The political economy of broadcasting and telecommunications reform in Namibia, 1990-2005.
Heuva, William Edward.
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The thesis begins with a literature review on the political economy of communication, paying particular attention to the impact of globalisation on the communications sector. It highlights conflictual relationships between commercialisation and democratisation in transforming broadcasting and telecommunications in an era of globalisation. In doing this the study contends that the process of democratisation and commercialisation are 'mutually incompatible', as one can only be realised at the expense of the other. Namibia gained its independence in 1990 and set out to transform and restructure its communication systems to respond to the demands of a new society. At the same time the country had to address the demands of an emerging global order. While trying to democratise and build a new nation based on the values of equity, social justice and participation, Namibia had to respond to commercial imperatives of global capitalism that were not necessarily compatible with the demands of democratisation and nationbuilding. The thesis argues that these conflicting demands resulted in challenges and contradictions experienced in the entire transformation process of the communications sector, which the State failed to overcome. The thesis examines the policy, legal and regulatory practices adopted by the State to transform the communications sector and assess the internal and external factors that led to the adoption of these practices. It illuminates the roles and responsibilities of this sector in the broader transitional process. In Chapters Six and Seven the thesis examines the restructuring processes of NBC and Telecom Namibia, at a micro level. This analysis pays particular attention to the manner in which these two institutions were streamlined (downsized and rightsized) in order to become effective, efficient and profitable in discharging their new mandate. It argues that the streamlining process prevented these institutions from properly performing some of their core mandates, particularly the provision of non-profitable public services. The thesis also interrogates the penetration of the new Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) in Namibian society in Chapter Eight. It argues that while government adopted most of the relevant policies to establish an enabling environment for the transformation of the country into an 'information society', the penetration of the ICTs remained dismal. This elucidates the factors that led to this poor penetration. In conclusion the thesis provides a summary of the major findings and arguments. It contends that the neo-liberal policies of commercialisation and liberalisation adopted to transform the communications sector coupled with the restructuring of the national broadcaster and telecommunications operator along commercial lines tended to diminish rather than advance the goal of universal and affordable communications services to the majority of the people.