MMA and SOS request an extension for submission on the SABC Bill
21 November 2023
The South African Broadcasting Corporation Bill (SABC Bill) seeks to repeal the Broadcasting Act of 1999. Ideally the Bill would have only been tabled following the finalisation of the new Policy on Audio and Audiovisual Media Services and Online Content Safety (AAVCS) that would set up the new policy framework for the sector. Unfortunately, the AAVCS process has been stalled by government and is nowhere near finalisation. At the same time the SABC is facing an existential crisis and expected to operate in a model designed for the 1990’s which is not only outdated, but also forces the SABC to operate as a commercial broadcaster even though it carries a significant public mandate.
Like every other broadcaster the environment has changed dramatically over the last two decades yet the SABC’s framework has not. On that basis, there is an argument to make for the introduction of an SABC Bill to urgently address and stave off a complete collapse of the SABC. The Draft SABC Bill offers no such clarity, new mechanism or purpose. Rather it represents hash of old ideas with regressive notions and reversal of significant gains in the independence and credibility of the SABC as we have previously stated.
Accordingly, SOS Support Public Broadcasting Coalition and Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) wrote to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Communications (PPCC) calling for the Bill to be scrapped. Instead, the PPCC has opted to call for written submission on the SABC Bill.
Despite the significance of the Bill to the future of public service broadcasting in South Africa, SOS and MMA are deeply concerned that the timeframe of 19 working days prohibits these organisations and interested parties to make meaningful representations. Also, the current deadline of 15 December has been pronounced as a public holiday by President Cyril Ramaphosa.
SOS and MMA have written to the PPCC to request an extension to allow for a fair and appropriate consultation period which would enable a variety of viewpoints to be canvassed and considered.
It is imperative for a Bill involving the public broadcaster that serves millions of South Africans to grant interested parties adequate time to formulate considered and well-informed representations; and provide more effective and accurate recommendations.
SOS and MMA are concerned that the short time frame for public submission will negatively impact our right to a meaningful public consultation and limit our ability to submit more considered representations, and the quality of submissions to be made by the public.
SOS and MMA both reiterate their main concern that this Bill is being hurriedly pushed through. Failure to grant adequate time to all interested parties to thoroughly review the Bill, would compromise the constitutionality of the consultative process.
We call on the PPCC to extend the submission deadline on the SABC Bill and grant South African citizens adequate time to make meaningful representations about their public broadcaster.
For more information contact:
National Coordinator at SOS Support Broadcasting Coalition (SOS)
060 691 2462
Director at Media Monitoring Africa (MMA)
082 887 1370