02nd Aug2016

Autonomous or Autonomouse?

by admin


A few weeks ago, the autocorrect feature on my phone lost its mind. I am aware that most smartphone owners have experienced this at some point or other, so my initial reaction was one of irritation. However, on closer inspection, I realised that perhaps, my phone was telling me something. There, in my Whatsapp conversation, whilst I was busy lecturing a friend about needing to be more excited about the upcoming elections, autocorrect had changed the word “Autonomous” to Autonomouse.


As a BA student, I am acutely aware that I am over analytical about everything. However, the slight spelling mistake in my text made me think about what exactly an Autonomouse might be. Could it be a reference to the growing disinterest in politics in people of all ages? On the other hand, could it be related to a new fear of what happens when a South African showcases their autonomy?


In May this year, the SABC announced that it would no longer broadcast footage of violent protests. This did not sit well with most South Africans, and several SABC journalists were fired because of their refusal to accept this decision. If ever there has ever been need for indication of the state undermining our autonomy as South Africans, this has been it.


Looking at a situation like this one, it is easy to draw comparisons between our current situation and Orwell’s “fictional” premonition, Animal Farm. Although this comparison is highly applicable, it has become increasingly clichéd to use this trusty (and terrifyingly accurate) “Totalitarianism for Idiots” guide. While it is impossible not to see a clear parallel between the words of Orwell and the SABC’s new stance as an organ of propaganda, using the mental image of an Autonomouse creates a similar image to what we currently see. Just picture the cat-and-mouse game most of us played in preschool; the only difference now is that if we get caught in this situation, we won’t be out of the game until playtime ends. In this case, it means that playtime is over indefinitely.


Of course, there are always the classic cartoons like Tom and Jerry, where the mouse gets the upper hand in most episodes. I can’t help but wonder if we should use our autonomy in these elections to become more like Jerry, by refusing to allow the bigger, more powerful Tom to call the shots. We may be facing an attack on our individual autonomy at the moment, but we have the opportunity to change that at the polls. I may have read a touch too deeply into autocorrect, but the more I think about being an Autonomouse, the more I realise how important these elections are. The idea of being an Autonomouse can carry negative perceptions, but all we have to do is remember that we have the opportunity to change what we don’t agree with this Wednesday. Autonomouse: it may be a mistake in a typed-out Whatsapp conversation. On the other hand, it could be something that reminds us of the cat-and-mouse game we call politics.


16th May2016

Bumping Up Local Music

by admin

SABC Local MusicThe digital age has taken over and the fact that you’re reading this on a blog instead of a newspaper is proves this to be fact. In the midst of the metamorphosis of the different forms of communication that people have become accustomed to, there are mediums of communication that may never lose their flair and radio is one of them. The manner in which audiences and fans engage with their latest and favourite music still seems to bring a community of fans together. The power of the audience has been intensified through the sharing of good tunes, and the rating and changing of music charts through social media.

The South African Broadcasting Corporation, the biggest national producer of entertainment- from television to radio- took the bold decision this past Thursday, 12 May 2016 to change the radio and local music industry. Radio stations are known for their variety in content that cuts across the board, from allowing South Africans to jam to the latest tracks topping European-American charts, to ensuring that they also dap to their local is lekker hit makers and before the end of the week. All this took an unexpected turn in favour of home grown sounds. The SABC has decided that all 18 radio stations will be required to play 90% local music, with the genres kwaito, gospel, reggae and jazz taking the forefront.

This decision is not something which was out of reach. Rather, the decision has been regarded as something that has been a long time coming and, thus, has been welcomed with open arms by a wide range of die hard patriotic local music and radio fanatics. Platinum recording and award winning hip-hop artist Cassper Nyovest among many others, was one of the first local artists to convey his excitement on the patriotic move on social media, in a Facebook post, with a caption reading: “As of tomorrow there will 90 % local music playing on radio!!! It’s now an official law!!! What a time!!! To be alive!!!…”  Nyovest’s views on bumping up local music up were clearly outlined in an interview with local news station eNCA where he shared his sentiments on how it was more than just a reflection of the progress of local music, but also discussed its contributions and expected effects on the music industry. Positive feedback dominated social media after the news broke out with radio fans sharing their new radio experiences.

