On 13 July 2017, the SABC announced that it was embarking on a review of its 2004 editorial policies. The SABC’s editorial policies provide a framework and serve as a guideline for decision-making on all content carried on SABC services. The policies specifically address programming, news and current affairs, language, universal access and services, local content, religious programming and education. It is therefore crucial that the public, who are true owners of the SABC and our democracy, are involved in their development.
This new review process is aimed at ensuring that a proper consultation process takes place with the public and the various stakeholders of the SABC, and that the final policies that emanate from this process are in line with Broadcasting Act of No 4 of 1999. All South Africans, and also specific stakeholder groupings/organisations, civil society, political parties, content creators, producers and general suppliers, etc., are encouraged to engage fully and then provide informed input to the process.
The Nelson Mandela Foundation (NMF), the SOS Coalition and Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) decided to host a round-table dialogue to support the editorial review public process by creating an opportunity for effective public participation between stakeholders and policymakers. The dialogue was held on 24 August 2017 at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg.
Twenty-five diverse participants attended the dialogue, including SABC editorial staff and activists in the media space. A robust discussion took place, ranging in topic from editorial policies related to news and religion, to the role of ICT in a changing environment, to the financing of a public broadcaster. It was notable that in many respects civil society and the SABC found common ground.
As an extension, the NMF commissioned the SOS Coalition to produce a detailed submission to be sent to the SABC, drawing both on its experience as well as from the dialogue.
The NMF will continue supporting the process going forward, providing a safe space for these dialogues, with the aim of strengthening the public broadcaster and making it more accountable to the public.