South African Television’s Accumulation by Dispossession

By Jane Duncan


Last month, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) released draft Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) regulations for a second round of public consultations. The DTT transition provides South Africa with an opportunity to address the uneven development of television, given the enhanced capacity for more broadcasters to offer more channels.

In theory, South Africa is meant to have three tiers of broadcasting - commercial, community and public service - to ensure that pluralism and diversity are built into the media system. Community and public service television were meant to be non-commercial.

However, in reality, owing to government’s unwillingness to provide significant support for the non-commercial tiers, South Africa’s media landscape has become dominated by commercial television. Public service and community television have been forced to survive by becoming commercialised, leading to all tiers of television targeting upper income brackets and addressing audiences as consumers, to different extents.

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