Cassper Nyovest

Although positive feedback from fans were trending, like anything some views were expressed regarding the possible detrimental effects, ranging from  failure to generate variety in the content or in some  instances, whether this move is sustainable and these concerns were met by Tiyani  Maluleke’s response, the marketing general  manager of the South African Music Rights Organization (Samro)  in a comment released assuring audiences that the local music industry has enough quality offerings to bring to the table.

There are plenty of advantages that come from playing international acts as much as they have been on local radio before. However, the SABC’s move to bump the local music quota up to a steep 90% and proudly placing locally produced music in the forefront might ensure that it is savored on a whole new level. This might possibly secure longevity, not only for artists in the industry, but also for the industry itself. This decision might be just what South Africa’s attempts in transformation needs.

25th Mar2013

Permanent crisis at the SABC?

by admin

Joan Madiba looks at the SABC and the ongoing management crisis.

sabc1The South African Broadcasting Corporation, commonly known as the SABC is the “state-owned broadcaster in South Africa and which provides 18 radio stations, both AM/FM and three television broadcasts to the general public.”

The corporation was established in 1936 by the then government, with the aim of emphasizing the importance of the ideas and ideologies of the ruling party. At one time the SABC was owned by the managers who had ties to to the Broederbond (an elite society dedicated to pushing Afrikaner interests.)  However, after the democratic elections in 1994, the mandate of the SABC took a dramatic turn in terms of ownership.  As a state entity, the SABC will obviously face issues about the amount of control given to the state in a democracy however the need for revisions in the mandate were clear. Content in a post-Apartheid context needed to reflect all facets of South African society equally. As attempts were made to redress past inequalities in content the broadcaster still faced challenges with regards to ownership and management. However, the entity was also continuously accused of advancing the ideas of the ruling party of ANC, especially in news broadcasts.

It is said that the crisis at the SABC in recent times can be linked to an unstable management structure. The corporation “has seen the coming and going of four communications ministers, five SABC CEO’s, three boards, two chairs of the communications Parliamentary Portfolio Committee and the resignation of five SABC board members.” With lack of managerial structure and stability it clear that content and direction of the organization is suffering greatly.

SABC2These struggles are on going. Recently, there have been reports in the media about six board members who have resigned. One is then prompted to ask if there is a continuous, unresolved crisis occurring at the SABC. If this is the case, is there hope for the future?

Since the entity is a public broadcaster, it has a serious duty towards the general South African public of the country concerning broadcasting and so forth.  It is responsible for airing content that is educational, entertaining and appealing to the diverse South African audience.

From a citizen’s point of view the government has not accurately dealt with this on-going crisis so far.

Recently Minster of Communications Dina Pule was called on to duty to solve the crisis at the SABC. The minister outlined a few of the problems including “board members discussing board issues in the media; failure to attend meetings with her; failure to follow due procedure in appointing senior managers; and refusal to hand over a special investigations unit (SIU) report”.  To solve the current crisis at the SABC, the National Assembly agreed to an appointment of an interim board, which will be appointed by the president.

One can only hope that these matters will be resolved in a proper manner, considering the fact that this is a public broadcaster, and it needs proper management if not control. There has to be some sort of resolution towards the on-going crisis of the SABC. However based on the manner in which these matters were dealt with in the past, one is forced to ask if things will be solved timeously and if this will this affect the content in anyway? The answers to these questions lies the solution lies in the hands of the interim board that will be appointed shortly.

23rd Apr2012

Cracking the odds, challenging the everyday

by admin

Themba Mnguni, currently a MA student in Media Studies (and one of the founding members of exPress imPress!), recounts his journey from Wits Media Studies to SABC Education.

