Massive retrenchments in SA media industry over past year

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Almost 600 people have been retrenched in the media industry in the past year, according to a Wits Journalism report released on Friday.

“We have had 596 retrenchments in the industry… this is serious for journalism and is serious for the media,” lead researcher Glenda Daniels said at the release of the 2014 “State of the Newsroom” report in Johannesburg.

“When we start having empty desks and empty chairs in newsrooms, filled largely by interns, content producers etcetera, we lose institutional memory and the context of journalism.”

The industry was under threat from commercial companies. Journalists were being retrenched because of a drop in revenue at media companies.

According to the report in the period July 2013 to July 2014, Media24 retrenched 446 people, while Times Media Group retrenched about 100 people across different departments.

Media Workers Association of SA provided a list of names of people who were retrenched by or pushed out of Independent Newspapers.

Daniels said the industry was also under threat from what she called “two bills, an act and a resolution”.

The two bills were the general intelligence laws amendment bill and the protection of state information bill, also known as the secrecy bill.

The act was the National Key Point Act, which prevented the publication of security arrangements at strategic installation points called a “national key point”. President Jacob Zuma’s private Nkandla homestead was declared a national key point.

The resolution was one taken by the African National Congress at its 2007 Polokwane conference and reconfirmed at its Mangaung conference in 2012, for a media tribunal.

Despite all this, Daniels said South Africa was not falling apart.

“The independent media in South Africa is strong but we have to be very vigilant because there are threats all around us,” she said.

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