Communications Authority rejects an offer by MTN and Vodacom to lower interconnection rates

Date: October 9, 2010
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Name of Article: Communications Authority rejects an offer by MTN and Vodacom to lower interconnection rates by 19%.
Name of Publication: ETV
Date: 28 October 2009
Country: South Africa
Theme: Business/ICTs
Skills: Perception/Sources
Genre: News
GEM Classification: Gender Blind

The story is about ICASA rejecting an offer by cell phone providers such as MTN and Vodacom to reduce their intercommunication rates by 19%. The government, through ICASA, demanded a higher cut.


The headline is not fair as it leaves out Cell C giving an impression that the company is not involved.

An official source is used, accompanied by background information. Yet it misses views from the NGO sector. Comparative analysis between countries is another area of missed opportunity. The story does not explore or assess the role of service providers like MTN and Vodacom on affordable communication products.

ICASA should have been probed further around what consumers can do to ensure they are not ripped off. Views of business groups should also have been sought. The lowering of inter-connection tariffs has a positive impact on businesses, particularly small businesses and informal businesses, which are often run by women.

The story uses terms like “critics” and “cell phone giants” that appear to be neutral and inclusive but hide important gender differences and biases. As the story develops, the “critics” are in fact men who give official comment on the story. Women are passive in the whole story. The “cell phone giants” is judgmental as it refers to MTN and Vodacom, leaving out Cell C.

Visual images
There is an image of a woman holding a cell phone but it does not saying anything. Another image is of a male source commenting on the development. The third image is that of people in a business meeting but the camera focuses on the men. These images reinforce the stereotype that only men speak authoritatively about business issues. The images are gender blind as they show women as passive as the cell phone handsets that are shown in the clip. They stereotype women as passive consumers.

Story angle and perspective
The story ignores the advantages of being digitally connected in a developing world. It fails to address the notion of access to previously marginalised communities. Reduced rates spell increased access. Especially for previously disadvantaged groups such as women, children and other vulnerable groups.

Access to cheap interconnectivity can bridge the historical divide, make the difference between life and death; lead to economic growth, social development and open space for the development of an informed citizenry. The story does not develop this angle.

Placement or positioning
The story is not a leading one. Its importance could have been enhanced to analyse an issue that daily impacts people, not only in South Africa but world-wide.



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