This piece is a reflection on the journey that I have made; from being a student, graduate, postgraduate and now a ‘professional’ in the media. My first encounter with the horrible subject called Media Studies had not been so exciting and such a smooth riding as anyone would expect. I thought Media Studies was going to be a great, exciting and fantastic course that anyone wanting to be big in social circles could enroll for without hesitations. I thought it would offer the best alternative to the so-called Engineering Sciences which take forever to finish – that is for those who are lucky enough to survive exclusion and the ordeals of oracle. Oh well, who was I fooling, the Social Sciences proved a whole lot tougher and demanding than the Engineering Sciences!

However, on the positive side, the Social Sciences grant you tools for mastering the science of thinking and the art of strategy and communication. One could not have learned these better anywhere else than in Media Studies. Along with thousands of other students out there, I also was confused about where a degree/qualification in Media Studies would get me, and I thought it could possibly make me part of the stats of thousands of jobless graduates in weakling economies post-the-global-financial-downturn, as has been the case in Europe and other parts of the world. These were general stereotypes that sent a cold shiver down my spine. However, like a good warrior, I soldiered on and ignored all the “noise” from the sides.  Keeping a straight head got me through my first degree, second one and now-about-to-‘complete’-third-degree in Media Studies.

What I am trying to achieve with this article is to flag away the stereotypes that we – students of Media Studies and the Humanities – normally come across on an everyday basis from our very own counterparts in Engineering, Business and Health Sciences. I believe that the Social Sciences are still crucial in this modern day, age and time, and relevant to today’s market economy, with Media Studies being a leading field. The market is always likely to be rewarding and welcoming if one goes the extra mile in studying further. In that way, one builds solid research capacity and project management skills which are essential skills that one needs to have in today’s market-driven economy.

I recently joined SABC Education, a division that we are all familiar with. Those students who have gone past the first year in Media Studies will definitely remember the stack of readings on the SABC and its mandate as a public broadcaster. Articles from the course reading pack preached intensely that post-1994, SABC gained a new role as a public broadcaster, providing the public with education, information and entertainment. The division that I am currently with is responsible for enforcing the first two arms of the mandate (education and information) on three national television channels and twelve public radio stations, and more recently also via social media platforms which are used by all the SABC channels (both television and radio).

SABC Education is divided into three units, namely Formal Education; Public Information and Social Development; and Outreach. I am based in the Public Information and Social Development unit which is an awesome, vibrant and equitable unit. We basically work with all channels in supplying educational content. The following programmes – amongst others – are our babies: Talk SA, Shift, Intersexions, Making Moves, Matric Uploaded, Living Land and others. In a nutshell, my division is a crucial player in spearheading the educational mandate of the SABC. It is a great environment to work in; a place where Media Studies is in action and at its best. All aspect of Media Studies can be deployed in the workplace, ranging from critical discourse analysis, content analysis, critical political economy, cultural studies, genre studies, ideology, framing – the list is endless!

But it is also a very hectic environment to work in. Without further studying, it would have been extremely difficult to crack the whip. Getting this internship with the SABC has certainly not been a walk in the park. 3,775 well-deserving and qualifying graduates responded to the ad for this post but SABC could only accommodate 95 graduates. Mathematically, that’s a rough 2% of the overall number of applications received. So far, I am definitely happy with the robust working experience that the unit is imparting me with. I am really at home and looking forward to remain with the division. There is no other working environment as good as SABC Education!

To read more of Themba’s articles, please click here.

27th Sep2011

Topics in Media and Cultural Studies Roundtable: 28 September 2011

by admin

The Department of Media Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand invites you for the fourth roundtable this semester in the Topics in Media and Cultural Studies series. Please join us this Wednesday 28 September 2011 between 14.15-16.00 hrs in CB8 (Central Block, Wits East Campus).

