New agency could result in expensive duplication

03 January 2001

Attempts to encourage media development and diversity have the full support of the NAB. But the NAB has noted that the creation of a proposed new agency to carry out these functions may be costly and unnecessary.

In its submission on this matter, the NAB stated that the proposed Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA) could duplicate functions of existing bodies, such as ICASA.

The NAB also believes that the MDDA`s proposed budget is extremely high and that the way government intends to fund it should be revised.

In our submission to government on the creation of the MDDA, we stress that our own aims are to further the interests of the broadcasting industry by contributing to its development and diversity.

We aim to play a part in creating the right environment for this to take place. We are also keen to assist in correcting the balance, where certain groups and interests were previously denied access to the media.

In this spirit, we emphasise our support for plans in this area. In particular, we welcome the idea of supporting community broadcasters and of promoting the establishment of community broadcasters in under-serviced rural areas - either through funding or subsidisation.The NAB proposes that the MDDA be given a more limited mandate of operating a subsidy scheme to support community broadcasting and print media.

As it stands, the establishment of the MDDA would, we believe, amount to an inefficient and unsustainable use of taxpayers` money. We are troubled that some of the MDDA1s functions would actually erode ICASA`s mandate to regulate broadcasting. This is cause for concern since the independence of broadcasting regulation is constitutionally protected.

Where ICASA has difficulties fulfilling its mandate, we submit these problems should be dealt with by providing it with adequate budgets and resources. There should also be a clear division of roles between the MDDA and ICASA and other institutions involved in media development.

We also do not agree with the proposal that the industry fund the MDDA by increasing the Market Industry Trust levy to 1,5%.

The broadcasting industry is already over-burdened with royalties, taxies and levies. Further taxes could affect the financial position of some commercial and community broadcasters, perhaps even causing them to close down. This would reduce the existing diversity in the industry still further.

Instead, we would like government to consider alternative funding. One possibility would be to divert a portion of the ICASA licence fees - currently paid into the National Revenue Fund.



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