Employees at the SABC were forced to endure regular threats and capricious attacks during the time when the public broadcaster’s newsroom was run by Hlaudi Motsoeneng, according to a report in the City Press.
An investigation by the Commission of Inquiry into Interference in the Decision-Making in the Newsroom of the SABC paints a terrifying picture of what it was like to work at the broadcaster during this period.
The probe revealed several instances of the misuse of authority and power by Motsoeneng and his enforcers, including the threatening of SABC journalists with termination for not running certain press releases.
“I do not believe in research,” Motsoeneng said during a meeting with SABC journalists. “No journalist is independent.”
The investigation also highlighted instances where SABC TV crews were bullied into providing coverage for traditional leaders close to Motsoeneng, as well as various ANC youth and women’s leagues.
Other offenders who contributed to the terrorising of SABC journalists included former communications minister Faith Muthambi, and various executives appointed by Motsoeneng to implement his policies at the public broadcaster.
This report has attracted some criticism for its lack of forensic structure, but it does portray the situation in the SABC newsroom, where it said enforcers employed the “capricious use of authority and power to terrorise staff and to deflect the corporation from its mandate and editorial policies”.
SABC falling to pieces
The public broadcaster is faced with a major debt problem, and earlier this year it was forced to choose between paying municipal bills or its employees’ salaries.
The SABC has warned multiple times that a total broadcasting blackout is a possibility if major debtors stopped supporting the broadcaster.
Earlier this month, the SABC found itself unable to pay SuperSport R280 million for the rights to Absa Premiership League matches, and subsequently, it will no longer broadcast this local soccer league.
The PSL said that South Africans may have to “accept that the SABC is incapable of meeting its requirements”.
It said the situation is “unacceptable going forward”.
Currently, both parties remain at an impasse regarding the price for the Absa Premiership broadcast rights, with the SABC stating that it would only have made R9.8 million in revenue per year – making the required licence payment of R280 million “commercially unviable”.