Tuesday, September 15, 2009

SOS Update - A word on the SABC Board interview Process

Hello all

So much has now been said about the SABC Board interview process that it is hard to say much more! Anyway, after sitting in Parliament for two days my overall impression was that there were some very good candidates and that MPs did ask people a range of (sometimes hard) questions. Some interviews lasted more than an hour. There are just a few things that I want to point out that I thought were a problem. Firstly, although the conflict of interest question was certainly highlighted (which was a good thing) it was done in a rather uneven way. Many people were asked about their political affiliations and party political membership. For me the point is not what political party you vote for or are a member of (we all have political affiliations) but whether you are an office bearer in a political party. This distinction was not made clearly. In the ICASA legislation it specifically states that Councilors should not be office bearers in political parties to safeguard the independence of the institution. Also, the issue of people being in senior government positions was not properly explored. Again the question is that if we are trying to create a "public" (rather than a state broadcaster) there are possible conflicts of interest here. (It is interesting that MPs in the previous committee were concerned about Bheki Khumalo's position as spokesperson for Mineral and Energy Affairs but appeared less concerned about Khotso Khumalo's senior position in the Free State government. In fact Khotso himself raised this as an issue when he was an MP!) Also, it was sad that MPs did not correct certain inaccuracies in the statements made by interviewees. One candidate for instance spoke at length about the fact that the BBC got its funds directly from government. Now this is not the case - the BBC gets its funding from a license fee which begins to safeguard its independence from direct government and commercial interests and makes it more accountable to viewers and listeners. This issue of funding - and where it should be sourced - I think goes to the heart of independence and accountability issues and shouldn't have been left uncorrected. Finally, members of previous Boards were given a lot of airtime. Although they were certainly asked some hard questions I don't think they satisfactorily explained how they allowed the SABC to get into the financial mess that it did - nor did they seem to take any direct responsibility for the crisis. (I didn't stay for the whole of Desmond Golding's interview so maybe he did explain this once I had gone.)

Warm regards

Kate Skinner
Campaign Coordinator - Save our SABC
(082) 926-6404