A recent interview with Michael Markovitz on TechCentral is introduced with the statement: “You’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone in South Africa as passionate about public broadcasting as Michael Markovitz.” The interview looks at his five years as a director on the SABC board; these are described as eventful, which is perhaps an understatement, given the “capture” of the public broadcaster under former President Zuma and the abuse it received under past CEO Hlaudi Motsoeneng, during this time. Despite these blows, Markovitz still believes there is a strong case to be made for public broadcasting in South Africa, although the funding of such a service and how to avoid repeat disasters are up for discussion.
Markovitz has been a passionate voice for broadcast media since the 1980s. He was a member of the Technical Committee responsible for drafting the 1993 Independent Media Commission Bill and the Independent Broadcasting Authority Bill, both part of the package of laws negotiated and agreed to at the Multi-Party Negotiating Council to ensure a fair and smooth transition to democracy in South Africa. Markovitz has been a member of the Broadcast Commission, working with the Film and Allied Workers Organisation (FAWO) to establish an independent regulator for the broadcasting sector, and has acted as advisor to the chairperson of both the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) and the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA). He served as executive chairman of Primedia Digital for almost a decade.
In August 2021, he was appointed to head the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) Media Leadership Think Tank, an independent research and advocacy platform dealing with the pressing issues facing the media and audiovisual industries and how these impact democracy. The Think Tank, based at the University of Pretoria, aims to support democracy, generating research and solutions applicable to business, civil society, and government policy. GIBS engages with experts in the media and audio-visual spaces from across Africa, with the aim to promote “a more ethical understanding of audiences in the increasingly fragmented, multichannel and data-driven world.” Markovitz will be heading the drive to create new innovative and creative media education and training programmes, working in a media landscape within a constantly changing context and within a fast-moving, skill-heavy environment.
In addition to his regulatory and commercial experience, Markovitz has a real-world understanding of building new businesses. Putting his money where his mouth is, he has taken investment stakes in emerging infrastructure and digital media businesses in South Africa. His all-in attitude and his dedication to media has resulted in his being awarded a JMS50 Alumni Award from the Department of Journalism and Media Studies at Rhodes University. The citation for the award states that it has been given to Markovitz to recognise his three decades of contribution to fair, independent broadcasting and advocacy on issues facing the media and audiovisual industries.