Andrew Kuper on the South African Media

Question: What is your experience in the media industry?

 

Andrew Kuper: My mother and I started a firm called Kuper Research that looked at sociopolitical and media search and strategies. And it was particularly interesting post-apartheid because the media was not very good to serving low income and the majority of the Black population.

Much of the kudos goes to Jos Kuper who saw profound opportunity in the South-African landscape where there was a very large group of people who were not reading but could read, in other words they were alliterate and this is South Africa’s problem, alliteracy not illiteracy.

And we were told all sorts of things, like there’s no culture of reading in Black homes, we’re told this by Black and White people and all sorts of other dubious propositions but that were widely held and we challenged that conventional wisdom. People were consuming media, they were consuming radio, we believe that globally people will consume newspapers and print media, if it’s in a form that makes it interesting for them. Why should people from African be different from anywhere else?

So, a visionary entrepreneur called Deon du Plessis developed a newspaper called The Daily Sun and we helped design that newspaper and The Daily Sun started where the first half is all tabloid and the second half is all knowledge skilling, how are you going to learn from a land bank, what is the interest on your money, how you deal with HIV, key knowledge practical skills. People buy the newspaper for the tabloid and they come back to the newspaper and become repeat consumers because of the profound impact it has on their lives and their ability to control their lives.

Amazingly, this newspaper is now the largest newspaper in Sub-Saharan Africa, in 5 years, it has gone from 0 to 500 million daily readers and two million of those were not reading before. So it’s actually had a macro effect on literacy in the country and Deon du Plessis and Jos Kuper I wade in a few ways but Deon du Plessis and Jos Kuper really are the heroes of this stories, that it had a profound impact on a lot of people and I believe it can be replicated globally.

 

Question: Why must the media ‘speak softly’?

 

Andrew Kuper: After apartheid ended in South African, many people believed that the media who have been fundamentally been in favor of the NC because it lead the liberation struggle should give the new government a little bit of a break, should not be too aggressive towards the new government, give them a chance to prove themselves but of course, this runs profoundly countered to some other tenets of journalism which is whoever’s in power hold them accountable and do it extremely firmly and don’t pull your punches which is a fundamental aspect of a successful and vibrant democracy.

And so we looked at what the South-African population thought and what the appropriate mix was in terms of; or approach for journalists to take and we found that it was not the kind of trade off that was posed in general in the media and when people speak colloquially, that in fact, the South-African population was extremely keen to have their media aggressively investigating, exposing, talking about etc. but it needed to be framed in a more general approach of we believe that the new government must be given a chance.

We believe that there is a fundamental effort being made here by the government to create an entirely social structure and economic regimen that includes the majority of the population, the Black majority. So as long as it is imbedded in a more understanding frame, you could be as intense and aggressive as you like, this is profoundly important in the year of Obama, of course, many, many people want to see the new president succeed in a world where there is a recession, where there are intense financial and political and military and all sort of other challenges.

So people want to support, certainly no one wants to; well, very few people want to see the failure of these attempts, we’d rather they succeeded, nonetheless, no one is going to agree with all of them and many of us agree/disagree with a few and many more disagree with many of the policies.

Now, as long as it’s embedded in a framework of we want them to succeed in general and we believe in many of the same ultimate values and finding those commonalities, I’m all for very intensive contestation and I think the South-African population, I think this is true of the United States as well really favors it.

 

Recorded on: May 1, 2009

 

The president of LeapFrog Investments talks about the changing role of media throughout the world.

Develop mindfulness to boost your creative intelligence

Sharon Salzberg, world-renowned mindfulness leader, teaches meditation at Big Think Edge.

Image: Big Think
Big Think Edge
  • Try meditation for the first time with this guided lesson or, if you already practice, enjoy being guided by a world-renowned meditation expert.
  • Sharon Salzberg teaches mindfulness meditation for Big Think Edge.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Vikings unwittingly made their swords stronger by trying to imbue them with spirits

They didn't know it, but the rituals of Iron Age Scandinavians turned their iron into steel.

Shutterstock
Culture & Religion
  • Iron Age Scandinavians only had access to poor quality iron, which put them at a tactical disadvantage against their neighbors.
  • To strengthen their swords, smiths used the bones of their dead ancestors and animals, hoping to transfer the spirit into their blades.
  • They couldn't have known that in so doing, they actually were forging a rudimentary form of steel.
Keep reading Show less

For a long time, the West shaped the world. That time is over.

The 21st century is experiencing an Asianization of politics, business, and culture.

Videos
  • Our theories about the world, even about history or the geopolitics of the present, tend to be shaped by Anglo perspectives of the Western industrial democracies, particularly those in the United States and the United Kingdom.
  • The West, however, is not united. Canada, for instance, acts in many ways that are not in line with American or British policies, particularly in regard to populism. Even if it were united, though, it would not represent most of the world's population.
  • European ideas, such as parliamentary democracy and civil service, spread across the world in the 19th century. In the 20th century, American values such as entrepreneurialism went global. In the 21st century, however, what we're seeing now is an Asianization — an Asian confidence that they can determine their own political systems, their own models, and adapt to their own circumstances.
Keep reading Show less