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The struggle for press self-regulation in contemporary South Africa: charting a - page 4 / 51

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matter of course, violate these equivalent rights except under a test of public interest. The seriousness of these distinctions is one reason why self-regulatory systems have come into being. They embody an assumption that it is not enough to have self-regulation by each individual journalist or media house  in regard to other-regarding communication.  Democracy in this perspective requires the balancing of rights.

When “other-regarding” speech depends on a public resource like scarce frequency spectrum, it has generally been the practice that a degree of statutory regulation of content is not regarded as incompatible with democratic rights. Even here, however, a situation may prevail like in South Africa where the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa delegates a large degree of content-regulatory authority to an industry-body which is recognised in statute, namely the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa (see Van Rooyen, 2005). For the Hans Bredow Institut/EMR (2006:35), this is a situation of “co-regulation”, meaning that it combines “non-state regulation and state regulation in such a way that a non-state regulatory system links up with state regulation”. However, the real debate over self-regulation usually pertains to the press where the ‘scarcity’ rationale for government regulation does not come into play. (although cyberspace and the blogosphere have also come under focus in recent years – See Berger, 2007).

Even in regard to the press, however, there is an issue of the meaning of self-regulation. This is in regard to the composition of a press council as an institutional form of self regulation. It is a tautology that self regulation should mean that that such a body needs to be made up either exclusively or predominantly of media people – such as journalists, media owners and publishers. For editorial independence to be respected, owners and publishers should not be the dominant parties. In many instances, membership also often includes representatives of professional media associations. Accordingly as Zlatev (2008) argues, if public officials are represented, their participation should be limited and defined in agreement with all other stakeholders. The same author states that representatives of the public play an important role in 80 per cent of press councils. In his view, this provides significant benefits as it gives the body greater credibility, secures

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