In an instance of unfortunate timing, public broadcaster SABC launched its News Agency on 8 May, the day after both its Group CEO Dali Mpofu and head of News Snuki Zikalala had been suspended.
Speaking at the Johannesburg launch of the SABC News Agency, which will make its extensive news and current affairs content available to clients, SABC board member and former Presidential spokesman Bheki Khumalo talked about the “considerable doubt and disruption’ at the SABC. “As a public service broadcaster, the SABC is an institution of value to democracy. We are tasked to be a credible, independent broadcaster. Today we are faced with enormous challenges and therefore we need to recommit to our mandate of being a truly independent, neutral, non-partisan, non-biased broadcaster that is not involved in ruling party politics. News must be carried without fear or favour.
“One of the things this SABC board did when it was appointed was to meet with all regional heads of SABC News. We told them that the SABC can’t become a party political instrument because we are in a position of public trust. This means a diversity of views without censorship.’
Khumalo stressed that whatever happens to the current board, which recently fell foul of the parliamentary communications committee, the SABC will remain. “It needs to fulfil its historical mandate. The SABC News department grapples every day with issues of politics, energy, economics, etc. We need proper contextualisation of these issues in the way we report on them. The SABC has a strong news network in Africa and the rest of the world and we need to talk both about what is happening in other African countries and the diaspora. We’re the biggest broadcaster in Africa so we have to among the world’s best broadcasters.’
The SABC News Agency is planning to partner with community radio stations as a way of reaching those segments of the South African population that do not currently have access to the SABC signal.
Some of the services that are included in the SABC News Agency’s opening offering include the recently launched 24-Hour SABC News International channel; tailor-made productions of news bulletins and/ or current affairs programmes originated by the SABC News department; archived news footage and current affairs programming (from the SABC’s extensive Archive Library); “On the scene’ live content directly to broadcasters and media organisations; and direct selling of SABC Radio and Television news bulletins.
The initial content available for sale as raw or packaged video and/ or audio footage comprises main news coverage of the day; human interest stories reflecting politics, society, sport and arts and culture; interviews with newsmakers and personalities; text content – short, medium or feature-story in length; audio and visual content that can be pre-edited with relevant images and selected natural up-sounds; and requested raw footage – video and/ or audio.