Monday, May 24, 2010

SOS News SOS Press Statement - Way forward for SABC

24TH MAY 2010

The SOS Campaign representing a number of trade unions, independent producer organisations and a host of NGOs, CBOs, academics and freedom of expression activists have noted that SABC Board members have now declared the decision to appoint the Head of News legally “null and void”. Board members stated clearly that the correct appointment procedures were not followed, as the full board had not approved the decision. We feel that it is important that board members have stood up against this serious corporate governance breach. This is an important step in the right direction. However, we still believe it is essential that the Board hold a full investigation into the appointment process and that appropriate action is taken against those who violated the SABC’s corporate governance procedures and protocols. The Coalition believes, given the seriousness of the breach, that once this investigation has taken place, the Board should, if appropriate, call on the Chair and CEO to resign.

Further, the Coalition notes that the Board plans to meet with the Minister of Communications. The Coalition believes that this is appropriate if the intention is to brief and update the Minister on recent corporate governance breaches and the Board’s plans going forward to rectify this. However, the Coalition believes strongly that the Minister should not be called on to directly intervene in the crisis, as we believe in terms of good corporate principles, and the stipulations of the Broadcasting Act, 1999, the Board needs to “take control of the affairs” of the Corporation.

Further, the Coalition notes that the SABC’s oversight structures should be called on to play an important role. We believe therefore that the Portfolio Committee on Communications should be briefed, as part of a public hearing,

Further, the Coalition notes that the Draft Public Service Broadcasting Bill touches on the roles of the SABC Board and management and also the role of oversight structures such as the Minister, Department of Communications, Parliament and the independent regulator, ICASA. We believe these roles need to be clarified in the Bill. This is to ensure that the latter’s roles and responsibilities, reporting and accountability lines are clear.

Finally, the Coalition notes the continuing absence of a Head of News at the SABC. We note the fact that this is seriously hampering the SABC’s ability to move boldly forward with a strong public service vision for news. We therefore call on the SABC Board to move as swiftly as possible to make this key appointment – or if appropriate – to swiftly re-structure the news department to ensure that one or several appointments are made. The SABC can ill afford to wait much longer in terms of putting forward a strong, bold, citizen-orientated vision for news.

For more information please contact:

Kate Skinner – SOS Coordinator - 082-926-6404
William Bird – Media Monitoring Africa – 082-887-1370
Rehad Desai – South African Screen Federation – 083-997-9204