Leading South African Business School launches Media Leadership Think Tank that will serve the continent’s audio and audio-visual industry

17 September 2021

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University of Pretoria’s Gordon Institute of Business Science has put its heft behind opening a Media Leadership Think Tank that will both ask the big “why” questions and in the future provide leadership training for the industry. Russell Southwood spoke to the person who will head it up, long-time industry figure Michael Markovitz.

At present, most of the discussion about the sustainability (and indeed profitability) of the Sub-Saharan media takes place in industry events. In a separate but not unrelated universe, a significant number of NGOs tackle the political problems that the media experience across the continent. The Media Leadership Think Tank will bring together these two sets of issues and tackle them together.

The idea for the Think Tank came out of a conversation between non-executive director of public broadcaster SABC Michael Markovitz and Professor Tawana Kupe, Vice Chancellor and Principal of the University of Pretoria. Markovitz is a long-standing activist and business person in the South African industry. He has wide-ranging experience of industry regulation at first hand.

He has played senior advisory roles over the years, was the head of the Expert Reference Panel advising the government on the audio and audiovisual services policy review. He has also worked as a senior adviser at ICASA and played a part in drafting South Africa's new broadcasting legislation in 1993.

The Media Leadership Think Tank launched last Wednesday with a high-powered global panel tackling ‘Social Media, Internet Shutdowns, Incitement and Democracy’. The panel discussed issues ranging from former US President Trump’s de-platforming, incitement on social media networks and widespread internet shutdowns across Africa and other parts of the world, among other issues.

As a sign of its commitment to the industry across the continent, Fatou Jagne Senghore, Gambian-Senegalese human rights activist, women's rights activist and lawyer was one of the panel speakers. In this context, Markovitz spoke to me about the cross-continental issue of interference in internet users’ access and internet shutdowns:”It’s not just a human rights issue but also raises socio-economic issues,” he says citing research on the cost of shutdowns by Uganda-based policy organization CIPESA.

“The idea is to create a research-centred Think Tank that focuses on ethics and governance, policy and regulation and business and strategy…In time, we would like to be able to offer post-graduate courses and training. We want to break down the silos between the Business School and Humanities and look at broader issues like the sustainability of journalism and public broadcasting.”

“The name Media Leadership is not just about news media but the broad spread of media, audio and audio-visual industries. But we must never lose our advocacy focus. For me that’s the core. The first question is ‘why’. Because I believe in democracy, contributing to solutions in media is crucial to democracy.”

So what’s the first research project going to be?:” We haven’t made a decision yet. We want to engage with media organizations and want to discuss it. We will be looking for funding and support and we have to be self-sustaining. We believe ‘it’s a collaborative era and want to collaborate with people already doing research. Everyone has a role to play.”

“We will be looking for a more ethical understanding of audiences in our increasingly fragmented, multichannel and data-driven world. Re-imagining and creating a new media is inextricably linked to creating societies based on participatory democracy and inclusive economies,” he added.

In Brief

Netflix, the world’s leading entertainment streaming service, recently announced a contribution of around US$ 400 000 in the form of a grant and the development of scholarships to assist Black representation in the film and television industry in South Africa’s creative ecosystem. Two-thirds of the funding will go to film and television scholarships and debt relief for students, with the balance going to the Independent Black Filmmakers Collective. The Netflix Black Creatives Empowerment Fund will be implemented in two ways: the first will be a $100,000 grant to The Independent Black Filmmakers Collective NPC (IBFC), and the second will be $300,000 dedicated to funding full scholarships at South African higher education institutions to support the formal qualification and training of aspiring Black creatives in the film and TV disciplines.

DW Akademie, a German media development organisation, is inviting Tanzanian and Ugandan filmmakers to apply for film development funding and training funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). The DW Akademie is looking for filmmakers who have already completed one or more films and are looking for support with their next project. Separate judges will pick up to five successful candidates from each country in January 2022, with each receiving a maximum of US$ 11772,30 and a year of mentorship to assist in developing their film ideas. Industry professionals, primarily from the Global South, workshops and skill development will be part of the curriculum. Thanks to this customised training, the successful candidates will carry their projects through the development stage.

The Media Council of Kenya (MCK) will shortly impose rules restricting or banning betting-themed programs in media stations if suggestions in a soon-to-be-released report are implemented. The Council points out that, while media houses must earn a profit amid the Covid- 19 worldwide pandemic, they must do so within the bounds of ethical corporate social responsibility.

The Real Housewives of Lagos (RHOL) will be the first Nigerian instalment of the award-winning franchise, which is distributed internationally by NBCUniversal Formats, a division of Universal Studio Group and will appear on South African streamer Showmax. This also marks the 16th international version of The Real Housewives format and the third to be adapted in Africa. RHOL will build on the success of the first two African editions. The Real Housewives of Johannesburg was one of the 10 most streamed local series on Showmax in 2019, while The Real Housewives of Durban (RHOD) broke records when it launched on the African streaming service in January 2021. RHOD has since launched with success in 50 countries across Africa, as well as on hayu in 27 territories internationally, including Canada, UK, Ireland, Spain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Singapore and the Philippines. Season 2 of the hit show will return to Showmax early next year.

South Africa: Mettlestate, esports and gaming content specialist, has announced a new partnership with the popular South African streamer, Mama Succubus. Mama Succubus is a fulltime variety Twitch affiliated streamer. She plays a variety of first- person shooter games, but she also does a number of IRL (in real life) ‘just chatting’ streams to connect with her audience.

In Nigeria, the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) has threatened to impose a region-wide boycott of DSTV if its parent company, MultiChoice, does not reconsider its position and consider transmitting northern-based television channels. MultiChoice is the parent company of the DSTV and GOTV subscription television brands. The National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) had scheduled a meeting with DSTV on March 18, 2021, after receiving a letter of complaint from CNG on January 10, 2021, over the non-inclusion of Northern-based television stations on the DSTV platform. As a result, DStv was asked to reconsider its position in carrying northern-based television stations that could follow the established procedures.

Nigeria-based food entrepreneur, professional chef and YouTuber, Chef Winnie Nwania, is set to join HONEY TV in a fresh cooking show format called My Naija Plate that premieres on DStv channel 173 on September 14, 2021.

Several countries and press freedom groups have warned of human rights violations in South Sudan, including the harassment of journalists and media organisations. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today joined the call on the new South Sudanese Government to respect human rights and press freedom.

Kenya: In compliance with the country’s Finance Act 2021, the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) has implemented the Digital Service Tax (DST) modifications. After President Uhuru Kenyatta signed the Finance Act 2021 on June 29, it included the Digital Service Tax in the Income Tax Act. The DST has been aimed at increasing the government’s tax base from its conception and subsequent gazettement. Non-residents generating money from the delivery of services on digital platforms must submit the Digital Service Tax every month, according to the KRA’s adjustments following the introduction of the reforms. All vendors who trade in Kenya’s digital marketplace must register for a KRA Personal Identification Number (PIN). According to the Kenya Revenue Authority, the DST tax is due on the 20th of every month derived or acquired from Kenya following the month the digital services were provided or acquired. The Digital Service Providers, Digital Marketplace Providers, and Appointed Tax Representatives categories of the DST previously applied to both residents and non-residents.