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Policy  |  Resolutions

Revised draft COSATU resolution on SABC and Community Media

Noting that:

  • The Reconstruction and Development Programme, and ANC media policy, advocate a three-tier media system with distinctive public, commercial and community media sectors. Although progress has been made to realise this vision, the public and community media tiers have been undermined due to a lack of public funding that has forced them to adopt advertising-driven commercial funding models that have ultimately undermined their public mandates.

SABC

The SABC ought to be the voice of the South African people, informing, educating and entertaining all our communities and reflecting the diversity of our cultural, linguistic, political, religious, sporting and social heritage. However, the following problems have developed:

  • Since 2007 the public broadcaster has been plagued by seemingly intractable governance crises at the level of the Board and management.
  • The previous SABC Board was guilty of allowing the public broadcaster to be abused for factional political purposes, manipulating news coverage to favour particular people or organisations and blacklisting political commentators.
  • The commercial funding model (almost 80% of the SABCís funding comes from advertising) has forced the SABC, especially its TV stations, to base its programming overwhelmingly on commercial criteria, and the potential revenue from advertising and sponsorship, which has led to a serious neglect of:
  • Labour issues
  • Local community concerns
  • African languages, particularly minority languages
  • Minority sports
  • ocal drama and documentary programming
  • Coupled with this problematic funding model, the public broadcaster has been plagued by poor financial management, which has further threatened its ability to deliver on its public mandate, particularly local programming.
  • Parliament and ICASA have failed to rigorously perform their oversight roles, for example on local content quotas, allowing the public broadcaster to sink deeper into crisis.

The Minister and Department of Communications have at times played inappropriately interventionist roles at the level of management of the broadcaster but have failed to play their important policy making role including:

  • Reviewing the outdated White Paper on Broadcasting 1998, including the SABCís funding model.
  • Introducing new legislation and appropriate amendments to the Electronic Communications Act on the governance of the SABC and community media.
  • Crafting a new vision for public broadcasting in the new digital, multi-channel environment.
  • Ensuring proper coordination between a number of draft policies including the broadband policy and the digital local content strategy.
  • Throughout these crises, and even before this, the SABC has adopted a secretive, unaccountable stance towards workers, community members and civil society generally.
  • The SABC has tried to excuse this secrecy on the basis that it is a public company with the Minister of Communications as the SABCís sole shareholder and that the SABC is only required to share information with the shareholder.

Community media:

  • Community media, particularly geographical stations, have struggled with a lack of finance, thus compromising their independence from major vested interests be they commercial or party-political.
  • They have struggled to pay Sentechís commercial transmission rates.
  • Some community stations have been plagued by governance crises, and some have been hijacked by commercial companies.
  • Community media has not sufficiently ensured their accountability to the audiences and communities they serve.
  • ICASA has failed to enforce stations license conditions allowing stations to play music rather than to ensure their public mandate is implemented, including language mandates and local programming.

Believing that:

  • The present three-tier vision of the media system does not operate as effectively as it should, given that all three tiers have been forced to adopt a strong commercially driven strategy.
  • Although the SABC and public broadcasting plays an important role in the media landscape, it needs to lead the sector with cutting edge, investigative reporting and quality citizenship-orientated programming.
  • The SABC, as a public broadcaster, must able to operate independently from all major vested interests including party political, factional and commercial interests.
  • Public funding needs to be made available for the SABC and community media.
  • The SABC needs to deepen its accountability to its audiences and to the general public.
  • The community media sector needs to be strengthened to play its important local education, information and entertainment role free of all direct party political, factional and commercial interests.
  • Community media needs to deepen its accountability to its audiences and to the communities it serves.
  • The media system as a whole needs to be strengthened to ensure that all South Africans have access to a rich diversity of voices and opinions to empower communities to reach their full potential as active citizens.
  • The media as a whole needs to be strengthened to cater for the needs and interests of all communities in South Africa; the public broadcaster and community media should have a particular focus on ensuring the development of previously marginalised languages and cultures.
  • Public and community media need to deepen South Africansí understanding of our Constitution and the Bill of Rights and to deepen our understanding of the lives of people in South Africa, Southern Africa, Africa and the world beyond us and empower us to play our role as active global citizens.
  • The Protection of Information Bill must be scrapped as it threatens citizensí right to be informed on issues of public concern
  • There is a need to strengthen and articulate this vision given the new opportunities of the soon-to-be-implemented digital, multi-channel environment.
  • The Minister of Communicationís announcement that he intends to review the Broadcasting White Paper, 1998 and investigate new funding models for the public broadcaster and for community media gives labour and communities the perfect opportunity to strengthen this vision.

Resolves:
To campaign to ensure that:

  • The Department of Communications priortises its public review of all broadcasting policy, legislation and regulations, in particular the Broadcasting White Paper 1998.
  • The SABC is turned into a Chapter Nine institution to deepen its accountability to the general public through Parliament and to better protect its independence from all major vested interests be they commercial, factional or party political.
  • New funding models for the SABC and community media are based on rigorous research and public debate on the needs of the SABC and community media in the digital, multi-channel age.
  • Public funding, to reduce the excessive dependence on advertising revenue, is a key component in new funding models. We scrap the public and public commercial divisions of the SABC and develop a new corporate structure.
  • The SABC adheres to scrupulous good corporate governance practices and principles and that new legislation strengthens and clarifies the roles of the board and management to play their respective good governance roles.
  • A new Charter is drafted for the SABC, and that this is rigorously debated by workers and communities through the channels of the SABC and other public forums,
  • The Charter is included in new legislation and is publically reviewed once every seven years.
  • There is a debate on new mechanisms, such as national and regional stakeholder committees and programming committees, to ensure that the SABC is more accountable to its audiences.
  • The oversight and policy-making structures of the SABC - Parliament, Department of Communication and ICASA - are strengthened.
  • The community media sector is strengthened through developing appropriate governance and funding mechanisms and in particular negotiating new, non-commercial broadcasting transmission rates with Sentech.

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