n Communicatio : South African Journal of Communication Theory and Research - Towards linking normative theory, communication policy and audiences in South African communication research : communication, cultural and media studies

Volume 31, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0250-0167


In this article the need to revisit South African normative media theory and communication policy against the background of fundamental audience research is emphasised. This is done in view of the postmodernist argument that 'classic' normative media theory is no longer suitable as a yardstick for the measurement of media performance, quality and ethics in postmodern societies, and in a changing media landscape. Bearing in mind that South Africa cannot be fully characterised as a postmodernist and advanced capitalist society, but based on the nature of its First World media system functioning in a multi-cultural, multi-racial, multi-ethnic and multi-linguistic society, the tendency to see <I>ubuntuism</I> as a point of departure for such revision is questioned. This is done in favour of an approach in which <I>difference</I> and <I>diversity</I> are acknowledged, including the different roles the media can play and the different forms in which it can (and do) contribute to social responsibility. As far as policy research is concerned, it is emphasised that such research should be based on normative theory about the role of the media in South African society. If not, South African communication policy will continue to be fragmented and responsive to mainly technological developments and opportunities, instead of being based on communicative goals and needs. This article concludes by emphasising that both normative theory and policy should be based on fundamental audience research, which is argued to be neglected in South African communication research.

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