The following speakers will give papers:

Dina Ligaga

“Virtual expressions”: Alternative online spaces and the staging of Kenyan Internet cultures

Kate Skinner

Can civil society save the SABC? An assessment of civil society’s power to effect change during the ongoing turmoils at the national broadcaster

Enquiries: janeske.botes@wits.ac.za or 011 717 4161

21st Sep2010

Crisis at the SABC: future prospects

by admin
Source: Zapiro; Mail & Guardian

John Perlman blacklisted by Snuki Zikalala during the blacklisting saga

Andiswa Makanda speculates on the future of the SABC which continues to find itself in the midst of a whole series of controversies.

The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) post-1994 democratic elections was said to be a public broadcaster, independent of the state and government. However, what one sees is a continuation of the apartheid legacy, where the SABC was a mouthpiece of the ruling National Party. Post-1994 the SABC was ‘transformed’ and the motivation for the transformation was to get rid of the apartheid legacy. However, the SABC is caught up in a mix of controversies and politicking which makes it impossible for the broadcaster to function properly as a public broadcaster.

The SABC has been under a lot of controversies and often criticized as the mouthpiece of the African National Congress (ANC). This was evident in the whole blacklisting saga, where a number of journalists were blacklisted for being too critical of government. The SABC has also been criticized of appointing ANC members and supporters in its executive and news division, which was seen in the appointment of former CEO Dali Mpofu. Dali Mpofu has been criticized of being a weak CEO who often misused funds which led to the SABC going into a financial crisis. This was also evidenced by speculations that former President Mbeki was not to be featured on SABC.

Recently, there have been controversies centering the new Head of News, Phil Molefe who is said to be a member of the ANC. It is alleged that he was appointed by Ben Ngubane, an ANC member who was appointed by President Zuma. The controversy stems from the fact that the SABC’s CEO, Solly Mokoetle, was appointed the Head of News without consulting the Board. The appointment, it must be noted, was backed by the SABC Board chairperson, Ben Ngubane. On top of that the SABC Board has been rendered dysfunctional under the leadership of Ben Ngubane. In an article in the Mail & Guardian, it is reported that the appointment had created strife in the Board because they were not informed. That being said, despite the SABC going through a financial crisis, Mokoetle gave the staff members R1,000 bonuses for the overwork they did during the World Cup.

Solly Mokoetle has also been accused of not drafting a turnaround strategy and present it to the Board. There are speculations that Ben Ngubane and Solly Mokoetle would have to answer to Parliament and may be fired. The possibilities of this seem far and wide because the majority seats in parliament are held by the ANC and if the ANC want Ngubane and Mokoetle there then it shall be so, unless there can be rules with regards to voting changed to veto the power of the ANC. The ANC will win through majority vote in Parliament, although in some instances it may not be absolute. Mokoetle’s defence is that the Board had bombarded him with a lot of emails and meetings which made it impossible for him to draft a turnaround strategy.

The Communication Committee in Parliament is to have a private meeting concerning these issues. Now, it is in the public interest that the SABCs’ activities be held in public because it is the public that funds the SABC. The SABC also held a private meeting concerning the issue where the press and other media were excluded. A mere press statement is not enough, given the way these are always spun around and censored. The print media have a public interest mandate to report on what goes on in the SABC. The SABC cannot claim to be public, where the public is the major shareholder, and then decide to hold private meetings on issues that would severely hamper the SABC.

The SABC is not without its controversies. These issues have raised a lot of concern in the functioning of the SABC when management is busy politicking. It does not make it right for Ngubane to hire the Head of News without consulting the Board. The position is a very crucial one which requires an impartial, neutral person who is not in alliance with the ruling party or its members. It is no wonder that the SABC news is filled with news that is neither uncritical nor analytical and is a parade of government work. A former Board member in the article was quoted saying that the news is controlled by government. The SABC needs a lot of transformation, including its programming. It will be impossible to strengthen the SABC while its management is busy politicking. Some rules concerning the appointment of the Board and management need to be changed to veto the power of the ANC and government so that the SABC could have hard-hitting news that is critical of government and critical in its reporting. I am waiting to read how this story will unfold and what the future for the SABC will hold. Will the Head of News be fired?

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