OPINION: The SABC, a cloud has dimmed its bright future

What is happening at the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) is a new low in a continued downward spiral at the corporation, which around 22 years ago had a bright future and a chance to achieve its full potential.

Before 1994, decades of apartheid had disenfranchised millions - but with political change came a second chance for the public broadcaster.

There was excitement in the air - a real possibility that the SABC could actually get it right this time - a corporation for all South Africans.

Fast-forward to 2016 and journalists are being fired at the SABC for speaking out about censorship after the corporation changed its editorial policies.

Journalists are no longer in charge of bringing you the news - the SABC is now the news.

One of the cornerstones of democracy - freedom of speech - is under fire.

To understand the extent of damage being inflicted on the corporation let's rewind to 1994.

The SABC was liberated from the clutches of National Party rule and was poised for a fresh start.

I joined the SABC in January 1993, just as the old guard were considering exit packages - contemplating their futures which would bring new leadership along with massive potential.

I remember the old management's uniform of blue blazers and grey pants, but they were soon to go - replaced by leaders more representative of the changing country.

As the old guard left, so did many radio news presenters - and suddenly there was a huge vacuum. In a desperate move, the remaining staff were told to gather for a voice test.

They chose four of us - I was stunned and petrified when I was told to read news the next day - something I had never done before.

But there was also excitement in the air - this was the start of something new, something amazing.

There were also so many new faces and I had the privilege of working with many who have since spread their wings to other services. There are too many to mention, but I hear them while flicking from station to station.

I also remember a young Stephen Grootes joining us as an intern (he never did make me coffee…).

Despite continued cash-flow problems and leadership changes, the corporation - at least editorially - was strong, with journalists proud to be first with breaking news. SAfm was truly the 'news and information leader.

The years flew by and people moved on, including me. I moved on after 15 years at the corporation. On leaving, I handed in my access card and said goodbye to my colleagues. I had enjoyed my time there and was proud to have been part of such an excellent team.

I was leaving to try new things and cannot speak badly of my time there.

The corporation had always been dogged by political controversy, but we were never affected at Radio News.

Before I left, I met a young Hlaudi Motsoeneng who was placed under my care on the sound desk, but was later transferred to the Bloemfontein office as he struggled in this position.

I remember being surprised when years later he was appointed chief operations officer.

The SABC has always been under pressure from the government of the day. The revolving door of CEOs and board members bears testament to that.

But it's the core staff members who keep the SABC viable - people who work to make sure there is quality broadcasting regardless of the management shenanigans.

Staffers have now stood up to say that this is not the SABC of the past and the corporation future should be protected.

But some have now been fired for trying to protect this cornerstone of democracy.

The cloud that has engulfed the public broadcaster has snuffed out the bright future envisioned by many years ago.

This is simply not acceptable and a clear and present danger to our democracy.

Ray White is assignments editor at Eyewitness News.