Feel it, 2013 is here. Continuing our look at what media analysts and experts predict for the year, the SOS Coalition’s Sekoetlane Jacob Phamodi offers up what he believes will be the key issues for the SABC.
Top of the list, I think, will be the ICT Policy Review. This has been a long overdue process that the department has finally demonstrated its commitment to following through after Minister Dina Pule’s appointment of the panel in late December 2012. SOS was particularly delighted to see three members of the panel being its own nominees. You’ll have seen from our last press statement that we’ve called on the minister to announce non-negotiable deadlines for a green and white paper.
Next is the commercial launch of the digital migration. My own prediction for this is that this will not happen until well after mid year. At the last DTT readiness briefing to Parliament, the Department of Communications (DoC) reported that at the best case scenario, if judgment in the case lodged by e.tv against the minister over the set-top box control issue is handed down by the end of 2013, we should see the commercial launch start by June.*
But the DoC and SABC are terribly cash strapped and have no clear plan on how to promote and incentivise switch over. (The SABC made it abundantly clear that it could not afford to launch any digital incentive channels until we’ll into 2014 at the earliest.) Further, the DoC does not yet have a manufacturer who would, necessarily require about three to six months to manufacture the first batch of boxes, which also require conformance testing that also requires time.
The SABC also promised us an editorial policy review process. This is now three years overdue and, yet again, we’ve been assured this will be launched next year. Sceptical as I remain about it happening any time soon, I fully expect that this last period of censorship controversies will certainly play a significant role in what emerges out of it once it does actually happen.
Linked to this is the Phil Molefe case that is now being heard by the South Gauteng High Court. Though the forum has changed, unless the Court refers the matter back to the disciplinary committee of the SABC with clear specifications on how the matter should be handled, I fully expect us to see outcome which, for better or for worse, will surely further shake the credibility of the SABC in the public eye and impact gravely on future
* The free-to-air station won its bid to prevent Sentech from handling conditional access controls for set-top boxes. Judge Gerrit Pretorius said Minister Pule’s decision was “unlawful and of no force” and set it aside.