[Benedicta Dube] A few months ago, Sunday nights were pretty much routine. At 10 o'clock the nation stood to attention to watch The Big Debate on SABC 2.
[Benedicta Dube] I cannot say I'm disappointed - no, actually I am. I'm let down that City Press editor-in-chief Ferial Haffajee has buckled under pressure and brought down "The Spear" painting off the paper's website, in what she called "the spirit of peacemaking - an olive branch".
[Benedicta Dube] We have to commend President Jacob Zuma for taking the bold step of sacking his communications minister Siphiwe Nyanda in his cabinet reshuffle this past weekend. In the first place, his appointment was ill-advised and ill-conceived - as political analyst Adam Habib said, Nyanda knew nothing about the communications field and has always been a controversial figure.
[Benedicta Dube] Ten years ago the SABC was in the infancy of a journey to break free from the shackles of the Afrikaner Broederbond. There was no competition in the form of free-to-air TV channel etv; there were no independent commercial radio stations. Mediocrity could be forgiven. After all, the Broederbond's strategic mandate was to spread as much propaganda as humanly possible - quality was always a secondary issue – if at all.
[Benedicta Dube] You know that a nation is in trouble when those that are supposed to keep our consciousness in check are the ones under scrutiny. You know that a nation is in trouble when those that should be gathering news, become headline newsmakers themselves. Never has the "fourth estate" come under such intense inspection since 1994. We are at an awkward period where, for a change, we cannot look externally for answers. For once the "fourth estate" has had to look within.
[Benedicta Dube] The fourth estate is quick to jump on public and private companies, the minute they smell any sign of flouting corporate governance regulations. At the slightest hint, we jump with cameras, notebooks and recorders in hand. It is of course ironic that very few of these media groups, particularly radio and television actually practice corporate governance within their own organisations.
[Benedicta Dube] The daggers are all out. In just about a month, the SABC and ETV will be competing directly for the prime time 19H00 English news viewership. The SABC has to be commended for taking such a brave step. This can only be good for South African Television journalism, and perhaps ultimately for the public as well. The stakes are high. It all boils down to credibility, the highest standards of journalism and intelligent news content. What is certain though is that one of them will end up with egg on their face. The question is, is it going to be ETV or the SABC?
[Benedicta Dube] 2002 was pretty much a flat year for radio journalism. A lot of groundwork was covered during the year to prop up skills in the industry. One can only hope that in 2003, training and mentoring efforts will be accelerated. 2003 will be a challenge for the industry; in that for once, news editors, editors-in-chief and general news management will be expected to be less idealistic and more pragmatic in their approach.
[Benedicta Dube] The South African radio industry is not doing any favour to itself nor the public in general by opting out of the broader debate on the role of the media and the current state of journalism in the country. In fact, considering that radio is the most influential of all mediums, the real media debate should be whether radio journalism does exist at all in South Africa, and if not, why not?
Receive free email newsletter
Tell a friend about us