Friday, November 5, 2010

SOS Press statement - for immediate release

SOS: SUPPORT PUBLIC BROADCASTING COALITION

PRESS STATEMENT

SOS URGES PARLIAMENT TO EXTEND THE DEADLINE FOR NOMINATIONS FOR THE SABC BOARD TO ENSURE THAT THE BOARD CHAIR AND OTHER ISSUES ARE RESOLVED

5 NOVEMBER 2010

SOS Coalition members have been debating the issue of putting forward nominations for the SABC Board. Four members of the Board have resigned. SOS has expressed concern about putting forward new members because the Coalition believes that the current conditions on the Board are not conducive to members playing their critical oversight roles. However, SOS believes that this is an important moment for the communications sector. We have a new Minister, Deputy Minister and new Acting Chair of the Portfolio Committee on Communications in place. We believe that with this new leadership in office the possibility of resolving the various crises affecting the SABC is strong. However, in order to ensure that the Minister, Deputy Minister and Acting Chair have time to take action, we urge the Portfolio Committee to extend the nomination deadline to allow time for the necessary changes to be effected. Presently the deadline for nominations is 15 November 2010.

SOS believes that we need substantive progress on the following issues:

  • The Chair of the Board – SOS believes that the Chair of the Board, Dr. Ben Ngubane should either resign or be removed by the Appointing Body (including Parliament and the President). Dr. Ngubane has been involved in a series of serious corporate governance breaches at the SABC.
  • In terms of the corporate governance breaches, SOS believes that Parliament should deal decisively with the following:
    • The unilateral appointment of the Head of News,
    • the Board's decision (although later reversed) to appoint an Acting CEO from outside the Corporation in direct violation of the SABC Board's Articles of Association,
    • the Chair's refusal to sign the delegation of authority document in terms of the appointment of the Acting CEO, and
    • the Chair’s unilateral decision to announce on SABC TV and Radio that there had been problems with the appointment of an Acting CEO and that he was hoping to reinstate suspended CEO, Solly Mokoetle.
  • Also in terms of the corporate governance breaches, SOS believes that the remaining board members (including the executive members of the Board that are part of SABC management) should publically commit themselves to scrupulous adherence to good corporate governance practices and protocols going forward.
  • Finally, SOS believes that gaps in the Broadcasting Act, 1999 should be swiftly dealt with. Parliament needs to make a commitment to amending the Broadcasting Act, 1999 to state clearly that the Minister has no role to play in the appointment of the executive members of the Board. The appointment of the executive members is solely the responsibility of the Board. SOS pointed out on numerous occasions during the Broadcasting Amendment Bill process in 2008, the fact that the Broadcasting Act is problematically silent about the appointment of executive management. To date Parliament has not resolved this issue creating continuing crises around these appointments. Further, these gaps in the legislation encourage inappropriate Ministerial interference in the direct management and editorial control of the SABC. People must remember that the CEO of the SABC is also the SABC's editor-in-chief.

SOS believes that we need substantive progress in terms of the above in order to be able to convince people with integrity to stand for the SABC Board. A further issue we need to consider Is the overall composition of the Board in terms of the issues of skills, experience and representivity. So for instance it is important to analyse the skills that we have lost through the four resignations and thus the skills that we need. Going forward we need to ensure that the SABC Board has the right combination of people to steer the SABC ship to calmer waters.

We believe that an unstable SABC is a threat to democracy and socio economic development. It denies the large majority of our population the ability to receive information and to have a voice.

For more information:

  • Kate Skinner – SOS Coordinator – (082) 926-6404
  • Patrick Craven – Spokesperson Cosatu – (082) 821-7456
  • Matankana Mothapo – Spokesperson Communications Workers Union – (082) 759-0900
  • Oupa Lebogo – General Secretary – Creative Workers Union – (084)511-8763
  • William Bird – Director Media Monitoring Africa – (082) 887-1370
  • Faiza Smith – Director Misa-SA – (076) 995-9513
  • Hannes du Buisson – General Secretary Bemawu – (082) 920-8669