So, communications minister Dina Pule is irritated by the fact that she doesn’t get to appoint the SABC board but when it screws up she takes the flak for it. Sounds reasonable.
And now she wants a lot more say about just who gets appointed. Fair enough.
I say, let her.
But, not for the reasons she gives. Rather for the sake of one way or another clearing up this on-going debacle that is costing South Africans a fortune in bailouts.
Basically there are two options. The first is to privatise the SABC and let someone who actually knows how to make money out of broadcasting run the place.
I am thinking for example of e.tv which is now very successful in spite of being hog-tied with so diabolical a set of regulations that when the company launched, no-one gave it a hope in hell of succeeding. But it did. In spite of having no subscriptions and getting nothing from TV licences.
Naspers are also pretty good at running a successful TV business. There is no question that private enterprise can do the job.
However, that is a pipe dream. It is not going to happen.
The only alternative is to make a change from the existing situation that has now proved to be less than useless.
So, I say let Dina Pule decide who should sit on the board. In fact, why have a board at all? She should just have a bunch of cadres making sure that the SABC toes the party line.
I know this all sounds defeatist and cynical, but something has to be done and perhaps the best medicine in the long run is for government to realise that trying to make the national broadcaster self-sustainable is not going to happen when so many ideological demands are made of it.
Ironically, in saying that she has no control over who sits on the SABC board, the minister doesn’t realise that the very reason why the SABC board is dysfunctional is because the very person she does have control over appointing is usually the one who causes all the grief.
I am talking about the chairman, who unlike the board members, is appointed by the President and presumably nominated by the communications minister.
The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Communication selects board members and this is made up of most of the political parties. And although the ANC has the majority, they have in the past, managed to put at least a few skilled and experienced people on the board.
What always seems to happen, though, is that there is huge conflict between those people and the chairman who is inevitably an ANC cadre with little or no experience of the broadcast industry. Which is why those very skilled and experienced people quit.
What should happen of course is that the newly elected SABC board should choose a chairman from among their own ranks.
But, that is not going to happen.
So, perhaps the last desperate bid to stop the SABC haemorrhaging money by the bank-load would be to let the minister have her way.
It will be a disaster. That is absolutely guaranteed. But maybe, just maybe, government will finally learn its lesson that a national broadcaster cannot become financially sustainable through wishy-washy pipe dreams.
Another reason why I think the minister should get involved with appointing the board is because then there will be absolutely no doubt whatsoever that the SABC is not so much a national public broadcaster as a radio and TV corporation owned and controlled by the governing party.
At least then the charade will end and South Africans will be able to decide for themselves whether to support a propaganda machine or stop paying licences and giving advertising and sponsorship support.
Follow Chris Moerdyk on Twitter @chrismoerdyk
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