The SABC’s outdated editorial policies will soon be revamped as the interim board continues with its attempts to steer the embattled public broadcaster towards stability.
The SABC will shortly begin holding provincial consultative workshops as part of the review process of its 2004 editorial policies. The first consultative workshop is due to take place in Limpopo on July 31, with the final engagement with the public set for August 2 in the Northern Cape. Written submissions will also be accepted and the deadline for such input is August 31, the broadcaster said.
All input received from the public will be consolidated and will inform a revised editorial code and policies document, which will then be released for public comment before being finalised.
In 2013, the broadcaster embarked on process to review the 2004 policies, which culminated in 2016 with policies being filed with the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa).
However, the regulator later rejected the updated editorial policies, stating that the amendments were inconsistent with the Broadcasting Act.
The public broadcaster’s editorial policies were sharply criticised in 2016 when it took the decision to no longer broadcast footage of the destruction of public property during protests. The SABC had argued at the time that this specific decision to ban the airing of violent protests, which was introduced by recently sacked former chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng, was meant to discourage other communities from engaging in violent demonstrations were property was destroyed.
The matter got heated within and outside Auckland Park and, subsequently, the public broadcaster fired eight journalists who had publicly opposed the ban on violent protests. However, all but one of the journalists (freelancer and contributing editor Vuyo Mvoko) have since been reinstated. Icasa ruled in July 2016 that the SABC had to withdraw its decision not to air footage of violent protests as it was in breach of the Broadcasting Act and licensing conditions.
The SABC said on Thursday that the new review process of its editorial policies was aimed at ensuring that a proper consultation process took place with the public and various stakeholders, and that the final policies were in line with the Broadcasting Act.
SABC interim board chairperson Khanyisile Kweyama said:"This process is an important milestone to ensure that our content offering on radio, television and digital platforms are in line not only with legislative and regulatory requirements, but also with public sentiment. We therefore appeal to all stakeholders and interested bodies to participate in this process, which will go round the country to ensure maximum participation by all South Africans".
The interim board has been moving with speed to sort out the mess at the public broadcaster. Its first task was to implement most of the recommendations emanating from Parliament’s ad hoc committee’s report on governance lapses at the SABC.
It is also looking to institute forensic probes into dubious SABC deals, contracts, salary increases and bonus payments. Furthermore, it wants to ensure that competent executives, including a permanent CEO, chief operating officer and chief financial officer, are appointed, before its term expires in about two months’ time, when a permanent board is installed.