knowledge base and enhancing communication products. This year GCIS will intensify its training of communicators to strengthen strategic government communication in provincial and local government. Executive Mayor, Ms Rosina Magotlane of the Waterberg District Municipality and Councillor Simon Mathebula from Ward 17 in Malamulele in Thulamela Municipality, are with us her today. We will start in your respective municipalities.

The GCIS is entrusted with leading the implementation of the Cabinet’s approved National Communication Strategy, a far reaching initiative to energise and focus communication output in government. In addition to this, we have assigned GCIS the responsibility of amplifying our communications effort in partnership with the State Owned Entity Communicators Association (SOECA), which we launched in November 2014.

In growing the voice of government, GCIS produces a range of communication platforms and products that carry information on government programmes and projects that contribute to an informed citizenry which is a key requirement of the National Development Plan. These include the Media Landscape Book which monitors media transformation; the weekly electronic newsletter My District Today, which shares information from the coalface of service delivery to government, organised labour, business, civil society formations, faith groups and the media.

GCIS will produce 20.4 million copies of our flagship newspaper, Vuk’uzenzele and ensure that it available in our parts of the country in all official languages. From 1 August 2015, Vuk’uzenzele will carry advertisements of positions in government. We have also launched a mobile application in this regard.

R365.5 million has been allocated to support the work of GCIS. We will continue to support the work of the GCIS to ensure that all citizens are informed about Government programmes and projects.

We will also continue to motivate for additional financial resources to support the important work of communicating government’s record of delivery in service of all our people. This will also include the amount allocated to the GCIS for compensation of employees and goods and services.

The GCIS has made significant strides in implementing development communication through direct, unmediated communication through the Izimbizo Programme of government. This work is premised on communication research which ensures that government messages reach the majority of South Africans. Solid progress has also been made in maintaining and strengthening a well-functioning cluster communication system that is the backbone in driving government’s information programme, including the fostering of sound stakeholder relationships and partnerships.

We celebrate the fact that the South African Broadcasting Corporation is in a sound financial state and has a cash and cash equivalent balance of R1.02 billion (not audited) at the end of the 2014/15 financial year. We thank the Board and Management of the Corporation for turning the tide and we hope that it will grow from strength to strength.

I am happy to inform this House that the SABC has issued its 9th Request for Proposals (RFP) Book on local content amounting to R600 million surpassing the previous one, which was over R100 million, making it the biggest RFP book issued by the SABC for local content to date.

We have stabilised the management of the Corporation by filling the positions of the Chief Operations Officer, Chief Financial Officer, Head of News and other Executives. I am happy to inform the house that more than 50% of the Executive Committee members are women, which is the first in the history of the SABC.

The SABC is on the move! On 11 May 2015, we launched an entertainment channel, the “SABC Encore” on the DSTV platform channel 156, making it the 5th television channel under the SABC. From this coming Friday, 22 May 2015, the SABC News Channel will be broadcast to the entire African Continent. This channel is a model of what the SABC will offer to its customers in the new digital environment. We say well done to the SABC!

Government continues to support the SABC to discharge its public broadcasting service mandate. During this financial year R173 million from the department’s budget has been allocated to the Corporation. Of which R49.6 million has been allocated towards the operation of Channel Africa. Furthermore we will during this financial year develop a funding model for the SABC.

We will continue to work towards strengthening the capacity of our Regulator to deliver on its mandate. The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) has now streamlined its strategic goals to four from the eight. This is a sign of a regulator which is focused on its mandate. An amount of R393. 6 million has been allocated to ICASA during the financial year 2015/16. This amount will be used amongst others to ensure that local content regulations are finalised and implementation of an efficient radio frequency spectrum management system is concluded.

In order to address the lack of access to the media by rural and historically disadvantaged communities and individuals R22.6 million is allocated to the Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA). The MDDA will during this year prioritise clearing the backlog of projects that are either no longer in existence, or have struggled to account for their support and still require assistance. The MDDA will place emphasis on strengthening existing projects, while funding new projects.

In line with our mandate to brand the country locally and abroad, R173 million has been allocated to Brand SA. I have had discussions with the Board of Trustees of Brand SA to:

• focus its work on improving its domestic presence by implementing more initiatives domestically;
• develop and implement initiatives aimed at branding the country in the African Continent;
• develop a structured programme of engagement with the national, provincial and local spheres of government in order to ensure alignment and coherence of various initiatives; and
• brand the country abroad

During this financial year we will launch an annual Branding Summit for South Africa. The summit will bring together the three spheres of government, private sector and civil society under one roof with a view to agree on a broad programme of action on how to brand the country. We invite the communications industry of which most of them are here today to partner with us in this endeavour.

The Film and Publication Board (FPB) performs an important and critical function of regulating the production, possession and distribution of films, games and publications, including the protection of children against harmful online content. In this regard, R82. 4 million has been allocated to the FPB during the 2015/16 financial year. The money will be used amongst others to increase the entity’s visibility through the implementation of cyber safe outreach programme to protect children against harmful content.

Honourable Chairperson, We also plan to table five (5) Bills, i.e. the Broadcasting Amendment Bill, Films and Publications Amendment Bill, ICASA Amendment Bill, Media Development and Diversity Amendment Bill and Brand SA Bill, to Parliament.

In conclusion,

I would like to thank the Deputy Minister, Ms Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams and the Portfolio Committee on Communications for the role they have played in the finalization of the strategic plan and the continued support as we put forth our documents within the Parliamentary processes.

To my two Acting DGs, I thank you sincerely. You have been a beacon of strength and courage, you demonstrated strategic leadership, not only to the Department but to the sector as a whole.

Lastly I want to thank my family and staff of the Departments for the support.

Chairperson, it is my privilege at this moment to table the Department of Communications Budget Vote to the House.

I thank you

Enquiries:
Ayanda Hollow
Cell: 076 148 80634

Issued by:
Department of Communications