Saturday, September 19, 2009

Why I don't think I'm going to make it onto the SABC board.

From David Bullard

I can’t for the life of me understand why anyone would want to be on the new board of the SABC. The national broadcaster is now so discredited, such a spawning ground for thieves and fraudsters and in such a parlous financial state that a turnaround is unimaginable. Joining the SABC board now is rather like applying for a job as a waiter on the Titanic. It can only end in disaster.

And yet the great, the good and the not so good trooped along to the Orwellian sounding room 454 to be grilled by their paymasters, our beloved politicians. Now the obvious question is what the hell do politicians know about running a business? The SABC is only one of many state enterprises that have fallen into serious disrepair under the lazy eye of the ANC since 1994. The first thing the ruling party did when they came to power was to celebrate a non racial society by purging many of the whites from the SABC and filling the vacant spaces with party loyalists. The fact that years of accumulated knowledge and experience was shown the door and replaced by complete ignorance didn’t seem to bother them. Financial controls completely disappeared and payment for production houses became lax and then non existent. Meanwhile, certain key appointees realized that they could use the SABC’s money to buy a very extravagant lifestyle with very little chance of being found out. One who was caught was suspended on full pay of R500000 for three months. Nice non-work if you can get it. The production house that produced “Car Torque” often waited months for their money and only got paid earlier this year for a show that ended in August 2008. To their great credit they paid the presenters and crew out of their own pockets while awaiting the money. Not everyone was as fortunate and there are many people who have supplied content to the SABC who are still waiting for their money. It must be reassuring to know that the SABC fraudsters can relax on full pay while their cases are being “investigated”.

The spectacular decline of the SABC, both from a programming and from a management perspective, were well known in the media industry but any criticism would inevitably result in a charge of racism if it came from a honky like me. I can’t remember when I last watched an SABC news bulletin but I think it might have been as long ago as 2002. In fact, I can’t think of any programme on SABC that I watch. My television is tuned to the DSTV channels which means that I really shouldn’t need a TV license because the national broadcaster fails to deliver anything I want to watch. Perhaps the new board will take such things into consideration.

So I’m not impressed that politicians are the ones doing the job interviews. Particularly as two of the chief attributes for the job, according to a fascinating article in The Weekender of 12-13th September, are struggle credentials and political neutrality. Apparently the ANC members of the communications committee intimidated candidates they didn’t feel had contributed to the liberation struggle. Just as well I didn’t apply for a board position then.

Since struggle credibility is partly the reason the SABC finds itself in the mess it is currently in I can’t see how a new board of brown nosers and party apparatchiks is going to be any better. And what is “political neutrality” in the context of the SABC? Blind loyalty to your paymaster I would suggest. Bearing in mind that a phone call from head office can cost you your job why would you be daft enough to run a story which wasn’t complimentary about the government?

One of the applicants, the columnist and pedant Max du Preez, undertook to stop writing nasty things about the SABC if he was lucky enough to land his bum in this particular butter dish. One can appreciate that Max yearns for a steady and regular income but is he an ideal candidate for the job? He is on record as saying that he disapproves of freedom of speech if that right is exercised by people he doesn’t personally approve of. He also, when he was guest editor of the magazine Noseweek last year, censored a piece I had been commissioned to write about my former employer. Add the fact that Max hasn’t a clue about how to run a business and he would appear to be the ideal candidate for the job. Whether Max’s struggle credentials will count for or against him remains to be seen but any job that prevents him boring readers with his sermons has to be a good thing.

Of course, what should really be happening is that the assets of the SABC are sold off to private enterprise. Only weak governments need a national broadcaster to feed the masses propaganda. It would be far better to acknowledge that politicians should have as little as possible to do with the dissemination of information and sell off all those well appointed studios and facilities to people who could make them financially viable. But since that would deny a new bunch of cronies the opportunity to milk the taxpayer it aint going to happen.


2 Opinion(s):

Exzanian said...

Bullard has got too much baggage to make it onto the board. Personally, I think he should be the Director...

Anonymous said...

Can't believe they're actually considering Max du Preez. He is such a brown nose and secretly wishes he was born black. But who the hell cares? I'm no longer there and dont' have to watch the drivel they dish up, especially their "news" casts....