The Media Policy and Democracy Project (MPDP), which was launched in 2012, is an inter-university collaborative research project between the Department of Communication Science at University of South Africa (UNISA), and the Department of Journalism, Film and Television at the University of Johannesburg (UJ). It aims to promote participatory media and communications policy-making in the public interest.
Since its launch the MPDP has collaborated with academics and researchers from various institutions throughout South Africa and the world, including the University of Queensland (Australia), Jamia Millia University (India), the University of Leuven (Belgium), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (South Africa), the University of Cape Town (South Africa), and Rhodes University (South Africa).
The MPDP has also collaborated with civil society organisations which have a specific focus on media and communications policy-making, and which have a central concern for the public interest and a ground-up audience based approach to research and policy interventions, such as the SOS - Support Public Broadcasting Coalition, Privacy International, and the Right2Know Campaign. The MPDP has engaged with national media policy-makers such as the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Communications, the Press Council of South Africa, the Press Freedom Commission, the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), the Print and Digital Media Transformation Task Team, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa), the Government Communication and Information Service (GCIS) and others.
At the heart of this research project are two elements. First, a main aim of the project is to provide unique opportunities for young and junior researchers and academics, particularly women, to benefit from involvement in the project with regard to the advancement of their professional academic careers and thereby encourage the growth of the media and communications academic community of South Africa more broadly.
Second, another main aim of the project involves community participation whereby the findings produced will be presented in forums of public engagement, including the South African parliament, so as to positively inform various processes of communications and media policy making in our country and therefore serve to benefit the South African citizenry. The findings also inform advocacy and activism efforts and campaigns, regarding communications and media rights.
Each of the three main focus areas of the Media Policy and Democracy Project are lead by a senior researcher. They are:
Focus area 1: Internet freedom, privacy online, and communications surveillance Prof Jane Duncan (University of Johannesburg)
Professor Jane Duncan, now based at UJ, formerly the Highway Africa Chair of Media and the Information Society, School of Journalism and Media Studies at Rhodes University. Before joining Rhodes, she worked at the Freedom of Expression Institute, and was its executive director from 2001 to 2009. She has also worked at the Afrika Cultural Centre in Newtown and the Funda Centre in Soweto. She has three post-graduate degrees, including a PhD from the Wits School of the Arts, and has published widely on media policy and freedom of expression issues. Contact her at email@example.com She tweets at @duncanjane
Focus area 2: Media transformation and diversity Dr Julie Reid (UNISA)
Dr Julie Reid is based at the Department of Communication Science at the University of South Africa (UNISA) and specialises in media studies. Her research interests include the topics of media and communications policy and regulation, and particularly press freedom and media accountability. Julie is an activist for media and press freedom, a working member of the Right2Know Campaign and sits on the Media Freedom and Diversity sub-committee of the Right2Know Campaign. She is a former President of the South African Communications Association (SACOMM). She is the editor of the book Looking at media: an introduction to visual studies (Pearson, 2013). She tweets @jbjreid. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Focus area 3: Communications policy and the public interest Prof Viola Milton (UNISA)
Prof Viola C Milton is an associate professor in the Department of Communication Science at the University of South Africa. She completed her PhD in 2005 and is currently engaged in a research project, entitled: “The televised public sphere: Afrikaans television and identity formation”. This project explores the politics of identity in post-apartheid (Afrikaans) television. Contact her at email@example.com
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