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Journal cover: info


ISSN: 1463-6697

Online from: 1999

Subject Area: Industry and Public Sector Management

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Convergence and regulation in South Africa: in search of a new public interest paradigm

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Title:Convergence and regulation in South Africa: in search of a new public interest paradigm
Author(s):Indra de Lanerolle, (South African Network Society Survey, Media Observatory, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa)
Citation:Indra de Lanerolle, (2011) "Convergence and regulation in South Africa: in search of a new public interest paradigm", info, Vol. 13 Iss: 3, pp.47 - 63
Keywords:Developing countries, Economic convergence, Mass media, Regulation, South Africa, Telecommunications
Article type:Conceptual paper
DOI:10.1108/14636691111131448 (Permanent URL)
Publisher:Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Acknowledgements:The author would like to thank Khaled Fourati and Andrew Rens for their comments on a previous draft of this paper that was first presented at the Communications Policy Research Africa Conference in Cape Town in April 2010. The author would also like to thank Allison Gillwald for her guidance in framing the initial research question.

PurposeThe paper aims to identify issues in broadcasting and telecommunications regulation and law arising from technological convergence and to suggest a new framework for an integrated approach to policy and regulation.

Design/methodology/approachA set of South African laws, regulations, bills and policy papers is reviewed to establish to what extent they promote, or at least adapt to, technological convergence using three tests: technological neutrality, integration of policy processes and a “level playing field” for competition.

FindingsIt is suggested that current law and regulation fails to meet the South African Government's stated aim of promoting convergence. It is suggested that a reason for this may be the difference in the public interest “rationales” for broadcasting and telecommunications regulation, with the former being largely social and political and the latter largely economic. A new paradigm based on the constitutional principle of freedom of expression is suggested as providing a means of establishing a neutral public interest framework for developing and adapting regulation under conditions of technological convergence.

Research limitations/implicationsThe research methodology is qualitative. Further research on the economic, social and political welfare costs of regulatory failures to adapt to convergence may be helpful in informing policy, legal and regulatory debates in the future.

Originality/valueThis paper suggests a new rights-based means of direct comparison of public interest costs and benefits across broadcasting and telecommunications using a principle that is present in the South African constitution as well as in international law.

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