South African media in transition | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 1, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 2040-199X
  • E-ISSN: 1751-7974


The development of the South African media since 1990 is one instance of a more general process of democratization observable in many parts of the world during the same period. The theory of elite continuity in such political changes is presented and tested against the evidence. While the mass movement in the final years of the Apartheid regime influenced early debates about broadcasting, subsequent developments have made SABC more and more a prisoner of the economic realities of the new South Africa, where white economic power remains largely intact. In the press, ownership has mostly been transferred to Black Economic Empowerment enterprises, who have also gained from new commercial broadcasting licences. As divisions have opened in the ANC, so there have been increasing signs of the politicization of SABC. The evidence fits the theory of elite continuity, but the South African situation necessitates modification to fit this reality better. The importance of elite renewal is very clear in this case: political power has shifted completely to a new governing elite. Secondly, the fact that the apartheid regimes faced protracted mass opposition means that there are still traces of potentially radical changes to the media, for example in community media.


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