• The State of Affairs at the SABC

    The SOS: Support Public Broadcasting Coalition is deeply concerned by the current state of affairs at the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC). The coalition notes with disappointed its failed attempts to meet the SABC GCEO, Lulama Mokhobo. This significant meeting (as noted by Mokhobo’s personal assistant) has been rescheduled three times. On the agenda of the meeting the coalition had hoped to discuss these issues: the local content issues on SABC television, the 24-hour news channel, SABC DTT readiness, editorial policies update, turn-around strategy, financial situation of the public broadcaster and more.

    This meeting is important to the coalition because the coalition believes that the SABC as a public broadcaster needs to be open, reliable, efficient and effective. The question then arises, how is the SABC a public broadcaster if it does not avail itself to the public for robust engagement and debate?

    This particular toss and turn response that we are getting from the office of the GCEO further alarms us  as regards  the current state of affairs at the SABC. Last week it was announced that the SABC 24-hour news channel will be launched soon. This channel will first be available on DSTV and later be offered on digital terrestrial TV when the signal comes on. The coalition is concerned that the 24-hour news channel will show on DSTV excluding millions of South Africans that cannot afford subscription television. It is also not clear what DSTV’s involvement is in this 24-hour  channel. Further, there is another deal with DSTV that the coalition would  like clarity on, which is, the selling of the rights of their most popular soapies to DSTV. Again a question arises, why sell these rights? Especially at a time SABC is losing a lot of their viewers.

    The SABC is also facing a major challenge in regard to its local content delivery on its television stations. Not all languages are represented. The only Sepedi drama on SABC right now is Bophelo Ke Semphego, this drama is over 25 years old and has been repeated countless times. This is a major challenge; the SABC is expected to produce new and exciting local drama that reflects the identities of all South Africans in the new democratic South Africa. The challenge is also that when SABC is under the gun to ensure minority language delivery, random projects are targeted for language delivery even if the language chosen bares no integral relationship to the editorial of the show. Surely there must be a sustained and robust policy of language delivery that ensures editorial integrity too?

    Accordingly the SABC is expected to review its editorial guidelines every five years. The last review was in 2004, eight years ago. The coalition is told that the review is underway, through the 'mysabc' campaign. However the coalition is worried that the review is not widely publicised and the link between the 'mysabc' campaign and the review is not clear. We urge the SABC to make this review a transparent and participatory process.

    The campaign would also like to engage the GCEO on the editorial vision for the public broadcaster, what actual programs can the CGEO imagine under her tenure? The prime business output for the SABC is public broadcast programming for the citizenry, yet there is little to no discussion, outside of the implementation of policies and procedures, on the elevated programming course she will be steering. We are also dismayed at the lack of in-depth conversation as to what may have gone wrong in programming to lose the audiences that SABC has. What editorial introspection has the SABC embarked upon? We are also dismayed to find that amongst senior management that may steer the editorial vision, very few have content as their core skill. The problem that we may face is an over prioritising of business processes and bureaucracy at the loss of an editorial soul. And we know that where audiences go will depend on who provides programming relevance, creativity and resonance.

    If media reports are correct, the SABC has continually assured South Africa that the SABC’s financial standing has dramatically improved and the turn-around strategy is eventually paying off. While the coalition commends Mokhobo and her team for bringing this stability. The coalition would like to see these developments leading to: more citizen focused programming, the review of editorial policies and willingness by the public broadcaster to openly engage citizens and civil society on these issues and more.

    Our meeting has been rescheduled to 22  August 2012; the coalition hopes that Lulama M0khobo and her team can meet us then. The coalition had arranged a press conference for tomorrow to discuss the outcomes of the meeting. Due to this postponement the press conference will also only take place on 22 August 2012. We hope Mokhobo and her team will join us.

