SABC management concerns intensify

2012-08-16 11:52

There’s renewed concern about South Africa’s beleaguered public broadcaster following a motion of no confidence by the SABC board against one of its own members.

SABC chief executive Lulama Mokhobo has not yet held the disciplinary hearing of the broadcaster’s head of news and current affairs Phil Molefe, four months after he was placed on “special leave”, with the SABC refusing to provide reasons.

Now the SABC board has passed a motion of no confidence in SABC board member Advocate Cawe Mahlati.

The SABC is not the only one – the Communication Workers Union (CWU) also wants Mahlati out and says the CWU “supports the motion of no confidence passed by the SABC board”.

Meanwhile, the public pressure group the Support Public Broadcasting Coalition (SOS) has tried numerous times to meet with Mokhobo.

The meeting by the SOS Coalition – which represents trade unions, academics, film and TV industry organisations and institutes – has already been rescheduled three times.

The SABC and the government is still trying to fill another SABC board position left vacant by the resignation of SABC board member Clifford Motsepe earlier this year. Interviews with shortlisted candidates are scheduled for 28 August.

Three months after the devastating fire, which destroyed the SABC’s Henley Studios, and the set of soap opera Isidingo, causing millions of rands’ worth of damage and raising building safety concerns, the public broadcaster has not publicly stated the exact nature of the damage nor been willing to disclose the loss in rand terms – despite requests.

“The SOS is deeply concerned by the current state of affairs at the SABC,” says the SOS Coalition.

“The Coalition notes with disappointment its failed attempts to meet the SABC’s CEO Lulama Mokhobo.

This significant meeting has been rescheduled three times.

“On the agenda is the local content issues on SABC television, the 24-hour news channel, the SABC’s readiness for digital terrestrial television (DTT), editorial policies, the SABC’s turnaround strategy, the financial situation of the public broadcaster and more…”

“The toss and turn response that we are getting from the office of the CEO further alarms us as regards the current state of affairs at the SABC,” says the SOS Coalition.

“The Coalition is concerned that the 24-hour news channel which will be shown on DStv will be excluding millions of South Africans that cannot afford subscription television. It is also not clear what DStv’s involvement is in this 24-hour news channel.

“There is another deal with DStv the SOS Coalition would like clarity on – the selling of the rights of their most popular soapies to DStv.
Again a question arises, why sell these rights? Especially at a time when the SABC is losing a lot of viewers.”

The SOS Coalition says their meeting with Mokhobo has now been rescheduled for 22 August and the Coalition “hopes Mokhobo and her team can meet us then”.

In a statement the CWU said “we call on the portfolio committee on communications in parliament to suspend Cawe Mahlati and on president Jacob Zuma to remove her as SABC board member as soon as possible.

The Media Workers Assiciation of South Africa (Mwasa) in a statement said that if the SABC board doesn’t pull itself together, “it will never redeem its long lost integrity”.

Mwasa went on to say that “the SABC board seems to have other priorities than to provide thought-leadership”.

It further said: “It is obscene that such mediocrity and seamless shenanigans continue to define the tenure of this SABC board and little public value is realised since taking office.

The SABC board has not provided any inspiration or positive role-modelling despite presiding over the biggest broadcast – media outfit on the continent.”

Mwasa stated that “our call for this misguided entity to be placed under administration is inspired by the need to protect and preserve what little is left of credibility and integrity at the SABC.

“Our concern is for the professional men and women who have to carry the national mandate under the weight of an otherwise preoccupied management and SABC board”.

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