Task team to look into SABC problems

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Pretoria - Communications Minister Siphiwe Nyanda has set up a 12-member task team to turn around the situation at the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC).

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the department announced that the team would comprise industry experts and labour to oversee the state broadcaster as well as the broadband network business Sentech.

The team is expected to report back to Minister Nyanda periodically and will submit a final report at the end of October.

The embattled public broadcaster has been struggling to cope with financial difficulties, a dysfunctional executive board that has now been dissolved and an ongoing strike by certain staff.

An inquiry into the ailing broadcaster's board was instituted by Parliament's Communications Portfolio Committee after it recorded a financial loss of R839 million as a result of declining revenue and unrestrained over-expenditure.

The inquiry resulted in the committee recommending that the board be dissolved and a new one established. This resolution was passed by Parliament and signed by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe.

An interim board has been established to serve for a three-month period, while the process of nominating a new board is completed.

Department spokesperson, Tiyani Rikhotso, said several meetings were held between the department, the SABC and Sentech to look into challenges faced by the two organisations.

"A 12-member team was subsequently appointed. The team has been working for a little over a week now," he said.

The team is expected to work together with the broadcaster's interim board and management and then advise the minister on the strategies necessary to ensure that it reaches its constitutional mandate of providing quality and reliable public broadcasting services to the public.

The team will also investigate a new funding model for the SABC's public and commercial broadcasting services.

A review of the broadcaster's human resource needs will be undertaken and the minister will be advised as to whether the existing business model between the SABC and Sentech should remain as is.

This process is being carried out simultaneously with a forensic audit, following a recommendation by the Portfolio Committee.

The interim board will focus primarily on short term interventions to address the issues faced by the broadcaster, such as filling vacant posts, governance and general operations at the corporation.

"While on the other hand, the task team seeks to devise long and short term strategies and interventions that would see the SABC return to a healthy financial state," said Mr Rikhotso.

Meanwhile, Portfolio Committee Chairperson Ismail Vadi told BuaNews that the deadline for nominations for the new board has been postponed from 31 July to 14 August.

"It was decided at a meeting between the Committee and the interim board last week. It was postponed due to the narrow timeframe from which it was issued," said Mr Vadi.

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