Here lies the SABC #RIP

2014-04-20 15:00

We think it’s safe to declare an independent public broadcaster dead and buried. This week, the SABC was forced into a humiliating

U-turn. It abandoned the censorship of a DA advertisement to fend off what looked likely to be a humiliating finding by the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa).

Strict rules govern the broadcast of party political advertising at the SABC – and the acting chief operating officer, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, rode roughshod over every single one of those to continue his censorious path.

The man, who behaves as if he is God of the SABC and not an operations functionary, has also told journalists not to cover protests, to zoom tight over opposition party rallies (so as not to show crowd shots) and to exclude coverage of parties with small support.

His chairperson, Ellen Tshabalala, has warned journalists they are being spied upon by national security agents and reportedly interfered directly with coverage.

You have to wonder if the SABC board members read the articles of incorporation of the public broadcaster.

None of this behaviour is allowed, either by the word or the spirit of the law.

That is why we declare the SABC dead and buried. May its potential as a leading continental broadcaster rest in peace. For it is in pieces.

The SABC has wonderful talents – actors, journalists, programme makers and sports broadcasters.

It is a hotbed of Mzansi’s finest creativity, and it has millions of viewers and listeners.

But it needs good stewards to produce programmes for our times, or it will have its breakfast eaten by the private television barons.

The government does not have the revenue to fund the SABC any longer and advertising revenue will have to pay for the talent to attract our eyeballs and our ears.

But how will the talent work when they are being bullied and censored by a mediocre man with huge sway and say, but without a clue?

Who has made Motsoeneng believe he can run the SABC like a fiefdom?

For all intents and purposes, the most vital institution of democracy – the public broadcaster – as we imagined it in the early 1990s is dead and buried.

Can it be resuscitated?

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