Cape Town – Financial sustainability has a great impact on diversity in the media and this issue has been pushed into the limelight as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown, according to South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) executive director, Kate Skinner.
Skinner was contributing to a debate on the issue of media diversity that was the topic for a webinar, one of a series hosted by Independent Media as part of a nationwide campaign marking 43 years of Media Freedom Day or Black Wednesday.
Skinner said: “Black Wednesday is an incredibly important day for a number of reasons, one being that if we look back to that terrible time under apartheid where all of these different publications were closed and journalists jailed, and compare it to where we are now, we have made massive strides.
“One area that we are very worried about as Sanef is the issues around financial sustainability of the media and the number of jobs that have been lost and the publications that have closed; before Covid-19 and particularly under the pandemic and the lockdown period,” Skinner said.
“When we were looking at Black Wednesday, one of the big issues was around sustainability and that’s really important. Lack of sustainability can unfortunately shrink media diversity.”
Answering a question from Cape Times editor, Siyavuya Mzantsi, about whether enough has been done in the media on diversity 26 years into democracy, the former editor of Isolezwe, Slindile Khanyile, said as opposed to the past when journalists were either for or against the apartheid government, things were now complicated.
“If you look at how we have to tell the story now, it gets very complex,” said Khanyile. “Diversity remains a critical question because any dominant narrative in society reflects the power relations, and you can see in the way that stories are told that poverty, inequality and unemployment impact the majority of the people in this country, who are black people.
“A weak media suits those in power as it makes it harder for journalists to carry out exposés such as the Steinhoff story, for instance,” said Khanyile.
Editor of the Sunday Tribune, Sandile Mdadane, spoke about the need for ownership of the media to have an appetite for transformation.
“This needs to be attended to at recruitment stage. Those who call the shots in the media are those who control the purse strings,” said Mdadane.