Group meets to try save ‘dying’ SABC

2014-03-05 11:46

A public meeting that anyone can attend will be held on Friday to try to save the “dying” SABC from censorship, political interference and maladministration.

This comes as a broadcasting expert has warned that a culture of censorship and fear has taken hold at the struggling public broadcaster.

The SOS Coalition, a civil society pressure group looking out for public broadcasting interests in South Africa, will hold the mass meeting at Constitution Hill in Braamfontein from 2pm to 5pm.

The SOS Coalition, a vast group representing major groupings from academics to trade groups and the South African TV and film producing sectors, was established in 2009 when the SABC came to the brink of financial collapse due to gross mismanagement.

“In 1994, we were building an SABC we could be proud of. Today, our SABC is, yet again, unfree,” said the SOS Coalition. “We are being denied an independent, credible and people-driven public broadcaster.”

The SOS Coalition will try to find a course of action at the meeting.

“Why is our SABC falling apart? Who benefits from a dysfunctional SABC? We, the people, must act radically, and act now. Unspeakable, bad maladministration is killing our public broadcaster.”

Last year, the entire SABC board resigned after intense infighting.

Earlier this year, SABC CEO Lulama Mokhobo quit – barely two years into her five-year contract. She did not give a reason for her resignation.

PwC recently released an independent and scathing skills audit report of the SABC, which found that the broadcaster’s workers and executives lacked critical thinking and held fraudulent and nonexistent qualifications and certificates. A lot of SABC workers did not even have personnel files.

The report also showed that several SABC workers held positions they were not qualified for, such as a financial administrator with a diploma in beauty and health.

Last month, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela released a shocking report into abuse of power, irregularities and maladministration at the SABC.

The investigation found that acting chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng admitted in a recorded interview to having committed fraud by claiming he had a matric certificate.

The report also implicated him in irregular hirings and firings at the SABC, such as the firing of all the people who were involved in an earlier disciplinary hearing against him.

“The SABC lacks credibility,” said independent and veteran broadcasting expert and researcher Kate Skinner.

“It isn’t sufficiently trusted. This is worrying in an election year when people need to get credible, balanced and professional news and current affairs programming.

“Our public broadcasting post-1994 was excellent. There was a lot of excellent content, but sadly this has deteriorated due to political interference and mismanagement of the institution. There have been significant financial crises, particularly in 2008 and 2009.

“A culture of censorship and fear is beginning to take hold at the SABC,” said Skinner. “Journalists are not taking risks and pushing boundaries.”

She said several examples of countries with great public broadcasting exist.

“Some public broadcasters in Eastern Europe, however, have started to shift back to being state broadcasters. We are seeing that in South Africa.

“All public broadcasters are under threat in terms of public funding costs. They need to produce more with less. Public broadcasters are generally not having an easy time, but many continue to rise above these challenges,” said Skinner.

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