WHAT ARE THE ISSUES & CONCERNS ABOUT THE SABC
While the SABC is governed by the Broadcasting Act of the SABC, its conduct needs to be unbiased and of acceptable and reasonable censorship, fulfilling the needs and rights of access to information to all South Africans.
Over the past few years, we have seen the SABC become accused of: –
- Censorship of violence footage.
- Dismissal and suspension of journalists who question the SABC’s policies.
- Pressure placed on people who do not conform to management’s demands.
- Scant regard given to the Public Protector’s report “When Governance and Ethics Fail” released in February 2014, which accused the leadership of the SABC of several findings and proposed remedial action, which has been largely ignored. The main issues of the report were that: –
- Mr Hlaudi Motsoeneng was “dishonest” and had lied about his educational qualifications.
- That he had increased his salary from R1,5 million to R2,4 million.
- He had rapidly increased the salaries of other staff supporters.
- That he had implemented the 90% local content policy which saw revenue reduced by millions.
- That he had hosted a party for local musicians, paying them R50,000.00 each, just because he could.
- That there was gross irregular spending which management needed to be held accountable for.
- Despite the report, following a ‘disciplinary hearing’ which many regarded as a sham, Mr Moetsoeneg was appointed in his position permanently in July 2014. (see: https://mg.co.za/article/2015-11-19-hlaudi-motsoenengs-farcical-disciplinary-hearing).
- Favouritism toward the ruling party and unsubstantiated banning of opposition party advertisements and news content was rife at the public broadcaster.
- Recent amendments to the Broadcasting Amendment Bill in March 2016, whereby instead of SABC board supporters being appointed through a parliamentary process, as was previously the case, it would see a “Nominations Committee” making recommendations to the Communications Minister. This development saw Joyce Moloi-Moropa, a Member of Parliament who previously chaired Parliament’s communications portfolio committee, resign in disgust and unhappiness regarding the Broadcasting Amendment Bill, which she said, “if passed, is set to turn the public broadcaster into a state broadcaster”.
Having noted that above concerns, OUTA is pleased to place on record that the appointment of the interim board in March 2017 saw the beginning of the restoration of the credibility of the public broadcaster. In their short six-month tenure, they achieved the following:
- Cancelled the Lorna Vision contract, through which Pritchard and associates was appointed as a debt collecting agency.
- Suspended Hlaudi Motsoeneng and put him through a disciplinary process, which saw him ultimately being fired. The SABC is also attempting to prevent him from accessing his pension fund, due to his missconduct.
- Suspended and subsequently fired James Aguma.
A new panel of debt collectors have been appointed and have legitimate contracts.
While the recent actions of the previous interim board have given OUTA reason to hope that the broadcaster is being turned around, the appointment of the chairperson and deputy of the new board; as well as the new minister, by President Jacob Zuma, has renewed our concerns.