Yes, yes......I know the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) isn't perfect. All that Jimmy Savile paedophile cover up stuff puts them on a par with the Catholic Church. My wife had never heard of Jimmy Savile because she's a Saffer but I grew up with the creepy bastard. There he was on TV's "Top of the Pops " with the teenagers dancing on a raised stage and the cameramen instructed to focus the cameras up their skirts. It was pervy stuff but I was a spotty teenage viewer at the time and it was the nearest we got back then to online porn. If anybody had told us that Jimmy Savile was luring the teenage lovelies we were all lusting after back to his dressing room for a grope we would have been devastated.
Then there was the "Jim'll Fix It" show where Savile would sit in a large armchair, dressed in what became known as a shell-suit , bedecked with heavy gold jewellery and smoking a large cigar. It was a bit like sitting on Santa Claus's lap and kids would write into Jim with their dream and Jim would make it happen. "Dear Jim, I want to dominate the SA media for a couple of years and give the whiteys bad dreams. Yours faithfully Julius M". That sort of thing. "How's about that then guys and gals?" was Savile's catch phrase and it seems highly appropriate in the wake of hundreds of complaints from people who have suddenly remembered they were molested by Savile forty years ago. How's about that the indeed? As they say in the legal profession, where's there blame there's a claim.
The Savile affair may not be the BBC's finest hour and it certainly shows up the appalling procedural gaps in what has become a creaking bureaucracy but one has to admit, maybe grudgingly, that the British national broadcaster has produced some terrific work over the years and that the Jimmy Savile episode is but a small blot on the escutcheon.
Not so the South African Broadcasting Corporation, established by an Act of Parliament in 1936 and obviously modelled on the BBC.
It would be naïve to think that any state owned broadcaster isn't going to punt the official party line. There's nothing wrong with that if independent radio and TV stations are allowed to operate as a check and balance.
This will almost certainly shame any state broadcaster into pretending to be objective and we should only fear propaganda when the state broadcaster is all we are allowed to see and listen to. That's certainly not the case in SA and if the ruling party intended a state run media to brainwash the masses then they've cocked things up spectacularly. Many SABC presenters are bold enough to be critical of the government which is good news for democracy.
Where the SABC has failed us though is in fostering mediocrity and corruption within its ranks and failing to provide any value for the price of a TV license.
I've now lost track of the resignations and scandals that have dogged the SABC board over the years but one thing has become apparent. The SABC is seen by the ANC as a sort of rest home for those cadres who don't quite cut it for a serious political appointment.
So they are put out to grass at the SABC where they can dress like executives, get an allowance for a fancy car, go to meetings and do all the things that real grown up executives do in the real world. It's all a game of let's pretend. The only problem is that when you put people of limited ability in positions of power you are unlikely to get any results.
Which is why the SABC is in the mess we find it in today. Back in 1994 the ANC inherited a technically perfect working national broadcaster with excellent facilities all over the country. They didn't need to do a damn thing except put their own people in and start commissioning brilliant new programmes for the post apartheid era.
What a fabulous opportunity to showcase the democratic South Africa to the world, to commission works by new black writers, to get some lively debate going and to make sure that SABC1/2/3 reached their target audiences. It couldn't have been simpler.
But, surprise surprise, the SABC was seen by the cadres as yet another great opportunity to rip of the system and hitch a free ride. The programme I co-presented on SABC 3 back in 2004/2008 was the most profitable motoring show the SABC had ever ran with average viewership of around 600 000.
The SABC failed to pay the producers of the programme for several months with the result that the producers bonded their homes to pay the production staff. The programme was then canned for no obvious reason. One of the SABC production staff was suspended on full pay after accusations of corruption were brought.
Nothing the SABC does encourages creativity and the stench of corruption in Auckland Park can be smelt as far away as Parkwood. A black friend of mine reckons the entire SABC board should be put up against a wall and shot. That might be a bit extreme but I do think it's time the ANC stopped using the SABC as a parking bay for its unwanted cadres and put some talent back into the national broadcaster. Either that or stop collecting a license fee from us every year.
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