For the South African Broadcasting Corporation to survive, it may be forced to privatise.
This was one of the views and suggestions bandied about at a seminar on the SABC’s Role in Promoting Social Cohesion on Tuesday.
The event was hosted by the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation along with the Institute for the Advancement of Journalism on Tuesday.
Panelist Emeritus Professor Pieter Fourie, who is also a research fellow in the Department of Communication Science at the University of South Africa, said the SABC faced some serious challenges in its bid to remain relevant. He said this included that it may eventually have to be privatised.
“Why not sell off some of the television channels as it was done in the 90s?” he said.
Fourie said the SABC had experienced serious problems in the past two decades.
He was referring to the broadcaster’s financial woes and recent leadership crisis.
“In terms of its role in social cohesion and non-racialism, I think in the future it will need to justify its existence especially in the developing world of digital media.”
It would also need to justify what sets it apart from other media houses and would have to produce local content as a way to remain relevant, he said.
He believed, however, that the SABC had done a lot in terms of bringing people together.
Eyes and the ears
SABC’s Acting Chief Operations Officer Bessie Tugwana, who was also on the panel, admitted that the state broadcaster had recently made headlines for all the wrong reasons.
Tugwana said, “I hope we have turned the tide a bit but I know that we are not there yet.”
She said the public broadcaster was important because it was meant to be the eyes and the ears of the nation.
She said the SABC was currently engaging the nation on the review of its editorial policies.
Tugwana said journalists were there to serve South Africans.
“We [as a nation] have challenges all around, leadership challenges, in our families and in our communities.”
She encouraged South Africans to hold the SABC responsible when it was doing something wrong.
She said it was important that when leaders, institutions and organisations – which were meant to uphold the nation’s values – failed to do their job, “we must be brave enough to say you are not representing me and that includes the SABC”.