World Media in 2005: South Africa

TV rules the roost and the government expects it to help build a nation that is rich by African standards but ravaged by poverty, murder and Aids, while radio and newspapers are on the rise.

South Africa is by far the richest country in the continent and accounts for about one-third of sub-Saharan Africa's GDP. Thabo Mbeki, formerly Nelson Mandela's deputy, was re-elected president in April 2004 with a record 70 per cent majority. Despite not having Mandela's charm, he is increasingly seen as an ambassador for Africa on the world stage.

Mbeki's re-election coincided with the ten-year anniversary of the end of apartheid. Since 1994, life has undoubtedly become much easier for South Africa's media, particularly now that freedom of the press is now part of the constitution.

Yet the state-owned South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) is still encouraged to co-operate with the government to help "build the nation". On the whole, SABC toes the line, although it has been known to occasionally criticise the government, particularly over Mbeki's head-in-the-sand attitude towards HIV/Aids. The virus has swept across the country, and 5.3 million people - more than one-ninth of South Africa's 45 million population - now live with HIV/Aids.

The country faces other enormous challenges. Half the population lives below the poverty line and more than one-quarter of adults are out of work. South Africa also has the highest rate of homicide in the world - more than ten times as high as in the US.

Perhaps surprisingly, considering these hefty issues, South Africa doesn't really have a tradition of newspaper-reading: under a fifth of adults read a daily newspaper. However, the growth of tabloids has helped to boost the popularity of newspapers - particularly the Sunday Sun, the Afrikaans tabloid Son and the Daily Sun, which in just two years has become South Africa's most popular paper.

The government is considering regulating alcohol advertising, which could make a serious dent in the revenues of newspapers and magazines.

TV remains the dominant medium, claiming almost half of all adspend.

SABC runs three national TV networks and two pay-TV channels, and e-TV, South Africa's independent English station, continues to grow. Multichannel households are also on the increase, due to the cable and satellite company Multichoice.

Because of its speedy growth since deregulation in 1996, radio has been a magnet for advertisers' budgets and the medium now claims more adspend than magazines.


USdollars million at current prices. All years based on US$1=

rand 7.56 *Estimated

News- Mag-

Total papers azines TV Radio Cinema Outdoor Internet

1993 436 127 70 161 56 4 17 0

1994 523 148 80 205 69 4 17 0

1995 603 172 92 239 76 4 19 0

1996 678 201 108 256 87 6 20 0

1997 813 237 128 317 96 9 26 0

1998 949 272 146 388 105 10 28 0

1999 1,054 294 158 438 122 9 33 0

2000 1,174 327 161 472 162 9 43 0

2001 1,275 333 169 548 159 8 50 7

2002 1,523 411 190 658 190 10 57 6

2003 1,726 453 199 762 226 12 68 7

2004 2,029 520 213 921 256 26 78 15

2005* 2,257 583 235 1,032 281 27 84 16

2006* 2,513 668 258 1,150 302 29 90 17

2007* 2,796 731 284 1,294 340 31 98 18


1) Includes agency commission (16.5%)

2) Excludes production costs

3) Excludes classified advertising

4) Before discounts

5) Some of the huge growth in 2004 is attributable to more accurate

reporting, as opposed to massive increases in adspend (notably that of

outdoor, cinema and internet)



Newspaper: Daily Sun (daily, 235,000)

Business magazine: Financial Mail (weekly, 28,000)

Consumer magazine: Huisgenoot (weekly, 342,000)

Most-watched TV programme (2003): Generations

Best new TV format: Sokka Kings (football reality show)


Circulation: Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC)

Readership: South African Advertising Readership Foundation (SAARF)

TV viewing: AC Nielsen


Newspapers: Media 24, Independent Group

Magazines: Media 24, Crown Publications

Television: SABC, e-TV, M-Net


Media topic du jour - President Bush and the power he wields.

Reigning media guru and why - Barney Mthombothi, the editor of the Financial Mail, who is a hugely influential columnist.

Media mogul to be seen dining with and why - Anyone dining with the former president Nelson Mandela is guaranteed to get themselves noticed.

Car to drive - The new Mercedes SLK.

Top-selling beer brand - Beck's is starting to give Black Label Lager a run for its money.

Phone to carry - Motorola V Series.

Whatever you do, don't say ... "Old South Africa."

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