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Why the 90% local content policy is bad

I hate to be the naysayer but I think the 90% rule has a negative effect on our South African music industry. Theoretically, implementing a backdoor protectionist quota on international music should boost the local industry - it forces radio playlist managers to prioritise local content, increasing local revenue which ultimately improves the quality of locally made music. But the reality is more complicated. History shows that some form of protectionism can be beneficial to developing countries, but for the most part the benefits of state intervention decline as economies develop. In fact, most governments worldwide have realised that raising barriers ultimately harms domestic industries in the long term. As with every Local Content Requirement (LCR) policy, there are varying degrees of implementation; 90% is dangerously high and reflects poor use of a state resource. It also sets a dangerous precedent, a slippery slope; LCRs pave the way for excessive regulation of other areas of the music industry such as streaming services. If a regulatory body decides it does not approve users’ streaming of content, it may decide to extend their policies to include streaming services such as Apple Music.

One of the first aspects to consider with extreme quotas is isolation, which can directly compromise our standards. The current 90% rule means that only 1 out of 10 songs played on the radio are from international charts. So in reality, we as consumers are not comparing local music to the rest of the world anymore, we're no longer holding our local music to an international standard. We're essentially creating an island out of the South African music industry. Although a generalisation, I think it's safe to say South Africa lags behind the rest of the world in terms of production and songwriting. We seriously lack good producers in this country. This is possibly the most overlooked part of our industry, yet arguably the most relevant in today's music. A whopping 90% rule could exacerbate, not solve, the problem.

If the SABC is serious about helping the local industry, it should rather be looking at ways to promote South African music abroad and play a central role in opening doors into overseas markets, assisting labels and artists to develop their business and find international revenue. We need to find a niche in the music industry, develop it and market it to the rest of the world. The SABC should also re-examine its role in opening up facilities and production training resources in the industry- lack of access to these facilities is severely hampering development and growth.

As mentioned by Gareth van Zyl (; value for money supersedes patriotism. Consumers will instinctively try to find best value for money, despite imposed restrictions and quotas. International stars such as Rihanna will outsell local artists. Why? Because Americans are better at music. Instead of feeling threatened and taking reflexive action, we need to find ways to collaborate and compete.

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