R2K welcomes the SABC Editorial Review Process as an important opportunity for South African citizens to shape the character of the public broadcaster which they own. It is vital that ordinary people, civil society organisations and other stakeholders express their concerns and contribute their ideas regarding the functioning of the SABC.
R2K attended public hearings in three provinces and today we submitted our formal document that outlines our key concerns and recommendations.
Democratic journalism, editorial decision-making & upward referral
Editorial Independence is of key interest to R2K. The SABC’s process of editorial decision making needs to be reviewed thoroughly, which also includes a review of the process of upward referral and the involvement of senior management, such as the CEO and CFO, in editorial decisions.
The Editorial Policy should enable the practice of Democratic Journalism where journalists move away from being told what to do, and speaking only to the spokespeople, and develop capacities to be critical, independent thinkers who make the tough calls themselves. Democratic Journalism assumes that the journalists in the field, who are on ongoing contact with the issues and the people on the ground, are in the best position to make good news judgement.
Quality & Diversity in Programming
Programming challenges include under-representation of marginalised people and issues that affect them. Voices of women and children are still not heard and gender issues are given less recognition. Content produced is mainly targeted at urban dwellers, marginalising those who are already marginalised and disadvantaged. The news analysis also reveals that provinces with well-defined metropolitan areas receive better coverage than provinces with less developed metropolitan areas. There seems to be an over-representation of English as well as White people across all SABC services, which is not representative of the demographics of the country. Moreover, the SABC reproduces unjust power relations both locally (in terms of language, race, gender and class) as well as globally (with a dominance of American programming).
R2K believes that the public broadcaster’s programming policy should actively promote equality and justice. Programming should reflect and affirm the lives and cultures of the majority of South Africans who live in poverty and promote the values underpinning the Bill of Rights.
Lastly, independent producers have complained about the intellectual property rights regime that vests intellectual property rights with the broadcasters rather than producers, thus stopping producers from selling their products on other platforms.
Audiences have complained that they don’t have enough say in programming produced and programming line-ups. In order to allow the public to engage continuously and consistently on programming, R2K proposes the appointment of a public editor, and the establishment of national and provincial/regional stakeholder committees to be comprised of key national and provincial stakeholders. These committees are to ensure that the SABC is performing its public broadcasting role with specific reference to programming, to review the SABC’s Charter periodically, advising the Board and the Minister of Communications on changes required over time, by providing an up-to-date public broadcasting mandate. The committees are also to act as community/audience feedback panels. R2K holds that these structures will greatly enhance public engagement on SABC programming.
R2K hopes that due consideration will be given to our submission.
Download the submission as a PDF here.