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«1. INTRODUCTION 1.1. In Notice 831 published in Government Gazette 31215 dated 4 July 2008 (‘the Notice”), the Portfolio Committee on ...»

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WRITTEN REPRESENTATIONS BY THE CIVIL SOCIETY COALITION: SAVE OUR SABC –

RECLAIMING OUR PUBLIC BROADCASTER, ON THE DRAFT BROADCASTING ACT

AMENDMENT BILL [2008]

_____________________________________________________________________________

1. INTRODUCTION

1.1. In Notice 831 published in Government Gazette 31215 dated 4 July 2008 (‘the Notice”),

the Portfolio Committee on Communications (“the Committee”) invited interested persons and institutions to make written representations on the Draft Broadcasting Act Amendment Bill (“the Bill”) by 25 July 2008.

1.2. We, the Civil Society Coalition: Save our SABC – Reclaiming Our Public Broadcaster (“the Coalition”) thank the Committee for the opportunity to make these written representations and request that we be allocated time to make oral representations as well.

1.3. The Coalition is a large grouping of organisations and individuals working together to address the crisis in public broadcasting in South Africa. It includes non-governmental and civil society organisations, trade unions and academics (see Appendix A for full list of members).

1.4. Key organisations and individuals include:

• The Broadcast, Electronic Media and Allied Workers Union

• Institute for Democratic Alternatives in South Africa

• The Congress of South African Trade Unions

• The Freedom of Expression Institute

• The Institute for the Advancement of Journalism

• MISA South Africa (The South African National Chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa)

• The Media Monitoring Project

• The National Consumer Forum

• The Independent Producers Organisation

• The South African History Archives

• SANGONET

-1 Prof. Anton Harber – Caxton Professor of Journalism, University of the Witwatersrand (in his private capacity)

• Prof. Tawana Kupe – Associate Professor of Media Studies and Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, University of the Witwatersrand (in his private capacity)

• Ms. Justine Limpitlaw – broadcasting lawyer and academic at the University of Pretoria (in her private capacity)

• Ms. Jeanette Minnie of Zambezi FoX – international Freedom of Expression and Media Consultant

2. BACKGROUND TO THE BILL

2.1. The Bill arises out of Parliament’s concern with the on-going crises at the SABC and we applaud the Committee’s desire to find solutions to these crises.

2.2. The Coalition is of the view that the current crises plaguing the public broadcaster are

deep rooted and arise as a result of a number of serious problems with:

2.2.1. the provisions of the Broadcasting Act, 1999, the Memorandum and Articles of Association of the SABC and the Shareholder Compact between the SABC and the Minister of Communications;

2.2.2. the unlawful and direct interference in Parliament’s process of appointing the current Board;

2.2.3. the on-going politicization of the SABC board and the failure by the SABC’s leadership (including board members and senior management) to represent the public interest effectively in the carrying out of their respective duties; and 2.2.4. The silence by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) about the crises and its failure therefore to fulfil its legislative responsibility to monitor compliance by the SABC with its Charter and the Broadcasting Act, 1999.

2.3. The Coalition respectfully requests Parliament to recognise that the issues at the SABC cannot be addressed by piecemeal amendments to the legislative framework – but in the long term require a holistic review of the challenges facing public broadcasting in South

Africa. This includes:

–  –  –

2.3.2. A review of the White Paper on Broadcasting (developed close to ten years ago) in order both to evaluate the effectiveness of the framework developed in the policy and to craft policies in the light of the changing broadcasting environment given, for example, convergence and digital migration; and 2.3.3. The promulgation of an SABC Act to replace the current Broadcasting Act, taking into account the problems identified above and the policy developed as a result of the proposed policy review process.

2.4. Some of the challenges impacting on public broadcasting which need review through this

process include:

–  –  –

(Note this is not an exhaustive list)

2.5. The Coalition strongly believes that the current crises can in no way be addressed by a piecemeal approach to one of the problems identified above, namely by only addressing limitations to the Broadcasting Act. The proposed amendments suggested by the Committee, in fact raise additional concerns with, for example, the disqualification clauses.

2.6. The Coalition is in the process of drafting an alternative Bill, in the interests of assisting the Committee to pass a workable Bill in the shortest possible time. This will be submitted to Parliament as soon as possible and will be discussed as part of our oral submission.

We set out below, the considerations guiding our review of the Bill.





2.7. In addition, recognising that the integrity of the appointment process has been damaged, we have outlined practices and principles that need to be adhered to in any new appointment process in order to ensure its credibility and have attached this as Annexure B.

3. INCORRECT FOCUS ON REMOVAL PROCEDURE ONLY

3.1. The Coalition understands the Committee’s recognition that the appointment process of the current Board was defective and that this has negatively affected the latter’s credibility.

3.2. The Coalition further notes concerns raised by members of the Committee regarding the effectiveness of the Board’s fulfilment of its responsibilities expressed in a vote of no confidence adopted by the Committee.

3.3. However, the Coalition is of the view that there is a need for a thorough review of appointment procedures – based on a policy decision on the role of the Board. This can only be achieved through the Green Paper/ White Paper process outlined above as the current amendment procedure is in no way comprehensive enough. To emphasise this

–  –  –

3.4. Nevertheless, we have made submissions on enhancing in the immediate term the appointment, qualification and disqualification provisions in the existing Broadcasting Act to assist in avoiding similar crises in the short term.

3.5. As a result, the Coalition is of the view that not only the removals provisions of the Broadcasting Act require to be amended, but that, in the short-term, the appointment and disqualification provisions also need to be amended to avoid a repeat of the current crises.

