SABC ‘on the verge of financial collapse’
Markovitz argues that it would be naive to downplay the centrality of the public broadcaster in the life of our democracy just because some citizens also have access to commercial media and new media. First, says Markovitz, the media products owned by the SABC are not restricted to terrestrial channels, but also online and other platforms and products that reach millions of people who do not have the economic capacity to easily access commercial media, and technologies that are prohibitively expensive.
Markovitz urges the public to think of the SABC as “public media” that balances out the inherent biases of the commercial media market. To that end, he then explained to listeners of Eusebius on TimesLIVE what the more precise, legally defined roles of the board are.
These, in turn, he fleshed out by focusing on the financial, policy and strategic roles of the board. Having explained these areas in some detail, he gave practical examples as to why it is an urgent and serious problem that president Cyril Ramaphosa has not yet confirmed the new SABC board.
Markovitz claims that there are about 30 business plans waiting for board approval. These approval processes ought to have happened before the end of the financial year, which means that the public broadcaster is in breach of the PFMA. Another example would be strategic new acquisitions like indigenous language news channels that are conceptually excellent ideas but ought not to be operationalised without board approval and oversight.
Markovitz remarked that while he agreed with McKaiser that the implication of what he had sketched is that an SABC without a board is bound to fall foul of good governance best practice, and be liable to external pressures such as attempted political manipulation ahead of the elections, that the overall effects of there being no board in place are even worse. He intimated that the SABC is “potentially on the verge of financial collapse” based on what he knew on October 15 2022 as a board member, when they had compiled a report to hand over.
Markovitz also cited the absurdity of the CEO being designated as standing in for the board, a move made by the former shareholder minister, thereby contradicting the Broadcasting Act. The absence of the board had led to an unlawful fusion of senior management roles and board duties.
McKaiser also invited Markovitz to reflect on the legal battle undertaken by Media Monitoring Africa to compel Ramaphosa to confirm the names of the board. Markovitz argues that the law is clear that on the advice of parliament the president “must” confirm the names. There is no reasonable or lawful justification for the delay.
McKaiser had invited the presidency for an interview on the SABC board not yet being confirmed, but Vincent Magwenya, presidential spokesperson, declined to go on the record when approached by McKaiser last week. Have a listen to this latest episode of Eusebius on TimesLIVE and tell us your views.
Produced by Bulelani Nonyukela.