The SOS: Support Public Broadcasting Coalition, the South African Screen Federation (SASFED) and the Independent Producers Organisation (IPO) are delighted with ICASA’s announcement on 27 May 2021 to reinstate the regulations for local content quotas it had exempted when it published its ICT COVID-19 National Disaster Regulations on 21 April 2020.
The ICT COVID-19 National Disaster Regulations exempted all television broadcasters, including the SABC, from local content quotas during the State of National Disaster and for three months thereafter; with no sense of how long COVID-19 will remain a public health threat.
As millions of South Africans stayed home during lockdown and filled much of their days watching TV, few realised the massive impact the Coronavirus was having on the very sector that brings them the content they watch. Many local film and TV production companies faced closure and the many thousands of freelance people they employ, from highly skilled technical crew to unskilled workers, had nowhere to turn for financial relief during this crisis.
ICASA’s National Disaster Regulations had the effect of de-prioritising the information and entertainment needs of South African audiences. The SABC has not been able to meet its public mandate of high quality, local, public health content in all languages relating to the pandemic.
The Regulations also crippled the local content production sector – and they were not aligned to Government’s own risk adjusted strategy which made provision for production houses to reopen and continue content production from Level 4 of the Risk Adjusted Strategy as a way to protect and sustain livelihoods.
We spearheaded the calls for the reinstatement of the public quotas. Therefore, we welcome this decision. The contribution of the audio-visual sector to the South African economy cannot be underestimated; contributing to job creation, transformation both in front of and behind the camera, social cohesion, and most importantly, as a mirror to our nation’s psyche as we learn that we are not a single story but able to reflect the richness and diversity of our astonishing national journey. The review and reinstatement of former content quotas is a major victory for civil society, the South African society, and the local content production sector.
The public has also continued to demonstrate great support for local content, as evidenced by the consistently high ratings that local TV shows have been receiving across the board. This is a big step in the right direction for public broadcasting in South Africa. Against the backdrop of an ever-increasing demand for local content and as we aim to move from being an importer of culture from the strengthening of our local independent production sector, we, as South Africans need to continue to tell stories and show our cultures and our country both locally internationally.
About the IPO
The Independent Producers Organisation (IPO) is a national organisation which represents, protects and promotes interests and needs of independent South African film, television and new media producers.
It strives towards creating an empowered, transformed and representative industry, by partnering with key stakeholders towards the advancement of a sustainable and enabling environment for producers and, recognizing their role and responsibilities as the engine drivers of work throughout the industry value chain, to creating opportunities for the full value chain of workers across and suppliers to the sector.
The IPO aims to maximize the industry’s potential to contribute to the country’s economy, and to preserve and promote South Arica’s national identity and stories. It currently represents over 70% of working producers in South Africa.