4. SHORT TERM BUT COMPREHENSIVE SOLUTIONS TO BOARD APPOINTMENT

PROCEDURES, QUALIFICATIONS, DISQUALIFICATIONS AND CONFLICTS OF

INTERESTS; REMOVAL CRITERIA AND PROCEDURES, AND THE APPOINTMENT OF

AN INTERIM BOARD

4.1. The Coalition proposes amendments to section 13: Members of the Board. The Coalition wishes to emphasise that the amendments proposed here are short term. As emphasised above we believe there needs to be a comprehensive review of the Board’s appointment

criteria and processes. The following immediate temporary amendments are proposed:

–  –  –

4.1.2. to improve the qualification criteria of Board members by proposing that the current clause in the Broadcasting Act be deleted and replaced by the original criteria agreed on by the negotiating parties (between the African National Congress on behalf of the Campaign for Independent Broadcasting and the then National Party Government1) for appointment of the first democratic Board of the SABC in 1993. The Coalition is of the view that the current clause in the Memorandum of Understanding between the ANC and the South African Government on the appointment of a new SABC Board by 31 March 1993. (Paragraphs 6.1, 6.2 and 6.3 of the memorandum).

–  –  –

The Coalition wishes to slightly amend these two points by stating that the appointing authority should pay due regard to the racial, gender, regional, economic and social composition of South African society. We believe that the addition of the word “economic” emphasises the need to ensure labour representation. And in terms of point two the Coalition feels that at least one member should “be qualified and have experience in corporate governance and broadcasting finance issues” and further that one or more members should be “qualified in and have experience in journalism and broadcasting related issues”. However, we have not as yet finalised our discussions on these additions. The process will be concluded shortly and our final resolutions will be included in our Draft Amendment Bill and will be presented at the oral hearings.

4.1.3. to improve the functioning and coherence of the Board and senior management

by:

–  –  –

• ensuring the appointment of the members of the executive committee of the SABC (other than the executive directors) by the Group Chief Executive Officer after consultation with the Board;

4.1.4. to improve the removal provisions of the Broadcasting Act by replacing section 15 and providing for:

–  –  –

4.1.5. to improve the disqualification and disclosure of conflict of interest provisions in the Broadcasting Act by deleting section 17 in its entirety and replacing section 16 and, in so doing, provide for:

–  –  –

5. THE WAY FORWARD

5.1. The Coalition reiterates that this Bill could play a helpful role if it is seen as being only one immediate step as part of a much longer and in-depth process to identify and rectify the myriad problems facing the public broadcaster.

–  –  –

5.3. The Coalition calls upon Parliament to ensure that Government, particularly the Department of Communications, undertakes a thorough Green and White Paper policy review process to develop lasting and in-depth solutions to the SABC’s problems; and

5.4. The Coalition calls upon Parliament to institute legislative processes to enact an SABC Act to replace the current Broadcasting Act, taking into account the problems identified above and the policy developed as a result of the proposed policy review process.

6. CONCLUSION

6.1. The Coalition thanks the Committee for the opportunity to make these representations and looks forward to appearing before it during the oral hearings on the Bill.

6.2. Please do not hesitate to contact Ms Kate Skinner, the Coalition’s campaign coordinator, (contact details provided below) should the Committee have any queries or require any further information with regard to the Coalition’s submission.

Cell: 082.926.6404.

Email: kate.skinner@mweb.co.za

–  –  –

Please note that not all the organizational and individual profiles had been received by the Friday 25 July 2008 deadline. The comprehensive list of profiles will be included when we participate in the oral submission process.

- 10 The Broadcast, Electronic, Media & Allied Workers Union (BEMAWU) is a registered trade union in terms of the Labour Relations Act, No 66 of 1995.

BEMAWU is an independent specialist trade union primarily organized in the Broadcast and Media sector, with the majority of its members employed by the SABC. We are not affiliated with any federation and we do not support any political party or ideology.

BEMAWU has approximately 1000 members at the SABC which includes journalist, camerapersons, technical staff and administrative staff. We also have members in the print media, private radio stations, Sentech, Multichoice and freelancers.

All our office bearers are, or have been employed in the broadcast industry and we have specialist knowledge of broadcasting and the SABC.

We exist to serve the interest of our members and the citizens of our country as best possible. Our members employed by the SABC deserves a stable, professional, fair, properly managed and non-discriminatory workplace free of political interference on board, executive and management level by any political party and/or its members. Our citizens a democratic broadcaster that is free of political bias, blacklisting, control by the state and/or political party and interference for political gain by any person or party. A broadcaster that complies with the relevant legislation.

A broadcaster committed to free and fair reporting on issues that has an impact on the lives of our people.

–  –  –

Introduction The FXI is a not for profit non-governmental organisation which was established in 1994 to protect and foster the rights to freedom of expression and access to information, and to oppose censorship. The FXI’s primary objectives are to promote and defend freedom of expression; to oppose censorship; to advocate the right of equal access to information and knowledge; and to promote access to media and a free press.

The FXI undertakes a wide range of activities in support of these objectives, including lobbying, education, monitoring, research, publicity, litigation and the funding of legal cases that advance these rights.

The FXI is registered in terms of the Non-Profit Organisation (NPO) Act. The NPO registration number is 034887.

Background The Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI) was established in 1994 to protect and foster the rights to freedom of expression and access to information, and to oppose all forms of censorship. The Institute was formed from a merger of three organisations: The Campaign for Open Media, the Anti Censorship Action Group and the Media Defence Trust.

Affiliations



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