THE BLOG

The Haggard State Of The SABC Is Not By Fluke Or Accident Or Coincidence

Instead of issuing reams of press releases to refute what they're not doing, how about doing something like appointing the screened SABC board members?

17/10/2017 03:57 SAST
Daily Maverick
President Jacob Zuma.

Why isn't Zuma approving the SABC board? Don't worry, the SABC is partying it up with Bold on Table Mountain.

Who benefits from a rudderless SABC that continues to limp along without a board or top executives -- and why? Cast your eyes up to Table Mountain. What's happening at the SABC is totally breathless. Yes, if you haven't heard, The Bold and the Beautiful is coming to the Maponya Mall!

The SABC continues to drift aimlessly, just like Brooke Logan Forrester. Seemingly forever perched on the precipice between hopelessness and utter despair, the beleaguered South African public broadcaster seems destined to remain doomed to a cursed broadcasting holding pattern of never-ending ineptitude. This month, Brooke plans to get married to Bill Spencer -- but just so that she can get shares. But Ridge is still in the background and wants to try and stop the wedding.

This month the SABC is still without a permanent board, remains stuck with only acting top executives in the CEO, COO and CFO positions, faces possible staff strikes, and wants a R3-billion government bailout so that it can survive. But President Jacob Zuma is still in the background and doesn't want to approve the new SABC board because he's not happy.

Yet while the spectre of state capture is still looming large inside Fawlty Towers and with the SABC deep in the red and having posted another R977-million loss, the insanity train that is your public broadcaster continues full steam ahead.

Forget the public utterances of drastic SABC cost-cutting last week.The SABC will party it up with some of the Bold stars on Table Mountain next week, the very same American soap along with Days and another foreign programme that the SABC until recently said it despises, wants to get rid of and in parliament called "outdated". But just like uBaba loves Hlaudi despite all of his faults, South Africans love our Brooke despite all of hers.

It's unimaginable (and terrible optics) that the cash-strapped SABC would suddenly fawn over Bold and celebrate the American soap at the top of Table Mountain. Yet that is precisely the perpetual upside-down world of strange external influence, capture and misguided priorities that the SABC continues to inhabit -- and why the SABC finds itself in the state it is.

Both Ayanda Dlodlo who promised SABC stability but perpetuates its fragility, and President Jacob Zuma surely know that their inaction and hampering approach with the public broadcaster hovering in and out of cardiac arrest would only serve to fuel renewed speculation about what is going on.

The auditor-general calls the SABC "commercially insolvent", so exactly who and what benefits from the SABC to continue lurching from crisis to crisis? And who gains from the public broadcaster if it remains unstable? Who benefits from the SABC not having a permanent board that prevents the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) from investigating the intricate rot and corruption inside the SABC?

Who benefits from the SABC not getting a new permanent CEO, COO and CFO that the minister of communications Ayanda Dlodlo now says might only be appointed by January 2018 because she's apparently disappointed by the applications received?

Ordinary South Africans can only guess.

Both Ayanda Dlodlo who promised SABC stability but perpetuates its fragility, and President Jacob Zuma surely know that their inaction and hampering approach with the public broadcaster hovering in and out of cardiac arrest would only serve to fuel renewed speculation about what is going on. Sadly, they don't seem to care.

Instead of issuing reams of press releases to refute what they're not doing, how about doing something like appointing the screened SABC board members and getting high-calibre and respected executives from South Africa's broadcasting industry to fill vacant positions?

SABC TV licence payers -- there are now once again even fewer of them than a year ago -- are left but to wonder: Is it true that the SABC is deliberately kept without a board and any top executives in order to enable political capture and influence of SABC News for the ANC political party's elective 54th National Conference, set for December?

Is it true that there are plans afoot to capture the SABC's Ukhozi FM to exert undue influence over its seven million listeners in KwaZulu-Natal to help make presidential hopeful Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma's campaign a success? The SABC apologised for referring to her as "ex-wife" in news reports -- but to women like Brooke, that's not a bad term. On the other hand, Brooke isn't scheming to become president of Forrester Creations.

Just like a hamster in a wheel, the SABC perpetually oscillates to serve the most prominent political power centre -- a broadcasting Game of Thrones where the only constant is chaos and upheaval.

While the interim SABC board, whose term expired two weeks ago, managed to pull the broadcaster back from the brink, the SABC is still hovering on a knife's edge of financial and existential implosion and far, far away from normality and any semblance of stability. Politics keeps interfering with what the SABC can and should be, similar to things like the gun (out of) control issue in America.

You as an ordinary citizen might think that it is really bad, but the crazy situation continues exactly because the politicians in charge correctly surmise that for the frog in the pan -- even though the situation is beyond dire -- it's not yet "that" bad.

Ordinary SABC staffers know how horrific things are but they're not the ones who matter. Ordinary SABC viewers and listeners have somewhat of a sense how terrible things are but they're also not the ones who matter. As a hugely powerful and influential voice -- as the largest public broadcaster on the African continent and still accessed by millions on a daily basis despite slumping radio and TV ratings -- the SABC remains a prized political tool.

The SABC belongs to the public -- not to the government. Yet it's the government, through the president and the minister of communications, who are the deliberate enablers to keep it in Bedlam by not doing what should and must be done.

The SABC doesn't have a director-general, nor an independent public editor. Its semblance of editorial and programmatic independence that it exercised for a little while after the end of Apartheid has long since eroded, courtesy of its political custodians.

The haggard state of the SABC is not by fluke or accident or coincidence. It's like that because those in charge and in power want it that way. It's supposed to be a voice for the voiceless but it is perpetually annexed as a voice for the powerful. Never forget that it's in the interest of those who control the story not to ever allow any permanent change to the story -- something every great soap writer knows.

Just like a hamster in a wheel, the SABC perpetually oscillates to serve the most prominent political power centre. A broadcasting Game of Thrones where the only constant is chaos and upheaval. No tumultuous storm -- romantic, financial, personal or political -- is ever really bad as long as you're the one causing and controlling it. Just ask Brooke.