TRADE and Industry minister, Rob Davies, wants the government and public entities to be instructed to procure 75% of their goods and services locally.
Back in 2011 a Local Procurement accord was presented with the intention to boost job creation by committing the government, labour, business and the public to support, consume and buy locally. The Business Report has quoted Davies as saying: “We (government) will be setting higher targets of local content and it will be no longer an advice or appeal but an instruction to all levels of state and all public entities that they will be obliged to procure at a set level.”
A key public entity that should also be subjected to the 75% local procurement or content instruction is the SABC. As a public broadcaster -funded by the state, TV licenses and some advertising- the SABC will do this country a great service if it prioritized the promotion of local content. SABC bosses have previously said government will have to fund most of their operation, so they can rely less on advertising, to enable the public broadcaster to commit to a quota biased to local content. The statement sounds like a convenient and goalpost shifting argument. The executives in Auckland Park may render an essential public service by taking the initiative to conduct a cost analysis and impact (on job creation and the economy) study for a move to localize most of their programming and then present the outcomes to the government for consideration.
Speaking at the National Localisation Indaba –held in Durban on June 5th and 6th– Davies said his department’s Automotive Incentive Scheme (AIS) has incentivised 193 new projects with a total investment value of R22.5bn since its inception in 2009, supporting almost 10-thousand new jobs. This gives a clear indication that government is most likely to fund sensible, well researched and presented projects that have great spin-offs. The sentiment based argument about our identity as a nation has not given local content a decisive victor so far.
The SABC should, by now, be boldly leading a revolution to have most of its production ideas and content produced here at home, a move that will put food on the table for thousands of South Africans. With the power, in terms of its reach and combined audience numbers, it wields; the public broadcaster should not be finding itself somehow pressured by the competition to buy into the idea of syndicating and purchasing American and European creative produce. Instead of leading, The SABC finds itself trying to follow what the competition is doing. The public broadcaster is presently conducting auditions for the music talent search competition, The X Factor. This is obvious an attempt to counter or compete with Pop Idols that is broadcast on DSTV.
Both reality shows do not originate here at home, licensing rights must have been paid. Over the years, local television, radio and creatives have adapted and copied foreign programmes, models, formats, styles and even mannerism thus giving an impression that Mzansi is an artistically inept country. The country has imported Pop Idols, Strictly Come Dancing, Power of 10, Survivor, So You Think You Can Dance, Apprentice, Big Brother, Pop Stars, Weakest Link, Fear Factor, Survivor, Biggest Loser, Who Wants To Be a Millionare, Deal Or No Deal, All You Need Is Love and SA’S Got Talent. The list is endless.
There’s a general belief that the imported programmes will work in South Africa because they have been tried and tested in the countries where they originate. Most have probably worked in terms of boosting the relative station ratings and rvenue but the key question is: does Mzansi achieve anything by replicating and imitating anything foreign? To paraphrase Carter G. Woodson, author of the Mis-Education of the Negro, South Africans don’t realize that even if they do successfully imitate or adapt European or American creative productions, nothing new is being accomplished.
The question then is: when is South Africa going to put to test its own original ideas, programmes and present the rest of the world with creative performance presentations that can be copied, adapted, sampled, franchised and continuously be a great inspiration to others?
It’s safe to say the template or copy-this-copy-that mentality in creative sector has resigned South Africa to a cultural colony of sort. Kenyan author Ngugi Wa Thiong’o argues, in his book Decolonising The Mind, that the most important area of domination, for colonialism, was (it still is) the mental universe of the colonised, the control, through culture, of how people perceive themselves and their relationship to the world.
“To control a people’s culture is to control their tools of self-definition in relation to others,” Ngugi declared. Ngugi also wrote about something he calls a cultural bomb which he labels as the biggest weapon wielded and is daily unleashed by imperialism. “The effect of the cultural bomb makes people see their past as one wasteland of non achievement and it makes them want to distance themselves from that wasteland.” Many fading or already faded American artists or groups often have their careers revived with great hoopla in South Africa, while seasoned domestic acts are constantly shunned. Is it not supposed to be the business of the Americans and the British to promote their own cultural goods and products, not of the South Africans or others?
The SABC has been overtaken by the privately owned DSTV (whose source of income is subscriptions and advertising) that now boast a channel dedicated to Mzansi films and another mostly playing South African music videos.
It is clear that not much will happen in favour of South African creative produce until there’s an instruction and commitment on government level to have such happening particularly at the public broadcaster.