The SABC has changed its Editorial Policy structure to make the Group Executive of News and Current Affairs the Editor In Chief.
This was announced at the launch of the public broadcaster’s Editorial Policies on Friday.
The launch was three years in the making following extensive consultations after the SABC decided to review its editorial policies.
Previously the Chief Executive Officer was also the Editor in Chief.
Board member Mary Papaya says this made upward referral rather cumbersome.
“This is consistent with the outputs we received from the submissions made in the process of formulating this policies. In essence, the new arrangement is part of well considered effort to strengthen editorial control in the newsroom and ensure that journalists take full accountability of all editorial and programming decisions and to do so without hindrance,” explains Papaya.
SABC Editor In Chief Phathiswa Magopeni has called the current SABC funding model a real danger to credible public service journalism.
Magopeni says funding plays a role in the provision of credible news.
“When the delivery of public mandate content gets determined by market factors due to lack of political and social will to fund it, it puts transparency and accountability required for a resilient and vibrant democracy at great risk. It diminishes ability to deliver fully on mandate and reduces the capacity to tell the South African story in its completeness the consequences of this are dire for those in the fringes of society,” explains Magopeni.
‘New editorial policies aims to protect editorial processes’
SABC CEO Madoda Mxakwe says the new Editorial Policies launched today aim to protect editorial processes and journalists at the public broadcaster.
The policy launch follows a three year consultation process to review policies in the organisation after wide-spread allegations of editorial interference during the tenure of Hlaudi Motsoeneng as the corporation’s COO.
Mxakwe says the new policies will position the SABC as a premier source of news.
“Ethical drifts in editorial decision making journalistic practices as well as abandonment of purpose existence in the public broadcaster can be catastrophic for the organisation. This can erode public trust and diminish its relevance. We cannot afford another experience of such.”
“We have therefore put in place system to strengthen editorial accountability of public news service and have placed editorial authority where it belongs, in the SABC newsroom,” explains Mxakwe.
Earlier, workers’ union Bemawu threatened legal action against the release of the revised editorial policies.
The union says it was not consulted on the policy nor its launch.
“The policy management framework invalidates any policy that has not followed the prescripts of that policy management framework. We thought such an important policy such as the editorial policy would have been widely consulted upon, in particular with the editorial staff. The SABC has not consulted with anyone in the SABC and we are not aware of consultations outside the SABC in respect of this policy; this policy is therefore invalid.”
Bemawu’s gripe comes amid a standoff over looming retrenchments at the public broadcaster.
Below is the policy document in full: