Mass media ownership in South Africa is highly concentrated and is owned by fewer and fewer corporations and/or individuals through buying shares and mergers. Four main media companies dominate mass communication and a few independent media houses such as the Mail & Guardian, owned by Given Mkhari, is the exception. Media is mostly owned by Naspers, Independent Media, Primedia and Tiso Blackstar Group which owns all the major newspapers in the country. The Caxton Group owns most of the local news print media within urban areas. Most of these corporations also dominate the publishing industry in South Africa, and Naspers controls the lion’s share.
Since newspapers play an important role in terms of informing citizens about key events, media concentration is unhealthy and often leads to corruption like price fixing and biased reporting, or a few shareholders determining public opinion.
The importance of diversity and competition within the media recently became evident in South Africa in the manner in which ‘state capture’ was reported and debated. There was a clear contest between the then Oakbay Investments owned media ANN7 television and New Age (newspaper) and the TV broadcast eNCA.
Where media monopoly persists, journalism is at risk of serving private or corporate interests instead of communities and common good. This means that there is a significant lack of independent voices within the media. The majority of shareholders and editors are male, with few women to speak of, even within the more independent newspapers. Demographically, information in print media is concentrated in white male hands, with Africans – mostly male – coming in later, followed by so-called Indians and Coloureds.