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MDDA on the cusp of growth

Guy Berger's picture

There are good prospects for development of South Africa’s purpose-built media development agency. This was the subtext at an event in Johannesburg today to initiate the MDDA’s new board members (I’m one of them).

This statutory agency is a partnership between government and mainstream media, and it exists to expand media diversity – especially at local level.

About 50 stakeholders attended a media breakfast at which Essop Pahad, minister in the presidency, welcomed the new board and thanked its predecessor.

He underlined that the MDDA made decisions independently of government and the industry donors. Outgoing MDDA chair Khanyi Mkonza (who is also new SABC chair) confirmed that there had never been interference in the agency.

Pahad also recalled that the ANC’s December conference had come out in favour of more resources for the MDDA. Head of government communications Themba Maseko said “we fully agree that more funds are needed”, but also appealed to the private sector to increase their contributions to the agency.

Mkonza highlighted that millions of South Africans still lack access to basic information, and that the demand for media growth resources still far outstrips MDDA’s current budget (about R20 million a year).

New MDDA chair, Gugu Msibi, noted that since 2004, more than 170 media projects have been supported, and over R55m disbursed. The track record of the agency, with clean audits and clear systems, are what explain the support for it to secure more resources.

There’s hope now that newly licensed broadcasters such as Capricorn FM in Limpopo, and the eminent pay-TV companies, will swell the pot of donors.

In the next year, MDDA will also be seeking to persuade print media to renew – and enlarge – their contributions. In addition, there’s hope that regulations being made in terms of the recent Electronic Communications Act will greatly increase the amounts coming from broadcasters.

In this context, if government also increases its level of support, the agency could then really enrich the South African media landscape.

Roll on more pluralism, especially in mother tongue, at community level across the country.