SABC board shortlist nominee Govin Reddy's criticism of the SABC reporters late last week did not go down well in Auckland Park, the public broadcaster's headquarters in Johannesburg, where some people took it as an attempt to discredit and undermine the efforts of news staff doing their best under difficult circumstances.
Reddy told MPs in Cape Town that the SABC reporters are pathetic and lack the cutting edge, and they do not research the topics they are reporting on.
Deplored Reddy's generalisation
SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago deplored Reddy's generalisation of the issue, saying the public broadcaster believes in its people and will always believe in them. "We will not be keeping them if they didn't perform," he told Bizcommunity.com.
Reddy, an academic and board member of the Mail & Guardian newspaper, was also quoted as saying that SABC newsreaders have not been trained. "News readers must be journalists, understand what they are reading and mustn't be repeating words. If there is an important story, they must be an expert on that subject and must talk to you with authority," he said.
"Watch the BBC when there is a breaking story, they will go on camera with someone in New York. The presenter who is interviewing, interviews with absolute authority. They have done the research and they know it all. You don't get that from the SABC. The reporters from the field are pathetic," media reports quoted the SAfm founder as telling MPs.
Reddy was being interviewed for one of the four positions of the SABC board.
"Miles far apart"
A source close to the SABC said: "I think he is himself pathetic because he is comparing the SABC to the BBC, which are miles far apart in terms of technology, pay, financial resources, training, style of leadership and management.
"It is an irresponsible statement. Of course, people are shocked by what he said. There is so much going on in there which he doesn't know about. These guys are doing their best under very difficult circumstances. "
Kganyago added: "Generalisation doesn't help solve issues. It is like saying all the soccer players are pathetic. How do you measure that? Well, that was part of the interview and his personal view. It is now up to the people who were interviewing him to decide whether that is true or not."
However, some say Reddy hit the right tones and told it as it is.
"There is actually merit"
Jane Duncan, chair and professor of media and information society at Rhodes University, said yesterday, Sunday, 23 January 2011: "If one can manage to look past the large dollop of self-importance in Govin Reddy's statements (which is difficult), there is actually merit in what he had to say, unfortunately.
"There is nothing wrong in saying what you think in strong, uncompromising language. In fact, we don't have enough forthrightness in our public debate."
Duncan added: "The SABC has serious problems with news quality. Largely, major stories are not broken by the SABC.
"Of the 19 stories recognised in Anton Harber and Margaret Renn's recent book on investigative journalism as major investigative stories, only one was broken by the SABC, which was the expose of Zimbabwean prisons. Ironically, this story was broken by Special Assignment, a programme whose own space to undertake investigative work has been serious compromised in recent times.
"Has done more"
"A small paper such as the Daily Dispatch, which commands a fraction of the resources of SABC News, has done more to advance investigative journalism in recent times than the whole news machine of SABC put together. This is cause for grave concern."