Eusebius on TimesLIVE
PODCAST | SABC ‘on the verge of financial collapse’
Former board member intimated broadcaster is ‘potentially on the verge of financial collapse’ based on what he knew on October 15 2022
Michael Markovitz, former SABC board member and head of the GIBS Media Think Tank, explained to podcast host Eusebius McKaiser what the role of the board is in respect of the functioning of the public broadcaster.
Listen to the conversation:
Markovitz argues it would be naive to downplay the centrality of the public broadcaster in the life of our democracy because some citizens also have access to commercial media and new media.
Markovitz says 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.
He 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 explained to listeners of Eusebius on TimesLIVE the more precise, legally defined roles of the board.
Markovitz fleshed these 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.
He claims there are about 20 business plans waiting for board approval. The broadcaster's Corporate Plan ought to have been approved before the end of the financial year (31 March 2023), which means the public broadcaster is in breach of the Public Finance Management Act. 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 said 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, the overall effects of there being no board in place are even worse. He intimated 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.
He 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 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.
The podcast host had invited the presidency for an interview on the SABC board not yet being confirmed, but presidential spokesperson Vincent Magwenya declined to go on the record when approached by McKaiser last week.
Listen to this latest episode of Eusebius on TimesLIVE and tell us your views.
To listen to previous episodes, go here.
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