News24

Zuma worries about SABC

2009-06-28 13:22

Johannesburg - The current state of the SABC is cause for concern, President Jacob Zuma said in a speech released on Sunday.

"We are deeply concerned about the public broadcaster," Zuma said on Saturday night at a media awards ceremony in Durban.

He was "encouraged" that Parliament was comprehensively addressing the problems at the SABC.

"We will play our role and will act quickly when called upon to do so, to take the process forward, once Parliament concludes its processes."

On Friday, the portfolio committee on communications took a unanimous decision to dissolve the SABC's board.

Not government's mouthpiece

This came in the wake of the national broadcaster posting a financial loss of R839 million for the 2008/09 financial year and reports of financial mismanagement.

Except for one member, the entire board of the SABC had stepped down.

The National Assembly would have to pass the committee's recommendations before handing them to Zuma for his approval. Parliament would then be able to select an interim board for the broadcaster.

Zuma said the "sizeable group" of journalists who continued to work with "diligence and integrity" at the SABC needed to be acknowledged.

"We commend them for doing everything they can to keep South African citizens informed, under difficult professional conditions."

Zuma said the SABC must serve the interests of the public.

"We must emphasise that the public broadcaster is not, and should not be, the mouthpiece of government."

Zuma also said the media needed to transform further.

Transformation

"A lot has been achieved in the last 15 years in changing the composition of newsrooms for example. But there is clearly more that needs to be done."

He said the decision to resurrect the Black Journalists' Forum in 2008 had "angered some"

Nevertheless, he said, it probably suggested the media still needed to grapple with transformation.

"The media is one institution that is extremely sensitive to criticism, perhaps because practitioners spend their lives criticising other people."

The representation of women was also an area of concern.

"We must address gender transformation in both staffing, management, as well as in the portrayal of women in the media."

Zuma said the country needed more than just a free media.

"We want and need a quality media."

With the national elections and Confederations Cup the country was going through an "exciting period".

Zuma said the country was in good hands with the new Cabinet and provincial political leadership.

"You can sleep soundly at night, I assure you."

SAPA