In the last week, yet another chief executive – Solly Mokoetle, was ejected prematurely from the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC). Given that the organisation’s previous CEO also faced a similar unhappy fate, there is clearly an SABC leadership crisis that is likely going to take more than a visit to the local clinic to fix.
If one considers the reach of the SABC it is easy to see why it is so important politically. SABC radio stations alone cover in excess of 19 million people – about 40% of the total South African population. This offers any political party controlling it enormous potential to spread their good news, and quite possibly only their good news. As one can expect, the internal battles around the SABC are focused largely around control of the news department.
Control of the media in this way is largely what led to the recent unprecedented events in Tunisia. There, a dictator was kept in power through the malleable national media and if it wasn’t for the extraordinary case of Mohamed Bouazizi reported through social media – notably Facebook and Twitter, it is unlikely that he would have been toppled so soon.
“We only found out what was going on because of Facebook and Twitter. If we had to depend on newspapers and television, then we probably would never have found out the details of that case and others…”
Sahar Ben Younis (20 year old student, Tunisia)
The question is what local tragedy needs to take place in South Africa before the real effect of mismanagement at the SABC becomes visible to the general public? At what point does journalism and actual news reporting take priority over a political party agenda?
Given that the country is already sliding down a slippery slope when it comes to freedom of the press in South Africa with the likes of the Protection of Information Bill, Wonkie suggests that such a point is far from arriving unless there is a significant public outcry.
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