It’s been a dramatic start to the week for the South African Broadcasting Corporation as former news chief and acting chief executive Jimi Matthews very publicly resigned. This was preceded by the suspension of three journalists, and followed by the threat of a news blackout by disaffected staff.
SABC executives held a press briefing this afternoon at the public broadcaster’s offices in Auckland Park to address Jimi Matthews’ resignation as well as the general state of the SABC. Speakers included chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng and newly appointed acting CEO, James Aguma. Here are the highlights.
Aguma was asked whether the SABC was profitable and in response, gave a rather complicated answer. “Profitability is not a concept you can use in an entity like the SABC that has a public mandate that is underfunded by the state; so you can’t use that word profitability,” he said.
“What we are interested in, is can we generate sufficient surpluses to ensure that we maintain our business? Until people understand that we have a large public mandate that is unfunded by the fiscus, it is funded through commercial resources, we will forever tow that line, swinging between what commercially you would call profitability and for me I would call it a deficit,” said Aguma. He used the example of sports rights, which he says the SABC spent $13 million on for Afcon games, which then rose to $21 million.
The SABC also responded to the resignation of Jimi Matthews. “Jimi is no longer an employee of the SABC. The relations came to an end yesterday. When I say the board can not account for Jimi’s resignation, Jimi mentioned a lot of things but importantly one line that my colleague says here ‘What is happening at the SABC is wrong’. Jimi handed in his resignation in the manner in that he did, didn’t give us the opportunity to interact with it. So it’s only Jimi that knows what he’s talking about… Jimi does not speak for every employee, there’s thousands of employees who are still at the SABC so his resignation doesn’t constitute a revolution,” said non executive board member, Nomvuyo Mhlakaza.
Motsoeneng returned to the podium to address the issue of people saying investors would no longer invest in the SABC as well as what effect the 90% local content quota policy may have on investors. Motsoeneng said investors needed the SABC due to the size of its audience.
Motsoeneng also took aim at the SABC’s haters on social media as well as in other media types, particularly print media.
In closing, he addressed the issue of censorship at the SABC, particularly not broadcasting protest visuals. A journalist asked him whether SABC would have covered the 1976 Sharpeville Uprising.
Kganyago responded, “You can’t compare 1976 apartheid era and democratic era. That is a huge mistake that you are committing. At SABC we are not censoring anything. We will report news as they are.
“What we said was we can’t show people who collude with some of the journalists. You know protesters sometimes they call journalists and say ‘We are waiting for you. When you come we are going to burn this school’. We are saying no… But if a building is burning there, we will cover that building. We are not saying we are not going to cover. And even Tshwane, we have been covering Tshwane. You have seen those pictures, we have been covering Tshwane. I don’t know what people are talking about.”
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