The sounds of change are nearing the corridors of community and small commercial media sector if indications by the Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA) are anything to go by.
Emphasis has gone into content generation as concerns ran high over farming community’s exclusion in receiving information on the coronavirus pandemic.
“The MDDA recognises that supporting the generation of content is a major focus area for its support going forward and is both providing funding for content generation, as well as providing training to the sector in this area” said MDDA Chief Executive Officer Zukiswa Potye.
MDDA is a statutory development agency tasked with promoting and assisting the development of community media and small commercial media in South Africa.
It recently announced a R10 million emergency fund to help community and small commercial media (SCM) communicate COVID-19.
“This funding is designed to assist community and SCM media projects in acquiring or renting additional safety measures to minimise safety risks to staff and to assist with quality and community specific content” Potye added.
Since 2004, the agency has funded 160 community radio and TV stations and more than 100 local newspapers.
In 2019, it brought in a new policy to address issues of sustainability and return on investments for projects funded.
“The challenge now is how to safeguard the sustainability of this sector and how to ensure that the sector meets its mandate to deliver good quality, local content of specific relevance to its communities. This importantly includes coverage related to government priorities in agriculture, science and technology” said Potye.
MDDA has increased its involvement in both areas partnering with entities such as the South African Agency for Science and Technology (SAASTA) and Food and Trees for Africa in training programmes for the generation of technical content by community media.
South Africa is one but many of the developing countries struggling to develop agricultural media. It has a small fraction of agricultural media presence across all media spectrums.
These agricultural media companies carried the flag for agriculture but did not reach fully to vulnerable farming communities.
The Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development called for such farming communities to be prioritised especially under the COVID-19.
“Farm workers and workers in the agriculture sector in general risk their health and those of their families to report for duty as essential workers. It is therefore vital that we care for them and their well-being” said portfolio chair Inkosi Zwelivelile Mandela.
MDDA has recognised that rural-based communities have been excluded from media hence the new funding policy prioritised community projects in underserviced district/local municipalities as well as underserviced special interest groups. “The role that community media has to play in fostering community development, social cohesion and bringing communities together is immeasurable” commented Potye.