Supporting democracy through research and solutions for the media and audiovisual sectors in Africa.
The GIBS Media Leadership Think Tank was launched in 2021 to:
- be an independent, thought leadership and advocacy platform for stakeholders in the African news media and audiovisual content industries;
- generate innovative research and policy solutions for government, industry and civil society in support of democracy; and
- primarily focus research and policy initiatives on media sustainability, mis/disinformation, internet freedom and competition in the digital economy.
The establishment of a Think Tank on the media is part of GIBS’ commitment to sustainable development goals and human rights. GIBS Dean Dr Morris Mthombeni: “GIBS is a proud UN PRME Champion School and we actively use our considerable convening capital to advance the fourth estate by enabling a world with responsible information – both online and offline. The Media Leadership Think Tank is an important initiative in the fulfilment of our commitments to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16 (specifically target 10) – ensuring public access to information and protection of fundamental freedom”.
Big Tech and Journalism: Principles for Fair Compensation
The pandemic’s economic impact on public interest media as well as the rise of digital authoritarianism around the world brought the link between media sustainability and democracy into sharp focus. This impact was more acutely felt in the Global South and motivated the Think Tank’s decision to organise and convene an in-person conference in July 2023 on
Big Tech and Journalism – Building a Sustainable Future for the Global South. The conference brought together over 70 participants at GIBS in Johannesburg, including journalists, news publishers, media organisations, scholars, activists, lawyers and economists from 24 countries to discuss solutions to the crisis of the sustainability of journalism and its intersection with the role of major tech platforms. The Johannesburg conference featured panel discussions focusing on South Africa, Australia, Latin America, Asia, and Africa, as well as a series of keynotes by distinguished speakers.
In a development that received global media and academic attention, the conference culminated in the adoption of ‘Big Tech and Journalism - Principles for Fair Compensation’ (“the Principles”).
The Principles are intended to be universal, serving as a framework for any country seeking to address media sustainability through competition or regulatory mechanisms, while enabling adaptation to unique contexts. The principles have been endorsed by 101 individuals and organisations from 28 countries.
Participants in the “Big Tech and Journalism: Building Sustainability in the Global South” conference on 13 July 2023 in Johannesburg.
- The Principles are being used as an advocacy document across Africa to assist in lobbying for new mechanisms to address media sustainability through fair compensation by Big Tech platforms.
- Working with a broad range of organisations, the Think Tank made a joint submission In November 2023 to the South African Competition Commission’s market inquiry on Media and Digital Platforms.
- The GIBS Media Leadership Think Tank is now
a member of the Global Forum for Media Development and continues to build alliances and networks with other Think Tanks and media organisations, primarily across the Global South.
- Current research activities include research on public media sustainability and further research on the July 2023 conference outcomes.
- The Think Tank is engaged in critical dialogues with journalism and media studies professionals and academics as well as subject specialists in economics, business, finance, law and technology.
The Think Tank’s founding head, Michael Markovitz, is an adjunct faculty member of GIBS and regarded as one of South Africa’s leading experts on media and tech policy. In 2022 Michael was recognised by Rhodes University's Journalism and Media Studies School as one of their top 50 alumni in the school’s first 50 years. Michael has served in various roles in the public and private sectors, including as special adviser to the chairperson of the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) and as a senior executive at Primedia for eight years where he headed up the media group’s digital businesses. In October 2022 Michael completed a five-year term on the board of the public broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC).