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SABC Bill suffers backlash

January 29, 2024

By Chris Forrester

There are strong objections to South Africa’s proposed SABC Bill for the nation’s public broadcaster and it must be withdrawn, report local media organisations.

Three influential organisations have criticised the new Bill. SOS Support Public Broadcasting Coalition, Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) and the South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) collectively made a submission to the parliamentary portfolio committee on communications & digital technologies in which they expressed deep concern regarding the increasingly contentious Bill, which detractors say does nothing to solve the public broadcaster’s funding challenges.

The trio of objectors say their first concern was the move to introduce the Bill in parliament before the finalisation of a long-awaited policy update, which would take the form of the draft White Paper on audio and audio-visual media services and online content safety.

The organisations are also concerned that the Bill is being rushed through without proper scrutiny and due process.

The objectors also argue that this new Bill is very different from a previous draft only issued in July 2021.

“The new draft bill offers nothing to mitigate or address the SABC’s dire financial status. Instead, it provides for the minister of communications & digital technologies to take three years to develop a funding framework,” the three organisations state in their submission to the parliamentary committee. “Why wasn’t this done a decade ago? Rather than a solution, this provision sets the SABC up for failure.”

They added that the SABC requires a wholly new funding model that will ensure government contributes to its sustainability for South Africa’s population. The bill also fails to aid the SABC in solving the unfunded public mandate crisis that besets it now.

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