Public trust in the SABC takes another knock

Pranav Bhatt/Flickr

Reaction to the suspension or resignation of three SABC executives last week over the issue of an allegedly “secret” R35-million contract emphasises the need for public trust in the public broadcaster – particularly leading up to the general election.

SABC group chief operating officer Ian Plaatjes, group executive for video entertainment Merlin Naicker and group executive for sales Reginald Nxumalo allegedly concealed a profit share clause from SABC executive committee members during their presentation when the deal was approved last year, according to City Press on Sunday.

Plaatjes and Naicker have been suspended and Nxumalo has resigned.

The contract relates to the launch of SABC+, a streaming service launched after Telkom ended its TelkomOne joint venture with the public broadcaster.

SOS Coalition national co-ordinator Uyanda Siyatola said: “At this moment, we have only heard one side of the story – and no details from the implicated executives. [If true] it is disappointing for the SABC executives to conceal such crucial information, particularly given that this impacts the finances of the SABC, which is already in a dire state.

“We know the SABC has suffered a lot from the instability of executive management over the years. Transparency and accountability are important, particularly where the public broadcaster is concerned. The SABC worked hard to stabilise and restore public trust and whenever such reports surface, public trust is eroded – and no public broadcaster can thrive without public trust, as trust directly impacts viewership,” Siyatola said.

Dwindling

“The SABC cannot afford to lose more of its audience because its viewership is already dwindling. This needs to be dealt with strictly to protect the integrity of the SABC and core public broadcasting principles of accountability and transparency.”

The R35-million contract, renewable yearly for five years, was awarded to Discover Digital. But the executives did not disclose that the company would be paid an additional 7.5%, which only came to light when the SABC’s then head of legal, Ntuthuzelo Vanara, later questioned the clause.

The three allegedly signed the deal without involving him or acting CEO at the time, Madoda Mxakwe.

Read: ‘Catastrophic’ SABC Bill must be withdrawn

According to the City Press report, law firm Werkmans said the three executives deliberately concealed the crucial information from the SABC executive committee during their presentation. The firm reportedly said the business plan presented to the SABC’s executive committee during a meeting on 7 November 2022 stipulated that the SABC would get 100% of the revenue generated by SABC+, which used to be Telkom One.

“The committee approved this proposal, but then the SABC’s legal division picked up and queried the appearance of the 7.5% advertising revenue-sharing clause on 16 November 2022 during the contract drafting process.”

While it is not clear whether the three benefited from the deal, legal opinion was that their failure to act in the best interests of the SABC had broken trust.

The SABC declined to comment, saying that as a “matter of principle, it is not at liberty to discuss matters pertaining to an employer/employee relationship in the public space”.  – © 2024 NewsCentral Media

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Source: techcentral.co.za