    The SOS Coalition represents a number of trade unions including Congress of the South African Trade Unions (COSATU), COSATU affiliates Communications Workers Union (CWU), Creative Workers Union of South Africa (CWUSA), Federation of Unions of South Africa (FEDUSA), Broadcasting, Electronic, Media and Allied Workers Union (BEMAWU) and Media Workers Association of South Africa  (MWASA); independent film and TV production sector organisations including the South African Screen Federation (SASFED); and a host of NGOs and CBOs including the Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI), Media Monitoring Africa (MMA), and the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA-SA); as well as a number of academics and freedom of expression activists.

    For more information contact:

    Carol Mohlala
    SOS: Support Public Broadcasting Coalition
    Mobile: 074 690 1023

    Sekoetlane Jacob Phamodi
    Campaign Organiser
    SOS: Support Public Broadcasting Coalition
    Mobile: 076 084 8077

    Statement issued by:

    Carol Mohlala
    SOS: Support Public Broadcasting
    Mobile: 074 690 1023

    For more about SOS: Support Public Broadcasting Coalition, refer to

    To view other NGO press releases, refer to

    Date published: 
    SOS: Support Public Broadcasting
  • Negative Fallout of South African Secrecy Bill Could Affect Entire Continent

    If the South African Parliament pushes through the highly controversial Protection of Information Bill, the negative fallout in the region could be immense, said CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation today.

    “We are witnessing a pervasive crackdown on the freedoms of expression, association and assembly across the African continent,” said Netsanet Belay, Policy and Research Director at CIVICUS. “At present, South Africa remains an island of democracy. But if the draconian secrecy bill is passed, this will change and further encourage authoritarian leaders in the region to inhibit democratic freedoms.”

    The Protection of Information Bill is currently being discussed in committee by the South African Parliament. It contains a number of problematic provisions, establishing serious hurdles for the media and civil society to obtain information about official corruption mismanagement and government service delivery issues. The Bill gives government officials wide powers to prevent disclosure in the interests of “national security” which is broadly defined to cover a vast array of information.

    “Passage of the Bill will lead to increased opaqueness in the functioning of government departments, making it extremely difficult for citizens to identify bottlenecks in the official machinery, inhibiting their access to constitutional entitlements and services,” said Dale McKinley of the Right 2 Know Campaign. “South Africa has a constitutional commitment to ‘accountability, responsiveness and openness.’ This bill goes a long way in negating these values for which the struggle against apartheid was waged and upon which the edifice of South African democracy stands.”

    The Bill applies to all organs of the state, which includes national and provincial government departments, independent commissions, municipal and local councils and forums. It empowers the Minister of State Security to “prescribe broad categories and sub-categories” to classify information to prevent it from entering the public sphere. The heads of government departments are further empowered to put in place departmental policies, directives and categories for the purpose of classifying and declassifying information.

    The Bill also contains draconian punishments ranging up to 25 years in prison for a host of offences, including obtaining, possessing, intercepting and disclosing classified information. South African journalists and civil society activists are extremely anxious about their ability to pursue their quest for the truth in the future. Notably, the bill has no clause to protect the disclosure of information in the ‘public interest.’

    CIVICUS calls upon the South African Parliament to reject this “anti-people” bill in its totality. “It not only negates constitutional freedoms at home but also tarnishes South Africa’s reputation as a leading democracy and emerging voice of conscience from the global south,” said Belay.

    CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation is a global movement of civil society dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society across the world. CIVICUS is part of the Right 2 Know Campaign, a coalition of people and organisations united in the struggle for the right to information and opposed to the Protection of Information Bill, which threatens hard won constitutional rights including access to information and freedom of expression in South Africa.

    For more information contact:

    Mandeep Tiwana
    Policy Manager

    Megan MacGarry
    Project Coordinator, Every Human Has Rights

    For more about CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, refer to

    To view other NGO press releases, refer to
    Date published: 
    CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
  • SABC: Violence Exposed, Ethics Ignored

    Last night the South African Broadcasting Authority (SABC) showed news reports across its channels about police brutality which occurred during a “service delivery” protest in Ficksburg in the Free State. The manner in which it was covered by SABC’s different television services raises number of key issues.

    Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) welcomes the decision by SABC to give such prominence and attention to the death of a citizen following an incident of police brutality. Nevertheless MMA is concerned about discrepancies in how the story was reported.

    Each of SABC’s main evening news bulletins led with a report which showed violent footage of a man being beaten by police officers.  It is understood that he was also shot during this incident and died as a result of his injuries.  MMA believes that footage of extreme violence and brutality should only be shown where there is a clearly identifiable public interest and only then in limited circumstances.  This view is supported by the Broadcasters Code of Conduct, as well as SABC’s own editorial policies.

    In MMA’s view, both primetime news bulletins on SABC 2 and 3 complied with their editorial commitments “to use some form of audience advisory to give advance notice when violence is to be shown.” For this they are to be commended.  However SABC 1’s news bulletin, which was broadcast half an hour later, contained no advisory warning. MMA strongly condemns SABC 1’s failure to warn viewers in advance.

    SABC’s editorial policies make very clear it will only broadcast images of violence “if they are needed in order to portray legitimate information or context” and that it must ensure that it “is justifiable in the context of the SABC’s functions and purpose.”

    In introducing the news report SABC 3’s anchor gave context to what had happened, and made clear that it was an incident of police brutality.  MMA believes that there are legitimate and strong public interest reasons for reporting on this case and using the extremely violent footage.

    It is arguable that SABC 2 and 3 showed only enough of the violent images as was necessary to tell the story.  However, MMA is concerned that SABC 1 went too far in broadcasting the moment when the victim finally fell to the ground after being beaten and shot.  Neither of the other bulletins chose to show this particular footage.  MMA believes it was gratuitous and unnecessary for SABC 1 to do so.

    MMA is also concerned about the way in which a grieving woman was portrayed in all of the news bulletins.  SABC’s editorial policies maintain that ‘broadcasting [a person’s] displays of grief should be kept to a minimum.”  The policies explicitly give guidance on this issue saying that “a wide shot of someone being comforted is less intrusive than a lingering close-up shot of someone who is obviously distressed.”  MMA believes SABC 2 and 3 especially ignored their own advice, when they showed footage of a woman who was clearly in distress for almost six seconds.

    Finally, MMA is concerned that SABC may have left itself open to an accusation of bias.  All of the journalists reported that these were ‘service delivery protests’.  Two officials were accessed, the Mayor and the Premier. However, no where in any of the bulletins, was anyone interviewed to put forward or explain the reasons for the protests or to give their reaction to the police brutality experienced.  By this omission each of the reports, “distorted or gave wrong or improper emphasis” to one side, in this case that of the public officials.  In this way SABC again violated its own editorial policies.

    MMA is concerned that the valid public interest reasons for publicising such an overt human rights violation may have been undermined by the broadcaster’s clear inconsistencies in reporting the incident.  We call on SABC to apologise to the viewers of SABC 1 for failing to warn them about the extremely violent and disturbing footage.  We further call on the broadcaster to explain why there was such a significant ethical discrepancy in how this story was reported on SABC 1. Finally, we would also welcome assurances that they will not fail in this manner in the future in respecting their editorial policies.

    For more information, please contact:

    William Bird
    Ashoka & Linc Fellow
    Media Monitoring Africa
    Tel: 011 788 1278
    Fax: 011 788 1289
    Date published: 
    Media Monitoring Africa
  • Digital Migration Deadline Extended to 2013

    The Department of Communications (DoC) says South Africa will complete the process of migrating from analogue to digital television by December 2013.

    Communications Minister, Roy Padayachie, also announced that the country will adopt the DVB-T2 standard for the process of digital migration.

    Padayachie says the country’s 2013 deadline for switching off the analogue signal is in keeping with a global decision to switch off the signal by 2015.

    To read the article titled, “Digital migration to be completed by 2013,” click here.
    All Africa
  • Zuma Appoints Three Members to the MDDA Board

    President Jacob Zuma has appointed Carole Vale, Nadia Bulbulia and Phelisa Nkomo, to the Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA) board.

