The media of South Africa has a large mass media sector and is one of Africa’s major media centers. While South Africa’s many broadcasters and publications reflect the diversity of the population as a whole, the most commonly used language is English. However, all ten other official languages are represented to some extent or another. Afrikaans is the second most commonly used language, especially in the publishing sector.
There are several independently owned newspapers, most notably Mail & Guardian, however the majority are owned by four large publishing groups: Avusa, Naspers, Independent News and Media (owned by Sekunjalo Investments), and CTP/Caxton.
South Africa has a very robust magazine industry with an estimated 280 locally published titles available; imported magazines add to this number considerably. The industry’s annual turnover in 1998 was estimated to be about R 1.7 billion.
While the mass consumer market sector is dominated by only a few publishers (Naspers, Perskor, CTP Holdings, TML), the specialist consumer and trade & technical sectors are very fragmented and contain a large number of small- and medium-sized publishers in addition to the aforementioned major players.
Naspers is the dominant player in the mass consumer magazine sector and sells about two thirds of all the magazines read in South Africa, including imported magazines. The company publishes large national titles such as Fair Lady, Sarie, Insig, SA Sports Illustrated, Kickoff, Huisgenoot, You and Drum. The Afrikaans language family magazine Huisgenoot has the largest circulation of any South African magazine and is followed by You, its English language version; these two magazines have a combined circulation of almost one million copies a week. Fair Lady and Sarie are South Africa’s largest selling English- and Afrikaans-language women’s magazines, respectively.
Other large mass market publishers are Perskor (Republican Press), CTP Holdings and Times Media. Specialist consumer magazines are also published by the aforementioned publishers, as well as by Primedia Publishing, Kagiso Media and Ramsay Son & Parker. In the trade and technical sector Primedia is the largest publisher.
Television is the most tightly regulated media sector in South Africa and is (along with radio) regulated by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA). Broadcast rights, especially for television, are issued by invitation only and only two independent television broadcasters have been permitted to operate up to now. Broadcast licenses mandate percentages of local, community and educational content and broadcasters are required to include such content as a condition of their license.
As a result, there are only four free-to-air terrestrial television channels in South Africa, the South African Broadcasting Corporation’s SABC 1, SABC 2 and SABC 3 as well as e.tv. The South African Broadcasting Corporation or SABC is South Africa’s state-owned public broadcaster. All broadcasters are subject to the Broadcast Complaints Commission.
Multichoice is the oldest provider of pay TV and satellite broadcasting in the country, with one terrestrial pay TV channel, M-Net, and DStv, a digital satellite television network with over 55 local and international channels that broadcasts to over 2 million subscribers throughout Africa. In November 2008 four new licenses were granted, from a total of 18 applications, for the operation of pay-TV services. Walking on Water (a Christian broadcaster), On Digital Media and e-Sat (the satellite arm of e.tv) were all expected to start direct-to-home satellite broadcasts in mid-2008. This did not happen as only On succeeded in launching its Top TV service. Even Telkom Media which was supposed to operate satellite services as well as IPTV services such as video-on-demand, never took off and was subsequently sold to Shenzhen Media South Africa.
Radio has always been South Africa’s biggest broadcast medium and the sector’s deregulation in 1996 led to an even bigger proliferation of radio stations. For example, there are about 4 radio stations available to Johannesburg listeners. South Africa’s mass market station Lesedi FM broadcasts nationwide and is by far the most popular, appealing to Sesotho-speaking South Africans with 6.38 million listeners per week.
Broadcasts range from the country-wide and regional radio stations of the state-owned and funded SABC to fully commercial privately owned stations to community stations that target specific cities, towns, neighbourhoods or ethnic groups.
The majority of radio stations broadcast in English, although the other official languages of South Africa are represented on the airwaves as well. The industry is regulated by ICASA.
Internet and telecommunications
In comparison with the rest of Africa, this sector is fairly big and robust. Telephone and internet access is also available via mobile network operators, such as Vodacom and MTN, but is an even more expensive option.
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