Thursday, November 26, 2009

Supporting Public Broadcasting - The official position of former SAVE OUR SABC campaign


25 NOVEMBER 2009


The SOS Coalition, representing trade unions, media NGOs, independent producers, academics and freedom of expression activists welcomes the fact that the SABC has been given government guarantees. The SABC is suffering from serious liquidity problems, and the guarantees should enable the Corporation to borrow money more easily and cheaply. The easing of liquidity problems should create the space for the SABC to be stabilised and restored to a sound financial footing. One of the key tasks of the interim Board was to ensure this stabilization. It appears that significant progress has been made in this direction.

Going forward it is important to ensure that any public money drawn down is well spent. Again SOS is supportive of the fact that the initial R1 billion will be made available immediately but that the remaining R473m will be dependent on the development of a detailed project plan that commits the SABC to explicit revenue targets and cost cutting measures. This is important – the SABC needs to be held to account.

However, SOS believes that the SABC is not an ordinary state owned enterprise. It has special position in our society as an institution committed to the deepening of democracy through the expression of a rich diversity of views, voices and political perspectives. It is thus important that the shareholder compact – that will be signed between the new SABC board and the Minister of Communications - is focused on ensuring the effective and efficient spending of this public money. The compact should not dictate the vision of the SABC – or influence issues of editorial independence. From a good governance and democratic perspective, this compact should be made public to ensure adequate transparency. Further, going forward, we believe that government should move to de-corporatising the SABC. We have put forward proposals calling for it to be transformed into constitutionally protected Chapter 9 institution such as the Human Rights Commission. In future then it would be unnecessary for the SABC to sign a shareholder compact with the Minister of the government of the day.

We believe rather that it is essential that key oversight structures are strengthened including Parliament and ICASA. We believe the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Communications needs to strengthen its rigour and oversight role as regards the scrutinizing of the SABC’s corporate plans, annual reports and financials. Further it is essential that ICASA holds the SABC to account in terms of its Charter and license conditions. As SOS we believe this clarity of roles coupled with the strengthening of governance and oversight structures is absolutely critical to the SABC’s good health going forward.

For more information please contact;

Kate Skinner – SOS Coordinator – 082-926-6404
Tawana Kupe – Dean of the Faculty of Humanities – 078 459-6041
William Bird – Director Media Monitoring Africa – 082-887-1370