THE Cape Times is gambling that enough people in this country suffer from collective amnesia – that readers will forget what happened last week, or the week before that, and even last year and the year before. They are waging a bet that a small judgement against them means nothing. The Independent Group can afford to lose every now and then, or so the thinking goes, because it all amounts to nothing.
The cost of a small claim is so minuscule and the fall-out so minute that not paying attention is no big deal. Well, it should be. Not only do we need legislation combating media cartels and cross-ownership of media in this country, but we also need a corporate watchdog, that has the teeth necessary to fine newspapers who rip-off journalists, who rob poor writers blind, in broad daylight one should add, and who end-up suppressing not only their views but the facts behind their views.
It is not enough to have an industry-appointed ombudsman, staffed by the same people who dish out bias in the news. It is not enough to have toothless trade unions like the Media Workers Association, or one or two departments of journalism indebted to big corporate donors for their finances. What we need is press freedom built upon something a lot more stable than large corporations.
A thriving testimony then to small publications: web-logs such as this one, self-made periodicals, microzines, student sheets, political rags, photocopied samizdat, xeroxed manifestos, open soapbox rants, and literature from the gutter. You can make a difference by breaking this story. Take this page (and others) out of the electronic realm. Press scan, print and publish and vote for a vibrant alternative press that is able to advocate and express non-mainstream views. Create a counter-dialogue to the mainstream debate that involves nothing more than the same old voices — one-sided conversations that invariably traverse the same politically-correct contours without taking into account difference, uniqueness, eccentricity, idiosyncrasy and minority opinion.