18 February, 2020
"Extraodinary" Media oversight dampens public morale
media outlets neglected one of the most
important political and economic stories to
come out of South Africa in the last few
months: President Cyril Ramaphosa's plans to
get to grips with the country's massive
energy crisis, says political analyst JP
Harvard-trained analyst called this
oversight "most extraordinary" from both a
media, and government news flow point of
view. The lack of media coverage and
subsequent public debate has had a negative
effect on social morale.
comes in the context of "media in every
country being so focused on negative issues
that we miss out on the many positive things
that are happening," Ann Crotty, the highly
regarded Business Live writer at large, told
the Dolphin Bay Brief. "This tendency seems
to be greater in South Africa than most
in Nedbank Private Wealth's Investment
Notes, JP pointed out that on December 18,
Ramaphosa published his plans in the Daily
Maverick under his own name. Almost no other
media followed the ground-breaking
announcement, and vital public debate was
not stirred up.
followed a week of stage six load shedding
during which the president said there would
be no more power cuts before 13 January
2020. JP called this a "very weak" initial
response to the crisis and said the cabinet
should have provided much more detail.
However, several days later things changed
delivered a wide-ranging response, stating
that energy users would be allowed to
generate power for their own use;
applications would be fast-tracked for
industry and business to produce and use
their own electricity; and the purchase of
power from independent producers would be
accelerated. He also said some renewable
energy projects would be connected to the
grid earlier than planned; a power purchase
programme would be launched; and a new
transmission entity, wholly owned by Eskom,
and able to buy power from a range of
sources, would be established.
is the extraordinary thing: no other news
outlet carried this announcement by the
president," wrote JP in Investment Notes. He
searched for further coverage and could not
find anything other than a senior Business
Day journalist mentioning it in a tweet.
about hiding a light under a bushel ... most
extraordinary," he added. "The Eskom saga
has now spun so out of control that rational
discussion is almost impossible.
Speculation, conjecture, dark theories, even
darker predictions, and fake news are all
presented with the certainty of the newly
converted. It may be more helpful to read
what the president said his cabinet decided.
social morale is shot, and one can see it in
low confidence measurements and other
opinion polls," said JP in an interview with
the Dolphin Bay Brief. "Whether one can lay
that at the door of the media is debatable.
If we are not fully informed it is really
our own fault - the info is out there. But
most of us are fairly lazy."
why he thinks there was little coverage on
the president's plans, he said: "It could be
the time of the year when the whole of SA
has closed down; could be professional
jealousy where one publication does not want
to copy another's story; could be the
constant pressure that newsrooms are under."
he acknowledged that the media did manage to
cover a large number of important stories,
including in his field. "They may not cover
them correctly - for example, two weeks ago
there was the narrative that Ramaphosa is on
his way out which then turned out not to be
the case at all - but they do cover them."
what could be done to improve things, he
said government should communicate better,
as the article by the president should have
been in all the major media. Journalists
should also get more help in doing their
work as they are under enormous pressure due
to disruption by the internet and
said the media's focus on the negative went
back to the days of apartheid, in her view.
Missing out on positive news meant some
significant progress made by the Ramaphosa
government had been overlooked.
She said a much more effective PR
system was required by government if it
wanted to overcome the "jaded cynicism" of
South Africans who may have been exposed to
too many "big plans".
Source: Dolphin Bay Chemicals