SABC BOARD STABILITY AND TRANSPARENCY CRITICAL FOR PUBLIC CONFIDENCE AND SABC SUCCESS
Last week, South Africans were disappointed to learn that Noluthando Gosa had resigned from the SABC Board not seven weeks following the Board’s appointment on 25 September 2013. The SOS Coalition is also extremely disappointed by this, particularly in light of a year shaken by Board instabilities and the erosion of the public’s already waning confidence in the SABC.
While Ms Gosa’s resignation was motivated, as she says, by her reticence to compromise the efficiency of the Board and its workings because she is overly committed. The Coalition believes that, in that case she should not have accepted her nomination due to these other commitments. Her appointment and almost immediate resignation will clearly compromise the standing of the Board and the SABC as a whole. It is important to note that in accepting a nomination, a candidate to the SABC Board has, essentially, to make an undertaking that they are ready and able to commit themselves to the service of the SABC and all of the people of South Africa whom they represent.
Wittingly or unwittingly, Ms Gosa’s resignation has undermined the Board due to the controversy it has generated. Further, the Coalition believes that the controversy was fueled by the fact that the reasons for Ms. Gosa’s resignation were not immediately made public. Previously, the Coalition has resorted to lengthy Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) applications to gain access to resignation letters. We believe strongly that this lack of transparency ultimately undermines public trust in our public broadcaster.
The Coalition wishes to underscore the importance of both preserving and strengthening the integrity of the public process through which the SABC Board is appointed to ensure that skilled, ready and committed individuals of high integrity can be attracted to and be retained on the Board in the service of the people of South Africa. Further, it is critical that the Board is transparent and publicly accountable if it is to improve its standing among all of us whom it serves.
Ms. Gosa’s resignation has highlighted once again the issue of the SABC Board appointment process. Over the years there have been many debates and serious complaints about this issue. We think that one arena in which to improve the process, must be in the ICT Policy Review Process which is currently underway. To this end, in our vision for innovative and citizen-oriented public broadcasting in South Africa, the SOS Coalition has formulated a clear and firm proposal for how the appointment process should be conducted which includes:
• The establishment and appointment of a panel of civil society leaders to assist in the short-listing, interviewing and recommendation of members to the SABC Board;
• Making it a requirement that written reasons for why the shortlisted candidates to the Board were selected (or not selected) by Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Communications;
• Strengthening to provisions regarding potential conflicts of interest of Board members; and
• That a consensus building mechanism between the Portfolio Committee on Communications, the proposed civil society panel and at least one of the two minority parties be built into the final selection of the Board candidates.
The Coalition will be presenting these views along with a number of other views on new vision for public broadcasting in the country. These will be presented to the Department of Communications’ important ICT Policy Review process that is currently underway. We believe that South Africa deserves an SABC that works. And integral to realizing that is the appointment of a skilled, widely representative and stable Board.
The SOS Coalition represents a broad spectrum of civil society stakeholders committed to the broadcasting of quality, diverse, citizen-orientated public-interest programming aligned to the goals of the SA Constitution. The Coalition includes a number of trade union federations including COSATU and FEDUSA, a number of independent unions including BEMAWU and MWASA; independent film and TV production sector organisations including the South African Screen Federation (SASFED); a host of NGOs and CBOs including the Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI) and Media Monitoring Africa (MMA), and a number of academics and freedom of expression activists.
For more information contact:
Sekoetlane Jacob Phamodi
076 084 8077