SABC communication meltdown fails citizens: iLIVE
There will always be difficulties, challenges, problems and crises in any organisation. It is hardly surprising that these should occur within the SABC, which is a massive institution with an incredibly difficult mandate and a place where they are often damned if they do and damned if they don't.
It is not that they have crises that should make us worry. It is that they take a crisis and see how they can turn it into a fully flaming disaster.
Ironically, the SABC's main method of expanding crises to disasters is through what should be their core area of expertise - communication - or, in most instances, their lack of it.
Kaiser Kganyago, SABC spokesperson, deserves a medal. As boards and CEOs have come and gone, Kganyago has been one of the few to hang on and try to steer the SABC through its hard times. But that isn't why he deserves a medal.
No, he deserves a medal because he is frequently placed in a position in which he has to communicate non-positions.
In the latest crisis surrounding special leave granted to Phil Molefe, he was given so little to communicate that he had to resort to commenting on speculation in the print media to sound like the SABC actually had a position.
It fundamentally undermines the public service mandate of the SABC for us not to be clearly informed why a person as senior as Molefe, with a clear public interest role as head of news, is placed on special leave.
Instead, we see the SABC express regret and concern that the media are speculating. Seriously?
What else do they think the media will do if they don't tell us? They will speculate, they will find other sources, and the real losers are the citizens, who are left none the wiser.
To be clear, Molefe's is a crucial position in the institution and for such dramatic action to be taken, we as citizens, as owners (albeit through our government) of the public broadcaster, have a right to know why. We shouldn't be forced to ask the minister of communication or parliament to act.
We should know through formal communication from the SABC board, who are elected by the public to serve our interests, exactly why Molefe has been placed on special leave. We should have had a statement saying something like: " Molefe has been placed on special leave for the following reasons, and this is what we are doing to resolve the issues as quickly as possible. This is who is responsible while Molefe is on special leave."
Instead, we are left to speculate and for conspiracies to fester and tempers to flare, and for our public broadcaster to again look ineffective and evasive. Another lost opportunity to help build credibility of a core public institution.
The solution for the SABC is relatively easy - communicate openly and transparently what is going on and why.
It seems they are reluctant to do this.
Maybe it is time parliament's portfolio committee on communication started holding regular special hearings at which they and members of the public get to ask the board questions, and they have to answer them.
Maybe then citizens will have answers, and our print media will have information to report, instead of being forced to speculate.