The Windhoek Charter on Broadcasting in Africa

By  on March 08, 2005

Acknowledging the enduring relevance and importance of the Windhoek Declaration to the protection and promotion of freedom of expression and of the media;

Noting that freedom of expression includes the right to communicate and access to means of communication;

Mindful of the fact that the Windhoek Declaration focuses on the print media and recalling Paragraph 17 of the Windhoek Declaration, which recommended that a similar seminar be convened to address the need for independence and pluralism in radio and television broadcasting;

Recognizing that the political, economic and technological environment in which the Windhoek Declaration was adopted has changed significantly and that there is a need to complement and expand upon the original Declaration;

Aware of the existence of serious barriers to free, independent and pluralistic broadcasting and to the right to communicate through broadcasting in Africa;

Cognizant of the fact that for the vast majority of the peoples of Africa, the broadcast media remains the main source of public communication and information;

Recalling the fact that the frequency spectrum is a public resource which must be managed in the public interest;

On the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the Windhoek Declaration on Promoting an Independent and Pluralistic African Press, we the participants of the Windhoek Conference: Ten Years On: Assessment, Challenges and Prospects (3-5 May 2001) declare that:

General regulatory issues

  • 1. The legal framework for broadcasting should include a clear statement of the principles underpinning broadcast regulation, including promoting respect for freedom of expression, diversity, the free flow of information and ideas, as well as a three-tier system for broadcasting: public service, commercial and community.
  • 2.
  • 3. All formal powers in the areas of broadcast and telecommunications regulation should be exercised by public authorities which are protected against interference, particularly of a political or economic nature, by, among other things, an appointments process for members which is open, transparent, involves the participation of civil society and is not controlled by any particular political party.
  • 4.
  • 5. Decision-making processes about the overall allocation of the frequency spectrum should be open and participatory, and ensure that a fair proportion of the spectrum is allocated to broadcasting uses.
  • 6.
  • 7. The frequencies allocated to broadcasting should be divided equitably among the three tiers of broadcasting.
  • 8.
  • 9. Licensing processes for the allocation of specific frequencies to individual broadcasters should be fair and transparent, and based on clear criteria, which include promoting media diversity in ownership and content.
  • 10.
  • 11. Broadcasters should be required to promote and develop local content, which should be defined to include African content, including through the introduction of minimum quotas.
  • 12.
  • 13. States should promote an economic environment that facilitates the development of independent production and broadcasting.
  • 14.
  • 15. The development of appropriate technology for the reception of broadcasting signals should be promoted.
  • 16.
  • Public service broadcasting

  • 17. All State and government controlled broadcasters should be transformed into public service broadcasters, that are accountable to all strata of the people as represented by an independent board, and that serve the overall public interest, avoiding one-sided reporting and programming in regard to religion, political belief, culture, race and gender.
  • 18.
  • 19. Public service broadcasters should, like broadcasting and telecommunications regulators, be governed by bodies that are protected against interference.
  • 20.
  • 21. The public service mandate of public service broadcasters should clearly defined.
  • 22.
  • 23. The editorial independence of public service broadcasters should be guaranteed.
  • 24.
  • 25. Public service broadcasters should be adequately funded in a manner that protects them from arbitrary interference with their budgets.
  • 26.
  • 27. Without detracting from editorial control over news and current affairs content and in order to promote the development of independent productions whilst enhancing diversity of programming, the public service broadcasters should be required to broadcast minimum quotas of productions by independent producers.
  • 28.
  • 29. The transmission infrastructure used by public service broadcasters should be made accessible to all broadcasters under reasonable and non-discriminatory terms.
  • 30.
  • Community broadcasting

  • 31. Community broadcasting is broadcasting which is for, by and about the community, and whose ownership and management is representative of the community, which pursues a social development agenda, and which is non-profit.
  • 32.
  • 33. There should be a clear recognition, including by the international community, of the difference between decentralized public broadcasting and community broadcasting.
  • 34.
  • 35. All community broadcasters should be enabled to have access to the Internet and to use it in the interest of their respective communities.
  • 36.
  • Telecommunications and convergence

  • 37. The right to communicate includes access to telephones, email, Internet and other telecommunications systems, including the promotion of community-controlled ICT centers.
  • 38.
  • 39. Telecommunications law and policy should promote the goal of universal service and access, including access clauses in privatization and liberalization processes, and proactive measures by the State.
  • 40.
  • 41. The international community and African governments should mobilize resources for the funding of research to keep abreast of the rapidly changing media landscape in Africa.
  • 42.
  • 43. African governments should promote the development of online media and African content, through the formulation of non-restrictive policies in new information and communications technologies (NICTs)
  • 44.
  • 45. To promote access to and disseminate global information, training of media practitioners in electronic communication, research and publishing skills needs to be developed and expanded.
  • 46.
  • Recommendations

  • 1. UNESCO to distribute the Windhoek Charter on Broadcasting in Africa as broadly as possible to all stakeholders and the public in general in Africa and worldwide.
  • 2.
  • 3. Media organizations in Africa to use the Charter as their starting point in the development of national and regional broadcasting policies and as a tool for lobbying processes. To this end media organizations in cooperation with civil society groups should initiate public awareness campaigns in their respective countries to form NG0 coalitions on broadcasting reform, formulate broadcasting policies and organize appropriate lobbying processes towards state structures.
  • 4.
  • 5. Media organizations in regions and/or continent-wide should develop specific models for regulatory bodies and public service broadcasting following the principles of the Charter which should serve as a starting point for national debate.
  • 6.
  • 7. In all these debates recognition should be given to the needs of the commercial broadcasting sector.
  • 8.
  • 9. Given the fast developments in the broadcasting field the Charter should undergo an audit every five years.
  • 10.
  • 11. UNESCO is asked to make member governments aware of the need that the World Trade Organization should give a special status to broadcast productions recognizing them as cultural goods.
  • 12.
  • 13. UNESCO should make sure that the theme of media, communications and development is given appropriate space during the UN Summit on Social Communication 2003.
  • 14.
  • 15.

March 08, 2005
Categories:  Media Development

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