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The struggle for press self-regulation in contemporary South Africa: charting a - page 9 / 51

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self-regulation, however, has been the failure of members to take responsibility and to abide by the system, which failure in turn has strengthened those who wish to provide the regulatory body concerned with statutory “teeth”. In a sense, failure of non-statutory self regulation paves the way for statutory self-regulation and creates the further potential then for statutory governmental regulation. One of the most common causes of failure of non-statutory self regulation is disregard by editors of the system. Referring to the British Press Complaints Commission in regard to that body’s shortcomings, Robertson (2002) has written: “It has designed an ethical code which it declines to monitor, and its decisions are accorded a degree of cynicism, bordering of contempt, by editors." (See also Gore, 2008).

Following on this theme, it has been argued by Hadland (2007) that what makes a non-statutory self-regulatory system credible and sustainable are three factors:

- the independence of the council from particular vested interests that could colour its judgements,

- the respect that member media of that council give to the judgements.

- public awareness of the system and how to use it (this is closely linked to how much the member media publicise it in general, and its rulings).

The logic behind identifying these three factors should be self-evident after what has been written above, and will not be elaborated here. Instead, emphasis will be put on assessing the South Africa press system in relation to this schema.

3. Self Regulation in South Africa

Tetteyi (2006) notes that the concept of media accountability in Africa is contested, which has led partly to African media having a chequered record regarding media accountability. This indeed is evident in regard to the debate around a proposal (http://media-dev.org) in 2008 to introduce a pan-African “media observatory” in which a government-dominated structure would mediate conflicts around media across the entire continent.  For its part, South African press history has also been one in which there

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