New Broadcasting Amendment Bill met with resistance

The bill removes the role of MPs in appointing non-executive board members at the SABC.

FILE. The Broadcasting Amendment Bill will give Communications Minister Faith Muthambi sole power to recommend board members to the president for appointment. Picture: Aletta Gardner/EWN

CAPE TOWN - A new bill, which removes the role of Members of Parliament (MPs) in appointing non-executive board members at the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) has been met with opposition after it was tabled in Parliament last week.

The Broadcasting Amendment Bill will give Communications Minister Faith Muthambi sole power to recommend board members to the president for appointment.

Earlier this year, Muthambi approved the board's decision to remove three of its members, a move according to legal advice given to Parliament was invalid and unlawful.

The bill empowers the minister to establish a nominating committee to advise her on who to recommend for appointment to the board.

It also reduces the number of the non-executive board members from 12 to nine, and proposes a new procedure for their re-appointment, removal and resignation.

The Democratic Alliance's Phumzile Van Damme says this bill is bad news.

"We'll be pushing for the bill to be withdrawn."

Lobby group, the SOS: Support Public Broadcasting Coalition's Sekoetlane Phamodi says the bill, as it stands, should not be passed.

"We will definitely be contesting and challenging this issue to ensure that this amendment does not see the light of day."

There are currently six empty seats on the SABC board.

Three positions have been long-vacant following the resignations of chairperson Ellen Tshabalala in December, Bongani Khumalo in January and Thembinkosi Bonakele in June last year.

MPs were supposed to shortlist candidates last month, but their meeting was postponed because the process of vetting candidates had not yet been completed.

The coalition says it's against the changes that will put the SABC firmly in Muthambi's control.

Phamodi says the bill, if passed, will turn the SABC into a state broadcaster.

He says the SABC's controversial Memorandum of Incorporation is also problematic.

"We have taken this matter to court because we believe that the amendment of the Memorandum of Incorporation effectively will turn the SABC into a state broadcaster and relieve it of its independents."