The Print Media in South Africa: Paving the Way for 'Privatisation'

The print media in South Africa : paving the way for 'privatisation' / Anne Mayher & David A. Mcdonald

Review of African Political Economy, 2007, vol. 34, no. 113, p. 443-460

Since the end of apartheid, national and local governments in South Africa have been involved in the commercialization and marketization of a wide range of public services. This article examines the responses of the mainstream media to these neoliberal initiatives, looking specifically at English-language newspapers and their coverage of water, electricity and waste management services. It explores the extent to which the print media can be deemed to be in favor of privatization as well as the more subtle, discursive ways in which it covers these issues. It argues that these corporate media outlets in South Africa generate and perpetuate a neoliberal discourse on privatization, but that this dialogue is neither omnipotent nor monolithic. Nevertheless, it is exactly this façade of objectivity which gives neoliberalism its hegemony. By appearing to give equal space to different points of view there is a perception of balance in the press that obscures the more subtle, opinion-making discourses that generate neoliberal biases. The article concludes with a brief discussion of what might be done to counter this neoliberal authority.