Vital for country to have a sustainable SABC

Journalist Sophie Mokoena addressing striking SABC employees during a lunch-time picket outside the Auckland Park offices. SABC employees have been on strike since last week after they were served with retrenchment letters. Photo Thulani Mbele.
Journalist Sophie Mokoena addressing striking SABC employees during a lunch-time picket outside the Auckland Park offices. SABC employees have been on strike since last week after they were served with retrenchment letters. Photo Thulani Mbele.
Image: Thulani Mbele

The media industry was completed hammered by the hard lockdown that came into effect on March 27. Many magazines and newspapers that we grew up reading were either shut down, their products moved to a strictly digital space, or some distribution routes were cut altogether as it simply became unsustainable to keep them going. Dozens of journalists and support staff lost their jobs.

Some businesses that have managed to keep going are forced to do so with a leaner staff complement, looking at innovative ways to keep the businesses going. The SABC is no different.

The public broadcaster has been limping along for the last few years — though it arguably receives more money from advertising revenue than any of the other national and international TV stations based in SA.

Years of bad decisions and the disastrous Hlaudi Motsoeneng rule have contributed to this predicament, with the institution forced to undertake the painful process of cutting jobs in a bid to get the SABC out of the red.

The SABC reported a net loss of R511m for the last financial, with a potential 400 jobs on the line.

Past retrenchment attempts were prevented, but unless the board and government can come up with a plan this week that will allow the SABC to be more sustainable while saving jobs, many are likely to join the unemployment queue.

A weakened SABC should be of concern to all South Africans.

Having a public broadcaster that reaches all corners of SA — be it through TV or radio — is vital for our democracy. The same goes for the rest of the media industry which must succeed for our democracy to thrive.

A solution must be sought that ensures the SABC is able to serve the nation optimally — difficult as the road ahead may be.

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