[lg policy] South Africa: SABC editorial hearings draw to a close, public submissions extended

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Wed Aug 1 11:50:25 EDT 2018


 SABC editorial hearings draw to a close, public submissions extended

Sarah Smit <https://mg.co.za/author/sarah-smit> 31 Jul 2018 15:28
[image: Once the final submissions are made by August 31, the public’s
input will be consolidated internally and a final draft will go through
approval by the board and finally sent to Icasa. (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)]

Once the final submissions are made by August 31, the public’s input will
be consolidated internally and a final draft will go through approval by
the board and finally sent to Icasa. (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)
<https://mg.co.za/article/2018-07-31-sabc-editorial-hearings-draw-to-a-close-but-public-submissions-extended>
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The deadline for written submissions from the public regarding the SABC’s
draft editorial policies has been extended to August 31.

The extension was announced during the final round of the consultations on
the SABC’s draft editorial policies in Johannesburg on Tuesday.

The public hearings, which traversed all nine provinces, is the public
broadcaster’s most extensive process of its kind since the SABC’s current
editorial policy was implemented in 2004.

An effort to review this policy was embarked in 2013, which culminated in
the 2016 policies that were filed with the Independent Communications
Authority of South Africa (Icasa) in 2016.

However, a complaint lodged by SOS Support Public Broadcasting Coalition
<https://www.soscoalition.org.za/> and Media Monitoring Africa
<https://www.mediamonitoringafrica.org/> resulted in the reviewed policies
being rejected by Icasa on the basis of the SABC’s failure to ensure that
public participation in the development of the policies.

On the public broadcaster’s rejected 2016 amendments, the SABC’s general
manager policy and regulatory affairs, Philly Moilwa, said:  “It is very
difficult to pinpoint where the SABC failed in its public consultations,
because this was not prescribed. All the law says is that there must be
public consultations, but it doesn’t say to what extent.”

“What was the biggest issue in 2016 was that the changes in the reviewed
policy was not what people wanted. You see, it’s not really about the final
document but about whether it is reflective of people’s views,” Moilwa
added.

Notably, the Johannesburg hearings were poorly attended, to the extent that
Moilwa opened his presentation apologising for the dismal turnout. He noted
that this was the first time during the public consultation process that
the editorial policy project team struggled with attendance — a fact that
Moilwa said was “very interesting for Gauteng”.

“In Gauteng people already have access to information, so maybe they
already know about this process. And also what we’ve realised is that if
people don’t have burning issues to air, naturally they don’t attend the
hearings,” he said.

In his presentation Moilwa noted that the policies at hand were never going
to undergo a complete overhaul. “If it ain’t broken, why fix it? he said.
READ MORE: SABC blatantly ignores public protector’s report
<https://mg.co.za/article/2016-03-17-sabc-blatantly-ignores-public-protectors-report>

Moilwa called the 2004 policies robust and forward-looking, but added that
the purpose of the exercise has been to figure out if they are still
relevant.

He said that throughout the hearings, the major call has been for a focus
on implementation.

Broadly the policy review has focussed on issues of programming, news,
language, equitable access, local content, religious and educational
broadcasting.

Moilwa noted that the issues regarding the broadcaster’s language policy
and how the SABC covers news and current affairs have been highly disputed
throughout the hearings.

The SABC’s capacity to represent South Africa’s 11 official languages on
only three television channels has been a sticking point for the
broadcaster, Moilwa said.

He noted for the 20-strong audience that a parallel inquiry into editorial
interference has been dealing with the institutional problems plaguing the
SABC’s editorial independence.

“The main intention here is to restore public trust,” Moilwa said of the
consultations.

The policy team has received over 250 written submissions, with robust
public hearings in other parts of the country.

Those who attended the hearings raised a wide range of complaints and
suggestions.

The problem of corruption at local radio stations, the SABC’s intellectual
property policy, the archival of “golden oldies”, the SABC’s role in
nation-building ahead of the elections, the coverage of minority sports and
merchandising were all raised by those attending the hearings.

>From the back of the scantily populated auditorium, Hassim Phosa reiterated
the major sentiment in the room: “You have very nice policies, but you
don’t implement them.”

In closing, Moilwa once again drew attention to the near-empty room,
concluding that the hearings ought to be about “quality over quantity”.

Once the final submissions are made by August 31, the public’s input will
be consolidated internally and a final draft will go through approval by
the board and finally sent to Icasa.

“So far nothing extraordinary has come up. People have just repeated what
most have said,” Moilwa concluded about the Johannesburg hearings.


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 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com
http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/~haroldfs/

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