Experimenting with Institutional Arrangements for Communications Policy and Regulation: The Case of Telecommunications and Broadcasting in South Africa
LINK Centre, University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), Johannesburg
This paper examines the shifting institutional arrangements in South Africa’s telecommunications and broadcasting sectors as it seeks to deal with national transformation at the same time as the relentless economic and technical changes to the sector being driven at a global level. These include the convergence of traditionally distinct forms of communication resulting from the digitalisation of technologies and the privatisation and liberalisation of traditional monopoly services. The author locates the changing institutional arrangements in this sector in the context of the struggle by government to transform decision-making and institutional arrangements. The tensions inherent in this process are not clear-cut, consistent or even clearly visible but impact in complex and cross-cutting ways on the policy framework and arising institutional arrangements. The paper then periodises institutional arrangements in the broadcasting and telecommunications sectors into four overlapping phases: the pre-transition phase up to 1993; the reform phase up to 1997; the implementation phase which begins in 1994 in broadcasting and 1997 in telecommunications and the review phase which begins with broadcasting in 1998 and in telecommunications in 2001. Although the institutional flux has often been attributed to forward looking policy it is argued that the perpetual reorganisation of the sector also reflects large scale institutional failure. It is argued however that this cannot be placed solely at the door of the various new regulatory institutions. Perhaps one of the most critical factors to undermine the various regulatory institutions has been the lack of resources. The lack of skilled human capital has allowed all three regulators to be out-regulated by the industry and the lack of financial capital has rendered them in effectual both in defending their actions and fulfilling their mandate. The dearth of these have taken their toll on the ability of the regulator to be credible and one can only conclude reflects the covert desire of the industry and state for them not to be entirely effectual. Finally, the paper argues that until there is an integrated and holistic national information and communication policy, driven from the Presidents Office, various policy proposals impacting on ICT development in the country emanating from different portfolios will continue to be contradictory, inconsistent and ultimately damaging to the vision of South Africa as a regional ICT hub and a major contributor to the African Renaissance.
Gillwald, A. (2001). Experimenting with institutional arrangements for communications policy and regulation: The case of telecommunications and broadcasting in South Africa. The Southern African Journal of Information and Communication (SAJIC), 2. https://doi.org/10.23962/10539/19836