The Need for Policy & Media Interventions
We often think of ‘Policy’ as a document that provides an overarching statement of principles and commitments, including Vision, Mission, Issues, Objectives, and intended Interventions set within the larger context of where the ‘sector’ or ‘sub-sector’ concerned is coming from, and where it intends to go.
This is a useful starting point, but in fact, Policy is an ongoing Process or Cycle that includes various stages, with policy formulation, leading to the adoption of a document or statement, being only part of the larger process. These stages include: i) problem identification; ii) agenda building; iii) policy formulation; iv) policy adoption; v) budgeting; vi) implementation; vii) policy evaluation; and viii) policy succession.
Modern practitioners of policy cycles believe that policy can lead to ‘social transformation, one which entails a shift towards the ownership and responsibility of the actors involved in the reforms and modernisation processes. This extends beyond documents or legislation and includes activities on the ground.’
Moreover, this process involves not just government, but other societal formations, especially in terms of culture which belongs to all of us. Some practitioners advocate that the policy cycle will only produce more optimal results with the participation of a diverse range of stakeholders who become members of policy networks created at all policy-cycle stages.
For our purposes here, such a policy network would include all relevant culture and education stakeholders including the Media, often called the Fourth Estate. As such, it is not only government which will be held accountable for policy implementation, but all of the relevant stakeholders.
Governments can facilitate this process greatly by putting various building blocks in place, such as legislation, or revised legislation, regulatory or implementing bodies, regulations, provision of finance, etc, but the sector’s stakeholders must also be involved in the formulation, implementation, and evaluation processes, while each plays out its own role according to its means.
A note of caution: Some practitioners speak of policy overload, which can be summarized as follows:
Policy overload happens when governments fall into the trap of developing plans that are too complex, too vague, and contain too many priorities. Policy overload results in (i) a lack of focus, (ii) fragmented priorities, and (iii) a sense of an endless stream of ad hoc initiatives.
Rather, the overall policy/objectives/ interventions ought to be actionable, reasonably clear, and enjoy widespread ownership. Finally, resources must be present, or a good probability should exist that these will become available, lest the policy grind to a halt, or limp from one stage to the next for lack of resources, not just finance, but also the requisite expertise to carry out the objectives, regardless of whether these resources are to be located within government, or institutions, or other sector stakeholders.
Policy is thus a cyclical process that requires a network of collaborators from among sector stakeholders to be involved at all stages of the process, formulating Policy Statements that are both aspirational as well as realistic in terms of objectives/interventions so that the government and these stakeholders will together take joint responsibility for the implementation of such policy statements.
A Call to Action: At present, the Ministry of Culture is in the process of finalising the revised Arts, Culture & Heritage Policy for Lesotho, thus providing an important opportunity to contribute towards the final formulation, as well as the implementation, of this policy.
The Policy & Media Workshop
A Policy and Media Workshop was held on 14 of November 2022 at LECSA Women's Hall in Maseru. Presentations were made by a number of expert resource persons so as to more fully conscientize participants regarding salient issues in the Educational, Arts, and Media sectors. Presentations were made by Traver Mudzonga (Ph.D. candidate University of Witwatersrand S.A), ‘Mabafokeng Seala (UNESCO National Commission, Maseru), Tokelo Mapena and Makhukhumala Kama (Department of Arts & Culture, and LESCOSAA), and Nthoesele Mohlomi, (National Curriculum Development Centre).
Media institutions and practitioners were also represented at the workshop, but their numbers were far fewer than expected.
Presentations were followed by Group Discussion where an effort was made to enumerate key priorities that should be tabled before the government and other stakeholders, priorities which if implemented would not only enhance the outcomes of this project with regard to indigenous musical instruments, but empower the sector in general.
The key Thematic Areas/Issues that featured in recommendations that flowed from the Discussion Groups were as follows:
Greater engagement between the arts, culture and creative sector with local media, and a nationally-agreed minimum threshold (e.g. 60%) of content to be implemented in the local media in terms of indigenous music, drama, film, fashion, poetry and other creative genres;
Actualisation of a formal mechanism to recognise prior learning in the arts / culture, and provision of greater opportunities in formal and non-formal education to pursue the arts, creativity and entrepreneurship;
Capacitation of sector members in the formulation of project proposals, budgeting, accounting skills, and monitoring and evaluation methodologies;
A regular calendar of events that is well publicised and funded in the Arts, Culture and Creative Sector, including competitions;
Provision of a national business incubation and start up financing facility for Cultural & Creative Industries (CCI), an open-source national statistical register relevant to CCI as well as a Quality Assurance Agency;
A legally-recognised Arts Council which, among others, will work closely with the Lesotho Revenue Service to provide tax rebates to companies that invest in the Arts, CCI, and related Educational initiatives, both formal and non-formal, including Research initiatives; and
A user-friendly, low cost and compliant digital payment system for the sale of goods and services whether outside or inside the Rand Monetary Area.
It was agreed that a Working Group be formed of participants in order to spearhead the process of formally channelling proposed recommendations to relevant authorities and communicating with other stakeholders and the media. A Policy Implementation Roadmap is being drafted for publication and hopefully for incorporation within the National Arts, Culture & Heritage Policy currently under review, but also to help guide other stakeholders as well. Policy, at the end of the day, will only be successfully formulated and implemented if it is done collectively.