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Language Equity and the Politics of Representation in South African Media Reform

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This paper examines how debates on language-equity and identity have helped to shape South African broadcasting reform in the 1990s. The broadcasting sector is of interest as an example of how patterns of institutional transformation give concrete form to constitutionally protected citizenship rights. The politics of language-equity in broadcasting reform has been shaped by conflicts over the legitimacy of who is represented, by what means, by whom, and for what purposes in processes of policy-deliberation and decision-making. The role of public agencies (including the South African Broadcasting Corporation and the Independent Broadcasting Authority), private capital, civil society organisations and the state in shaping the significance ascribed to language-equity in the transformation of radio and television services is considered in detail. I argue that entrenched patterns of socio-economic inequality, social relations of ownership and control, and the existing structures of markets for broadcasting services have all constrained attempts to deploy broadcasting as an instrument for fostering more equitable treatment of diverse languages in the public sphere.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2000

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