Media too mainstream - Harber

Johannesburg - Diversity in newsroom demographics, management and ownership is greater than 20 years ago, but there is a lack of diversity in content, professor Anton Harber said on Thursday.

"Before 1994, even under censorship, we had a left wing alternative media, a rightwing alternative media, [and an] active trade union media," the University of Witwaterand journalism professor said at media diversity round table discussion in Johannesburg.

"Today our media is overwhelmingly located in the centre of our politics and economics."

Harber said media diversity was critical in post-apartheid South Africa to correct the distortions and imbalances that were inherited from the past.

He said newsrooms, management and ownership demographics could be measured, but the real test was in content and audience.

Harber said protests in the country was as a result of people feeling like they were marginalised, were excluded from the national debate and that their needs and demands were not being heard.

"Behind the Marikana tragedy is the fact that we did not really hear those voices or understand what was happening in the build-up to August 2012," he said.

"This is what happens when media is insufficiently diverse."

Forty-four people died during strike-related violence at Lonmin's platinum mining operations at Marikana, near Rustenburg, in August 2012.

Thirty-four people, mostly striking mineworkers, were shot dead in a clash with police, over 70 were wounded, and another 250 arrested on 16 August 2012. Police were apparently trying to disarm and disperse them.

In the preceding week, 10 people, including two policemen and two security guards, were killed.