    In a press statement, the Presidency says the three were appointed in terms of Section 8 (2) of the Media Development and Diversity Agency Act, following recommendations from the National Assembly.

    President Zuma especially thanked the sterling work and outstanding service to the board of the three outgoing members – Guy Berger, Siviwe Minyi and Nomonde Gongxeka - whose terms of office expired on 31 December 2010.

    To read the article titled, “President Jacob Zuma has appointed three members to the Media Development and Diversity Agency board, says his office,” click here.
    Sunday Times
  • SANEF Protests the Arrest of Journos

    The South African National Editors' Forum (SANEF) has added its voice to those condemning police for arresting two journalists while they were carrying out normal reporting duties.

    In a press statement, SANEF points out that, "Even more alarming was the police confiscation of the journalists' cellphones and other equipment which was handed back only after the intervention of a lawyer."

    The organisation states: "The fact that the equipment was returned to the journalists after a lawyer had intervened suggests that the police acted illegally in taking the equipment and were probably engaged in a fishing expedition to try to gather information or evidence about a potential crime - totally unacceptable conduct."

    To read the article titled, “SANEF protests arrest of Sowetan journalists,” click here.
    All Africa
  • Parliament to Fill SABC Vacancies – Kholwane

    Parliament is moving ahead to fill the four vacancies on the South African Broadcasting Corporation’s (SABC) board, with its communications committee due to meet next week to draw up a shortlist of candidates.

    Communications committee chairperson, Eric Kholwane, states that should another member resigns in the interim, the board could be left without the necessary quorum to take decisions.

    Kholwane confirmed that the communications committee will meet next week to draw up a shortlist of possibly 12 names, adding that interviews will be held from 18-20 January.

    To read the article, “Parliament to fill SABC vacancies,” click here.
    Independent Online
  • SANEF Shocked at Zuma’s Zapiro Lawsuit

    The South African National Editors' Forum (SANEF) says it is shocked by President Jacob Zuma's decision to sue Avusa Media for R5 million for Zapiro's Lady Justice rape cartoon.

    SANEF says it is surprising that the president waited more than two years before instituting his complaint on the grounds that in one instance he had been humiliated and degraded by the cartoon and in another instance that his reputation had been damaged.

    SANEF deputy chairperson, Raymond Louw, says SANEF notes that the content of the cartoon had been debated by the Human Rights Commission which exonerated the paper and Zapiro, stating that the issues raised by the cartoon were in the public domain.

    To read the article titled, “SANEF: Zuma's Zapiro lawsuit shocking,” click here.
  • Jordan Criticises ANC Over Secrecy Bill

    African National Congress (ANC) veteran, Pallo Jordan, has sharply criticised the party’s plans for a media tribunal and the Protection of Information Bill, saying attempts to muzzle the modern media are a ‘fool’s errand’.

    Jordan warns that the party is backing itself into a ‘lose-lose situation’, and it risks losing its credibility as a campaigner for media freedom, and the Bill possibly failing a mooted constitutional challenge.

    In the same vein, Jordan criticised constitutional lawyers, saying they should have stepped into the breach when the media tribunal and information bill were first put on the table, not to be critical but to ensure the legislation is a co-operative work.

    To read the article titled, “Media gag ‘a fool’s errand’- Jordan,” click here.
    Business Day
  • Minister Withdraws the Broadcasting Bill

    According to a report by Technology website, TechCentral, communications minister, Roy Padayachie, has withdrawn the controversial Public Service Broadcasting Bill which among other things, proposed a one percent tax to fund the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC).

    The website reports Padayachie as saying that he is convinced much more can yet be gained by engaging in further work before a bill is presented to cabinet.

    Padayachie maintains that in redrafting the Bill his department must consider the developmental and democratic goals of the country, adding that for these to be best served, "It is imperative that our broadcasting policy is at the cutting edge of our digital age."

    To read the article titled, “Padayachie cans Broadcasting Bill – reports,” click here.
    Business Day
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