World Media 2006: South Africa

A buoyant consumer economy has emerged over the past decade and South Africa boasts a first-rate communications infrastructure but freedom of the country's press is not guaranteed.

South Africa is by a long way the continent's economic and media powerhouse, yet its existence, relative to a European model, continues to seem politically and economically precarious - especially when you consider the instability of its next-door neighbour, Zimbabwe.

And despite the fact that South Africa is rich in natural resources and boasts a first-rate communication infrastructure, challenging problems remain as a hangover from the apartheid era - unemployment, poverty and the continuing existence of an economically disenfranchised underclass.

On the other hand, the past ten years have also seen the emergence of a buoyant consumer economy and a growing and ever more confident black middle class. This is an aspiring nation with a fundamental belief that greater prosperity is within its grasp.

It also boasts the continent's most diverse media economy, with state-run and independent commercial television, a burgeoning radio market (there are 40 stations in the Johannesburg area alone) and digital pay-TV services courtesy of M-Net.

However, the biggest controversies in South African media over the past year have involved an older, more low-tech medium - newspapers. First, there was the launch by Tony O'Reilly's Independent News & Media of the Daily Voice, a downmarket national daily tabloid - arguably the country's first. Complete with sensational news stories and topless glamour photography, it was soon dubbed the Daily Vice and upset religious groups - evidence that South African culture has been dragged kicking and screaming into the 70s.

Another more alarming development may perhaps suggest otherwise - the gagging of another newspaper, the Mail and Guardian, for attempting to run a series of stories alleging the abuse of public money by the country's ruling political party, the African National Congress.

Those who want to see South Africa continue to make progress as a liberal democracy will hope this development is merely a blip. O'Reilly is certainly among them and he continues to take a great interest in the country's affairs. For instance, he is one of the more prominent members of the International Investment Council, which was set up by President Thabo Mbeki to turn around South Africa's dismal recent performance in attracting foreign investors.

ADVERTISING EXPENDITURE USdollars million at current prices. All years based on US$1= Rand 6.46. *Estimated Total TV Newspapers Magazines Radio 1994 613 240 174 93 81 1995 706 280 201 108 89 1996 794 300 235 127 102 1997 952 371 278 150 112 1998 1,111 454 318 171 123 1999 1,234 513 344 185 143 2000 1,374 552 383 189 189 2001 1,493 642 390 198 187 2002 1,783 770 482 223 223 2003 2,022 892 531 233 265 2004 2,376 1,079 609 250 299 2005 2,643 1,208 682 275 329 2006* 2,943 1,347 782 302 353 2007* 3,275 1,515 856 332 398 2008* 3,602 1,664 947 360 443 Total Outdoor Online Cinema 1994 613 20 0 5 1995 706 22 0 5 1996 794 23 0 7 1997 952 30 0 11 1998 1,111 33 0 12 1999 1,234 39 0 10 2000 1,374 50 0 11 2001 1,493 59 8 10 2002 1,783 66 7 12 2003 2,022 80 8 13 2004 2,376 91 17 30 2005 2,643 99 18 32 2006* 2,943 105 20 34 2007* 3,275 115 21 36 2008* 3,602 122 25 40 Adspend notes 1) Includes agency commission. 2) Excludes production costs. 3) Excludes classified advertising. 4) After discounts (major advertisers only, others before discounts).f FACTFILE Highest circulating titles - Newspaper: Daily Sun (daily, 235,000 copies) - Business magazine: Financial Mail (weekly, 28,000 copies) - Consumer magazine: Huisgenoot (weekly, 342,000 copies) Major measurement tools - Circulation: Audit Bureau of Circulations - Readership: South African - Ad Readership Foundation - TV viewing: AC Nielsen Main media owners - Newspapers: Media 24, Independent Group - Magazines: Media 24, Crown Publications - Television: SABC, e-TV, M-Net

THE LOWDOWN

Media topic du jour: Just how fragile is the country's liberal media environment?

Reigning media guru and why: Koos Bekker, the managing director of Naspers (a newspaper, magazine and online publisher), was also a founding director of the company that runs Multichoice and M-Net. The latter was one of the first pay-TV operations to launch outside the US.

Media mogul to be seen dining with: Gavin O'Reilly, the chief operating officer of Independent News & Media, is always feted on his whirlwind visits to the company's South African operations. Nelson Mandela is a family friend through a shared passion for rugby - Gavin's father, Tony, is a former British Lion who toured South Africa in the 50s.

Car to drive: BMW 130i.

Phone to carry: BlackBerry.

Whatever you do, don't say: Maybe we can learn a thing or two from Robert Mugabe.

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