South Africa’s SOS: Support Public Broadcasting Coalition has released the following statement after it recently called on Minister of Communications Dina Pule to commit to keeping South Africans informed and actively involved in strengthening public broadcasting.
The SOS statement reads: On Tuesday, 10 July the DoC took a welcome step in responding positively to our call. In a letter responding to the Coalition’s submission which outlined its vision for the broadcasting policy review process during the DoC’s ICT Policy Colloquium in April, Rosey Sekese, director-general in the Department, assured the Coalition of its “unwavering commitment to the principles of openness, inclusivity and participatory nature of the review process’.
Sekese further appealed to the Coalition to actively participate in the platforms and fora provided by the Department. This, she stated, would only serve to “ensure that the country has a robust and futuristic policy which serves the interests of all South Africans and industry alike’.
With the impending overhaul of broadcasting technologies from analogue to digital and the conspicuous impasse at public broadcaster SABC, which has been beleaguered with a series of governance and financial challenges, revisiting broadcasting policy has emerged as a singularly important task for the DoC. Sectoral stakeholders and civil society alike have widely acknowledged that if public broadcasting in South Africa is to thrive, remain accessible and continue to serve its mandate, some real structural changes need to happen both within the SABC and the environment in which it operates.
Following the ICT Colloquium, the broadcasting policy review has since been subsumed as one theme in a broader and more purposive ICT policy review process in which the SOS Coalition has already started participating. Responding to the Minister’s call for nominees to establish a 20-member Panel whose task it will be to scrutinise the broad ICT landscape and make recommendations towards the formulation of a Green Paper, SOS put forward eight candidates whose skills and expertise in the various aspects of the ICT space complement their commitment to strengthening public broadcasting.
“What we want is a broadcasting policy which allows for a public broadcaster which is universally accessible, has institutional and editorial autonomy from both commercial and political interests, and is truly and directly accountable to the public it serves,’ said Carol Mohlala, coordinator of the SOS Coalition, speaking on the role which SOS intends to occupy in the policy review process. “If we want to strengthen public broadcasting, we need to inform the public about, lobby for and participate in the creation of an enabling environment for quality, independent and local programming which truly reflects and speaks to the diverse experiences of all South Africans.’
While the country waits on the Minister to announce her Panel and kick off the policy review process, SOS can only push for and trust that the political will the DoC has exhibited will result in the institutional strengthening of the SABC as well as the creation of an enabling policy framework which recommits it to South Africa as a public broadcaster which reflects, speaks and is accountable to the people.
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