Friday, June 26, 2009

SOS - Press Statement 26 June 2009

The following press release is of importance to our members and to the media. SASFED is an active part of SOS.

“Save our SABC” Coalition welcomes the Minister of Communications decisive actions and statements

26 June 2009

The “Save our SABC” (SOS) Coalition representing unions including COSATU, the Communications Workers Union, BEMAWU, a host of media NGOs including the Freedom of Expression Institute, Media Monitoring Africa, the Media Institute of Southern Africa, independent producer organizations and individual freedom of expression and communication activists and academics welcomes the recent statements and actions of the Minister of Communications, General Siphiwe Nyanda (ret).

Firstly, the Coalition welcomes the Minister’s statements as regards some of the root causes of the present crises at the SABC. The Minister acknowledged that the appointment process of the 2007 Board was flawed due to political interference and that serious implications arose from this fact. SOS believes that this frank acknowledgement of the issues allows us, going forward, to ensure that all future appointment processes of SABC boards and staff are free of political interference and further ensure maximum public participation and maximum transparency. This is an excellent starting point for resolving SABC problems in the long term.

Secondly, the Coalition welcomes the Minister’s assessment of the SABC crisis as multifold. SOS believes that the crises stem not only from problems with the SABC Board but also with SABC management and further with a lack of rigorous oversight from Parliament and the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA). Moving forward SOS believes that we now have an excellent opportunity to clarify the roles of these various governance and oversight structures so as in the future to hold them to the highest possible standards of governance and oversight.

Thirdly, the Coalition welcomes the Minister’s statements as regards the drafting of new legislation for the SABC. The Minister announced that his department will be amending the Broadcasting Act, in consultation with all relevant stakeholders. Further, he stated that the new legislation would bring the Charter in line with international best practice and that a more appropriate funding model, less dependent on advertising, would be introduced. SOS believes that new legislation will be one of the most effective ways of ensuring that the root problems of the SABC’s multiple crises are decisively and holistically dealt with. SOS is ready and willing to engage with the Department on these substantive issues.

Finally, moving forward SOS has a few further recommendations as regards the solving of the SABC crises. As stated on numerous occasions, SOS believes that Parliament needs to move swiftly as regards the appointment of an interim Board. Parliament should provide the President with its recommendations on the men and women with the necessary credentials to stabilize the SABC and to steer it towards financial health and good governance. Parliament must recommend people who are independent of vested interests, who have impeccable integrity and records of public service and who have skills and experience in corporate governance, finance, media, broadcasting and journalism. The interim Board’s mandate needs to include:

- The commissioning of an independent forensic audit (comprising of people outside the SABC) into the financial affairs of the SABC. These findings need to be reported to Parliament so as to ensure a public airing of issues. The recommendations of the forensic audit need to feed into new policy and legislation for the SABC. Further, the recommendations need to assist with the implementation of strict new financial systems within the SABC and the simultaneous rooting out of corruption and the dismissal of corrupt staff members.
- The negotiating of a financial bail-out of the SABC with National Treasury
- The urgent implementation of sustainable agreements as regards payment issues with key SABC stakeholders such as SABC unions and independent producers.
- Finally, the appointment of an executive management that is skilled and has impeccable integrity and the relevant broadcasting experience.

Also, immediately upon the appointment of the interim Board, Parliament must begin the public process culminating in the recommendation of a permanent Board to replace the interim Board which will sit for a maximum period of six months. The permanent board appointment process must be beyond criticism if the SABC is to have a chance of regaining public credibility. Thus it requires maximum transparency and public participation in the nominations, short-listing, interview and recommendations processes. Parliament must take responsibility for the caliber of people appointed to the SABC Board as they are responsible for making the necessary appointment recommendations to the President. We need a permanent board made up of men and women who are independent of major vested commercial and political interests, who have impeccable integrity and records of public service, who have skills and experience in corporate governance, finance, media, broadcasting and journalism and who broadly represent South Africa through being drawn from various sectors including labour, business and civil society.

For more information please contact:

Kate Skinner: (082) 926-6404
William Bird: (082) 887-1370