South Africa’s media landscape is a mess and this must change

South Africa’s media landscape is a mess, and this must change.

The horrible news that New Frame will be shutting down immediately because its only funder is pulling the entirety of its support in one swoop, underscores the vulnerability of not-for-profit news in South Africa.

I think this also underscores a massive structural problem in South African for-profit media which relies heavily on progressive, well-researched and investigative *free content* from non-profit media. This is especially the case with the Daily Maverick, an outlet that will publish dozens of articles a week from various non-profit news sites, will make tons of money off this free content, but will not pay a single cent back to the non-profit site in exchange for this content.

This form of crass exploitation by for-profit news in South Africa cannot continue.

Non-profit media in this country needs to come together and rethink this model. They cannot continue to rely on for-profit media for exposure while at the same time allowing the for-profit media to exploit their hard work. Some options that I think non-profit media in South Africa should consider:

Non-Profit Media Consortium. Forming a consortium (or association) which sets a minimum price that all for-profit outlets must pay if they are going to use non-profit content. This minimum price can be per article or per word. But there must be a minimum cost. GroundUp, Bhekisisa, amaBhungane, New Frame, AIAC, ViewFinder, and the list goes on, cannot continue to give free content to for-profit news. This is capitalist theft from the commons.

New Non-Profit News Website. Forming a collectively run or cooperatively owned non-profit news website to rival Daily Maverick, News24 and IOL and that is the primary or sole publisher of all non-profit media in the country. The purpose of this website would be to bring readers over from capitalist outlets like the Daily Maverick and starve these for-profit entities of the free content they rely on so heavily. Why should anyone go to DM for their news if GroundUp, Bhekisisa, amaBhungane, and the others, are all publishing in one collective place and Daily Maverick is stuck with its sub-par journalists like Stephen Grootes who can only write nonsense about Zuma and Ramaphosa?

Op-ed writers and other writers must be paid. In the past, newspapers used to pay people whose opinion pieces they publish. In this day, most op-eds are published without compensation. Again, the Daily Maverick is one of the worst perpetrators. It’s time the media stop exploiting the ideas and unpaid labour of intellectual workers. If the above consortium could also act as a union of sorts or a clearinghouse for opinion writers, they could negotiate with the for-profit media in order to ensure that Op-ed content is paid for. Or it could post the pieces directly on their own website. Those of us, especially those of us who are progressive, must stop publishing think pieces for free in places. If we work instead through such a consortium, not only would we be able to receive compensation, but we would ensure that we also retain the rights over our own ideas instead of giving them away for free to media moguls.

(By Jared Sacks)