The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) has reversed the upward referral rule which previously saw the editor-in-chief role assigned to the broadcaster’s group chief executive officer (GCEO).
This was announced on Friday during the SABC’s virtual launch of its editorial policies.
Former SABC chief operating officer (COO) Hlaudi Motsoeneng during his time at the broadcaster made the rule mandatory and declared himself the editor-in-chief.
Speaking at the launch on Friday, the chair of the SABC’s subcommittee on news said the upward referral rule was “a cumbersome process” which “deterred from the sanctity and the independence of editorial decision making”, creating “interference” and “outcomes” that were “undesirable and deeply problematic”.
“In looking back, it is common knowledge that at the heart of the struggle of the control of the SABC in the past was the battle for the control of the newsroom. It was a traumatic, corrupt and vicious season of manipulation, bullying, coercion and control through fear and intimidation for the dedicated journalists and staff,” she said.
In the new editorial policies, the responsibility of the editor-in-chief will now be assigned to the news and current affairs group executive.
“This is consistent with the outputs we received from the very submissions made during the process of formulating these policies,” she said.
The arrangement was “well-considered to strengthen editorial controls” in the broadcasters newsroom “and ensure that journalists take full accountability of all editorial programming decisions” without being hindered and without “interference”, she said.
The news and current affairs group executive is fully responsible and accountable for:
- The credibility of all news-related content and programming in all news services
- Protection of editorial independence and impartiality of the newsroom
- Preservation of editorial integrity of the SABC – public trust
- Strict observance of the editorial policies
- Exceptional delivery on the public mandate
She said the editor-in-chief will be accountable to the GCEO for the broadcaster’s performance of its news.
The commission of inquiry into state capture has heard testimony of how the public broadcaster’s newsroom was in a serious state of decay during Motsoeneng tenure.