The “Save our SABC” Coalition, representing COSATU, Bemawu, the Treatment Action Campaign, a host of NGOs and CBOs including the Freedom of Expression Institute, the Media Monitoring Project, and the Media Institute of Southern Africa have welcomed the Bill. We believe that it deals with major gaps around the removal of Board members in the present Broadcasting Act, 1999. The present Act only allows for the removal of individual Board members on the recommendation of the Board itself.
The Coalition however believes that ideally amendments to the Broadcasting Act should not be handled in this piecemeal fashion. We are calling for a major legislative review process including a public, consultative Green Paper / White Paper process leading to the promulgation of a new SABC Act.
However, in the short term we are calling for a few final amendments to the Broadcasting Amendment Bill and to the Broadcasting Act itself to ensure that some of the immediate crises plaguing the SABC are dealt with. The Coalition is calling for amendments to the following:
- Appointments to the Board
- Removal of Board members
- Quorum issues
- Criteria for appointments to the Interim Board
In terms of appointments the Coalition believes that the SABC crisis started with problems around appointments to the Board. To restore the credibility of future SABC Boards there needs to be greater transparency and public participation in appointment processes. The Coalition believes that we need shortlists of candidates to be published with the names of nominees; public interviews for short-listed candidates; and MPs to give a written evaluation, including reasons, for the selection of candidates to the shortlist. Further to this, the Broadcasting Amendment Bill needs to deal with a serious gap in the Broadcasting Act around the appointment of Executive members to the SABC Board. (The Executive members include the Group Chief Executive Officer, Chief Operating Officer and the Chief Financial Officer.) The Broadcasting Act is silent on their appointment and this has deepened the crisis (and ongoing battles) between Executive and Non-Executive members of the Board. We believe the Non-Executive members of the Board should appoint the Executive members of the Board. There should be no interference from the Minister. At present the Minister plays a role which potentially undermines the independence of the SABC.
In terms of removal of Board members the Coalition supports the criteria for the removal of individual Board members in the Broadcasting Amendment Bill but we disagree with the proposal to allow the Board to remove a non-executive Board member. The Coalition believes on principle that all Non-Executive appointments and removals should go through Parliament. In terms of the removal of Board members as a collective the Coalition believes that it needs to be made explicit that only the Non-Executive members of the Board will be removed in this process. The Executive members of the Board are part of the Interim Board and thus can not be removed or else Interim Board provisions will be made unworkable. Further, we believe that the phrase “due process” needs to be included in the removal clauses to ensure that this is entrenched. We also want to emphasise that we believe that the removal of Non-Executive Board members as a collective should only happen in extraordinary circumstances to safeguard the independence of the SABC Board and the SABC as an institution.
In terms of quorum issues the Coalition believes that the present clause in the Broadcasting Act is unworkable for the Interim Board. (An Interim Board will sit if the Non-Executive members of the Board are removed as a collective.) The quorum for a normal board meeting is 9 but the interim board includes only 8 members. Without amendments to the quorum clause the interim board will not be able to sit. Finally, we believe that criteria are needed for appointments of Non-Executive members to the Interim Board.
For further information please contact:
- Kate Skinner (Campaign Coordinator) – (082) 926-6404
- Prakashnee Govender (Cosatu Parliamentary Office) – (083) 461-0663
- William Bird (Media Monitoring Project) – (082) 887-1370
- Melissa Moore (FXI) – (082) 924-8268
- Faiza Smith (Misa-SA) – (076) 995-9513