Friday, June 4, 2010

From the BusinessDay: The SABC finally loses it

Editorial, Business Day, Johannesburg, 4 June 2010

There was some reason to hope, as the administration of President Jacob Zuma took office last year, that the era of idiocy at the SABC might be over. Retired general Siphiwe Nyanda, the new communications minister, was, after all, a military man who could knock together the heads of warring managers and directors at the broadcaster.

Or could he? Sadly, it seems not. Not only has the SABC taken a year to name a head of news, it has compounded its incompetence by naming one without consulting the board of directors so painstakingly constructed to do the job by the government itself.

And now we hear that the SABC, in the middle of a deep financial crisis from which it is being rescued by taxpayers, has spent more than R3m buying World Cup soccer tickets!

How mad can this organisation get? Its spokesman phoned in to a radio show yesterday to “explain” that these tickets were vital to the future of the broadcaster because they would be used to entertain the people who advertise on the SABC’s radio stations and TV channels. You have to understand, he kept on saying, that without advertising there is no revenue and therefore no SABC.

That may be true, but advertisers follow audiences and if the SABC was producing content that audiences actually wanted to watch or listen to, the advertising would follow. It does not require bribery on this scale to keep advertisers loyal.

On the matter of the appointment of a head of news without board consent, it is equally hard to imagine anything more crass and amateurish a political ploy. Gen Nyanda should be ashamed of himself for allowing it to happen and he must make sure the board is able to make a collective decision, as is its right.

Gen Nyanda was looking, a few months ago, for a special tax to finance the SABC through its financial recovery and beyond. But the old soldier must be out of his head of he thinks for a moment that anyone is going to put a hand in their pocket to finance an institution that has, unbelievably, sunk into even greater insanity than when it was run by Essop Pahad.