ADVERTISING groups including the Association for Communication and Advertising (ACA) and the Advertising Media Forum (AMF) were quizzed by the print and digital media transformation task team about claims that media planners ignore or exclude new and independent titles.

The task team continued its public hearings on Wednesday on issues of transformation and anticompetitive behaviour.

The oral hearings are taking place at the Joburg Theatre in Braamfontein.

Earlier this week Times Media announced it was withdrawing from this week’s hearings, joining Caxton.

Times Media said on Monday that the anticompetitive issue being dealt with by this week’s hearing was also the subject of an investigation by the Competition Commission.

The Competition Commission notified four major media groups — Times Media, Independent Newspapers, Media24 and Caxton — in December that it was investigating allegations of anticompetitive behaviour against them.

On Wednesday the task team sought clarity from advertisers about the allegations made by new entrants to the media sector that they were being overlooked by advertising agencies. Gordon Patterson speaking on behalf of AMF — whose members account for 95% of all media expenditure in South Africa — said new media entities didn’t always understand the contribution and the responsibility of a media agency.

"No client wants to invest in a title that’s unlikely to survive and unfortunately the media in South Africa has a high churn rate. Advertisers tend to be more risk adverse and the general level of competition is extreme. We can try convince our clients to invest in new titles but at the end of the day it is their decision who they want to advertise with," he said.

Dumile Mateza, who wants to launch an African language newspaper called Imvo, said the print and digital industry must address the lack of diversity of languages used.

"Print media is slacking — the industry believes in cutting costs and making profits. It is a rand-seeking media instead of a people-based media. There is a hunger for stories told in mother tongues that aren’t English or Afrikaans, but the industry doesn’t seem to care. For all print media’s preening, we are no closer to meeting diversity standards. Having black and white board members hardly makes for a diverse paper when the published work is in English or Afrikaans," he said.

The task team will continue the hearings on Thursday, where it will hear submissions from the government, the African National Congress, sector education and training authorities and the South African Audience Research Foundation.