Is our media (still) racist?

Herman Wasserman


The question requires more than a yes or no answer. If racism exists, it is certainly not for a lack of attempts to rid the media from the shackles of its history under apartheid. Since democracy arrived in South Africa, the media industry has undergone some wide-ranging changes. On the level of ownership and editorial changes, the industry has seen ownership of large media houses pass to black consortia and the appointment of black editors and journalists to previously white-dominated media institutions. On the level of professionalism, the system of self-regulation entered into has attempted to ensure that media content is rid of racist stereotyping. The Press Ombudsman’s code cautions the media to “avoid discriminatory or denigrator references to people's race, colour, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation or preference, physical or mental disability or illness, or age”, unless it “is strictly relevant to the matter reported or adds significantly to readers' understanding of that matter”. It also warns against hate speech, as does the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa’s code, based on the values enshrined in the Constitution.
So do we still need to think about racism in the South African media?

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