[COMMENT] During the dark days of the Zuma/Hlaudi control of the SABC it was quite traumatic watching the news on TV. About as upsetting as watching the news on Gupta TV which, thank goodness, has now disappeared in the darkest recesses of South African media history.
The only reason I would switch to the 7pm SABC news on TV was to allow my role as a media commentator to keep up with the farce.
But recently, I have become increasingly surprised at the way in which the evening SABC news is presented on TV.
Suddenly, I have found myself watching it for longer and longer because this is now an entirely different kettle of fish.
The first thing I noticed, quite clearly, was that the content is being prioritised on newsworthiness and not political influence. There does seem to be a fairly strong backbone of independence running through it all.
The second thing was that the presenters, newsreaders and reporters all seemed to be chosen for their skills and intelligence rather than their gender or skin colour.
Strangely enough, SABC TV’s biggest news competitor, eNCA, seems to have lost a bit of its edge. While Hlaudi was at the SABC’s helm, eNCA was without doubt the go-to TV news channel if one was looking for something remotely trustworthy.
But nowadays, I have to say that the evening news on eNCA is like watching paint dry. It is cumbersome and seems to lack relevance and direction. I get the feeling that there is a lot of sitting on laurels at eNCA. Which is a pity because it still has the potential to be the leading edge instead of giving the appearance of dragging its feet.
Quite clearly SABC News, in spite of continued management crises and board obfuscation, did a principled about turn when Cyril Ramaphosa took over as president.
After that it didn’t take SABC news management long to start headhunting some of the best in the business one of which, for example, was Stephen Grootes, who moved across from Primedia Broadcasting.
The only conclusion one could come to with regard to that extremely surprising career move by Grootes was that he certainly would not have given the SABC a second thought unless he was guaranteed protection from political interference and allowed to speak his mind.
The SABC is by no means out of the woods yet both financially and from a strategic management perspective. But its news division seems to be well on the right track and I have to say that having spent the most part of the Zuma years criticising the SABC in my opinion pieces, it is quite nice to be able to say something positive about them at last.
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