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16 May 2009

Media Statement - 28 April 2009 - SABC Announces sweeping changes to ensure stability

The following media statement was put out on the 28th of April 2009 by the SABC. It's interesting to note there have already been updates to this. It seems the SABC's press releases change faster than we can get them to you!

Johannesburg, 28 April 2009- The SABC Board today announced that the contract of the Head of News and Current Affairs, Dr Snuki Zikalala, will not be renewed when it expires at the end of the month. This decision follows a special board meeting held in Johannesburg on Saturday.

Kanyi Mkonza, Chairperson of the SABC Board, who announced several changes to bring about stability to the organisation, said "The Board acknowledges the leadership and vision provided by Dr Zikalala in establishing SABC News as an international brand. He surfed through difficult waters and yet remained committed to building SABC News. He was the overall leader of our news team during the last two election periods. His sterling contribution has, once again, been given a stamp of approval by Media Monitoring Africa which hailed our election coverage for its fair and balanced reporting."

The Board, however, felt that it was time to hand over the baton to someone who can bring fresh ideas to the broadcaster. Veteran journalist, Mr. Phil Molefe, will act as Head of News and Current Affairs with effect from 1 May 2009 whilst the board embarks on a thorough search for Dr Zikalala' s replacement. The Board will appoint someone with relevant skill and expertise to take our complex news operation forward.

Some of the changes within the news division include the closure of, at least, three news bureaus. These are Jamaica, Kinshasa and reducing the US bureaus to two. "We are encouraged by the decision to reduce the bureaus; however, we continue to urge management to take effective steps to increase efficiencies across the entire news-value chain, including the regions and the remaining foreign operations" Mr. Bheki Khumalo, Chairperson of the News Committee said.

The Board also decided to review the appointment of the COO and accordingly referred the matter back to the Acting Minister of Communications, Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang. This is done in order to ensure that the Minister applies her mind to the original recommendation of the previous board. The Board believes that this will assist in finalizing the appointment of the COO for the SABC - a position that has been vacant since 2007. In the meantime, the Board will continue its search for a suitable candidate for the Group Chief Executive Officer with the advert extended till end of May.

In order to continue with the process of improving efficiencies within the corporation, the Board has taken a decision to reduce the committees of the board to six. These will be able to accommodate all business units and activities of the organization. These committees include the legislated content committees such as: Public Broadcasting Services and News; Public Commercial Services; Audit and Risk; Finance, Investment and Procurement; Governance, Nominations and Remuneration as well as Group Executive Committee (at an operational level). The Board also established the Ad Hoc Committee on the FIFA 2010 World Cup. This will be buttressed by an additional committee to give more focus to the Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) issues.

The Board remains concerned about the state of finances of the corporation. It will work around the clock to ensure that the Turnaround Strategy announced a few weeks ago bears some fruit. Accordingly, the board received a briefing from the CFO, Mr. Rob Nicholson, about the state of finances of the organisation. "We continue to monitor this on an ongoing basis with a view to returning the organisation to a healthy financial position," Ms. Mkonza said.

The Board took exception and condemned unreservedly the actions of some SABC members who unjustifiably leak information about the organisation to the media. The Sunday Independent, in particular, has become a convenient outlet for these elements, though it is fully within its rights to publish what it wishes, within the law.

We have requested internal audit to conduct a thorough investigation and even to refer these misdemeanors on the part of SABC members to relevant law enforcement authorities. These leaks, indulged in recklessly and often feeding false material, damage the reputation of individuals as well as that of the SABC. The leaks run counter to the collegiate and collective spirit of an organisation such as the SABC, and endanger stability.

It should be noted that the Board is determined to bring fundamental stability to the organisation. "The Board believes that the bold steps we have announced today marks the initial steps of the long and arduous journey towards establishing a stable public broadcaster of the highest quality to serve our country's hard earned democracy", Mkonza concluded.

ENDS

Issued By: Group Communications on behalf of the Board of the SABC

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