Bronwyn Keene-Young, chief operating officer of e.tv, has resigned. Her departure follows that of CEO, Marcel Golding.
In an email to staff, Keene-Young said it was important “for the sake of the truth and the legacy of the company” that she addresses “some aspects of the sickeningly defamatory letter distributed to you by John Copelyn yesterday”.
Copelyn, chairman of e.tv’s holding company, Sabido (a division of HCI), reportedly wrote to staff to reassure them that e.tv’s and eNCA’s editorial independence was not up for negotiation. Reuters quoted him as saying apart from an “ideological rejection of political interference, there are compelling business reasons never to allow this to happen”.
This followed claims by Golding and Barbara Hogan, who resigned from the HCI board on this week, that the broadcaster was facing increasing editorial pressure from union Sactwu (a major shareholder in HCI), HCI director Yunus Shaik and economic development minister, Ebrahim Patel.
But Keene-Young disputes Copelyn’s claims. She makes a startling revelation that she too came close to being suspended over issues to do with the station’s news direction.
“He fails to tell to that earlier this year, when I resisted editorial instructions from Yunis Shaik, he (Copelyn) sought my removal from the company. After pushback from our exco, he agreed to let me stay on provided that I was sidelined into a new position in which news no longer reported to me,” she wrote.
“Copelyn doesn’t tell you that he has told our exco that eNCA’s news coverage is ‘problematic’ for HCI’s other interests and that our news had to be reined in so that it didn’t affect HCI’s ability to source gambling licences from government.
“Copelyn doesn’t tell you that he told me that the line of editorial independence was not one for the news editorial team to determine and nor was it for Sabido management to determine.That line would be determined by HCI,” Keene-Young said in her email.
eNCA’s Mark Rosin, addressing staff, paid tribute to Keene-Young saying while Golding built the business on his vision, “there is no denying that he didn’t do it alone. He did it with Bronwyn at his side. To use a pertinent analogy, Marcel knew the building and others he intended to acquire, but Bronwyn knew every corner, wire, nook, and what plaster was used in what parts. She knew the details of every strategic decision, its genesis, its desired end point and pretty much the road to get there. Over many years, Bronwyn has passed on a great deal of her knowledge to Group Heads and managers who will continue her work to fill the huge gap left by her”.
Rosin said it was was “not a happy time” at the group, but asked everyone to “continue to keep focused and enthused”.
Keene-Young said she’d been working at e.tv for 15 years and saw herself spending her working life at the company. She said she never thought the day would come that she would have to write such a letter to staff.
She accuses Copelyn of misrepresenting the facts about Golding’s suspension and subsequent resignation. She claims he had full knowledge of the Ellies share deal, the reason HCI gave for suspending Golding. “Copelyn doesn’t tell you that he was fully aware of the ‘Ellies shares’ matter from early August and that he did nothing about it until early October until all other attempts and threats to get Marcel to resign had failed. He doesn’t tell you that throughout this period, each time Marcel refused to acquiesce to Copelyn’s demands and ‘go quietly’, that Marcel was threatened with disciplinary action on the Ellies matter,” Keene-Young says.
Copelyn, in his letter, says despite Golding’s claim to the contrary, the Ellies share deal was the reason for his suspension and disciplinary hearing, which did not take place as he resigned before it could happen. He says Golding hid the share deal from the board.
He goes on to say that by making claims of political interference, Golding has damaged the reputation of government and “all who have supported him” over the years, and that he has harmed the “credibility” of e.tv and eNCA. He says HCI would “never be indifferent” to political interference in the stations.
Keene-Young, who is married to Golding, said she felt “terrible” leaving at this time, but that she could not sacrifice her young family to “fight tooth and nail” to preserve the legacy built by Golding and the e.tv staff.
Hogan, in her resignation letter published on GroundUp, said, “I am uneasy with the proposition that the discontent with Marcel’s leadership can solely be attributed to the alleged unauthorised trading in Ellie’s shares. Whilst the latter requires investigation, I am mindful of the briefing that Yunis Shaik gave me when he claimed that SACTWU, a significant shareholder in HCI, had lost patience with the editorial practices of eTV, citing the failure to give prominent coverage to Minister Ebrahim Patel’s economic pronouncements, as an instance of such dissatisfaction”.
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