Thoughts on South African and international politics and culture

Friday, August 26, 2005

The Independence of the SABC
The SABC's independence has been under fire as the 'national broadcaster' even before the ANC's Snuki Zikalala took over the reigns. Mud mud has been thrown and much has stuck, and rival broadcaster E-TV has been been only too happy to reinforce the perception.

The lack of coverage on SABC's News of the booing of Deputy President Phumlani Mlambo-Ncuka at an ANC earlier rally this month led to much criticism of the national broadcaster. In their defence, the SABC stated that they had a freelance cameraman covering the event, who arrived too late and missed the booing incidents. Enter a gleeful E-TV, who showed footage of the self-same cameraman dutifully filming the entire incident, including the booing, inferring that the coverage was cut in the editing process. This clearly shows a political intercession by the news editors, which calls to question the role of the SABC in providing independent news versus government propaganda.

The critical factor in South Africa is the prevalence of SABC's transmissions, not only on TV, but more importantly for the mass market, on radio. The same editors cover television and radio, and in South Africa's tightly controlled public broadcast market, this means that the majority of South Africans rely on the SABC to develop their perceptions about our nation, its leaders, policies and culture. This in turn implies that the SABC has to be vigorous in that responsibility. Unfortunately, it consistently seems as though the SABC is failing in this regard, and that those who feared Zikalala's appointment have been proved correct.

It will be very difficult for the SABC to regain the trust of those that have seen through these issues, but sadly, given that the majority of our country receives it's news from the SABC itself, and that the loudest voices in the story have been the Mail & Guardian, Business Day and E-TV, most will have been blissfully aware of the issue in the first place. Irony abounds...