Faith Daniels

What you should know about the SABC newsroom

2016-07-04 12:44

Faith Daniels

I stand in solidarity with my former colleagues and friends who work at the SABC. And so should you. Here’s why: The SABC does not belong to an individual or a group. It is a public broadcaster. It belongs to all of us, even though at times you might not think so. The current state of affairs at the broadcaster does not change that fact.

I heard a plea from SABC leaders this week for external forces to stay away and not meddle in its affairs. It made me wonder – which external forces are being referred to? Because the public can speak out, can voice their concerns – it’s their SABC. 

We should care about what is happening in the newsrooms of the SABC because – unless you have worked there – trust me, you have no idea. Three very brave journalists took the step to pen a letter to the COO and other SABC managers requesting a meeting to clarify the current editorial direction. That letter has now done several rounds on social media and raises concerns about decisions being made that directly affect the way they do their jobs. They’ve now been charged and internal disciplinary procedures await them.

This follows the suspension of three others for apparently raising questions about the covering of a Right2Know protest outside the broadcaster’s Auckland Park offices.

This state of affairs worries me. And it should bother you too. There’s nothing to be gained from having the public broadcaster falter from crisis to crisis and everyone in charge denying that there’s anything wrong.

I watched the SABC’s 404 channel last Monday as news of its Acting CEO Jimi Matthews’s resignation broke on social media. Not a word on it for hours. Like it didn’t happen. Not that Matthews’s departure from the SABC will make any significant dent. He has by his own admission presided over decisions that have “made me complicit in many decisions which I am not proud of”.  This he stated in his resignation letter posted on Facebook and Twitter.

As a former employee, I’ve had my fair share of disciplinary action and run-ins over editorial matters with bosses, Matthews included. I wasn’t brave enough to stick it out and fight for change. But scores of other are. And they need our support.

They have the right to do their jobs without fear or favour – they have the responsibility to tell the South African story. Not half of it, or selected parts of it. They need to be able to do what many of us do every day – give an honest, fair and balanced account of what is happening.

In the prevailing chaos, remember this – men and women of great standing, respected in the industry, still work at the SABC every single day. Despite the circumstances, they try and do their jobs. They might not speak out and voice their concerns publicly, but they too feel the pressure. That’s despite the COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng claiming that everyone is happy. In fact, he claimed last week that a jovial atmosphere prevailed at the SABC and that he wondered who said or did what at the weekend to prompt Matthews’s resignation. Well, like someone put it on Twitter, “It’s called developing a conscience.”

- Faith Daniels is a seasoned radio and TV journalist, and is currently head of news at Kagiso Media’s Jacaranda FMand East Coast Radio.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

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