The impact of a public broadcasting service mandate on the competitiveness and sustainability of broadcasting in South Africa : a case study : SABC 2.
Smith, Robyn J.
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Radio and television broadcasting are among the most highly regulated industries in most countries. National governments have traditionally assumed responsibility for determining the structure of broadcasting in each country. These state broadcasters have typically been financed from licence fee revenues collected from the owners of television and radio receiving sets, from direct parliamentary appropriations, or from both, although in some cases (e.g. Italy, The Netherlands and Finland) the income of the state broadcasting organisation has been supplemented by advertising revenue. The establishment of state broadcasters has enabled the government to exercise great influence over broadcasters, allowing the medium to be used as a mouthpiece for government sentiments and policy. In South Africa, the National Party government controlled the airwaves and used it to entrench a repressive system of Apartheid. Following the new democracy in South Africa, a regulatory body was formed to oversee the freedom of the media. It was however recognised that broadcasting is one of the few opportunities for historically separated sectors of South African society to get to know each other, while celebrating cultural differences. SABC has been given a substantial public service mandate to fulfil the national goal of democracy, nation building and to provide information and entertainment in indigenous languages. As local programmes are more costly to produce; the mandate presents challenges to the broadcaster to still remain competitive for audience share and revenue. As the SABC does not receive a subsidy, does not have direct access to licence fees and often broadcasts to lower LSM's that do not traditionally deliver revenues, the challenge is to find a broadcasting mix that will ensure sustainability. The research concluded that SABC 2 (that has the biggest public service mandate) is still competitive when compared with another commercial broadcaster. The PBS mandate formed a distinctive strategy to hold audiences and be sustainable. A survey, using a questionnaire concluded that SABC 2 was seen as a public broadcaster but a government subsidy to offset losses of certain types of programming would be welcomed. Two structured interviews showed that the mandate was closely monitored and that management was constantly challenged to find the best programming/scheduling and revenue mix. A source of revenue that would be welcomed would be the partial allocation of licence fees to the channel for specific public service programming - such as state funerals and big national sporting events. This exploratory research made recommendations that will further enhance the competitiveness of SABC 2 and provide more synergies within the South African Broadcasting Corporation.