Government Task Force to Combat Racism in South African Advertising

12 November 2001

A two-day hearing into accusations of racism in the nation’s advertising and media industries by a committee of the South African parliament [WAMN: 09-Nov-01], culminated in a decision to form a remedial task force.

Operating under the aegis of the government’s communications department, the task force will be answerable to a public enquiry to be held in twelve months. However, at the conclusion of the hearings, committee chairman Nkenke Kekana said that there was no governmental intent to legislate against racism.

Agency media planning was the target of particularly harsh criticism for its allegedly racist approach both to the placement of ads and its failure empower blacks within its ranks.

Typical media planners were portrayed as “twenty-two year-old white girls who live in Sandton (a leafy predominantly white suburb of Johannesburg) and watch Ally McBeal”. They selected white-oriented media in preference to its black counterpart because “they only understand the white media”.

Giving evidence to the committee, the Media Directors’ Circle submitted figures to support its contention that there are now very few media with exclusively black or white audiences: 69% of the audience reached through TV advertising is black, as are 65% of listeners to the ten largest radio stations.

While this could imply that whites – just twelve per cent of South Africa’s population – receive a disproportionately large share of adspend, the MDC pointed out that white consumers account for 47% of disposable income. On the basis of their spending power it could be argued they are under-targeted by advertising.

Observers were surprised at the lack of emphasis during the hearings on the issue of how races are depicted in advertising.

News source: AdAge Global