Minister in the Presidency, Jackson Mthembu, says government is committed to supporting media as a vehicle for nation building and public participation, and as a sector that is crucial to the enhancement of democracy.

Addressing the Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA) Community Media Sustainability Consultative conference virtually on Thursday, Mthembu said media diversity and the invaluable role of the media in ensuring access to information are the cornerstones of democracy.

“Diversity… is… a way in which new voices, new media sources, new language choices, diverse and representative content, in terms of class, race, gender and geographic spread, can be incorporated in the media environment, providing wider access and wider choice of media.

“The need for such diversity has increased in importance as, globally, media has become more concentrated, limiting access, expression of diverse views and opinions and choice of sources of news,” Mthembu said.

Held under the theme, ‘Building a resilient and future-forward community media sector’, the consultative conference is a pivotal milestone towards the development of a sustainability model for community media in South Africa.

Mthembu said community and small commercial media are critical in the battle of ideas, giving meaning and effect to freedom of expression and the celebration of media freedom.

“Besides its many other benefits, community and small commercial media’s overwhelmingly unique selling point is that it deals with issues not adequately addressed by mainstream commercial media,” the Minister said, adding that messaging such as the washing of hands, physical distancing and the wearing of masks, have found concrete expression in the sector during the COVID-19 outbreak.