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SANEF calls on SABC management to protect newsrooms

The South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) is concerned about the instability at the SABC after the announcement of impending retrenchments.

As part of its turnaround strategy, the SABC announced this week it would retrench 400 of its almost 3,000 employees. Newsroom staff are also affected. Apart from the lay-offs, the SABC also stated that it would freeze salary increases for the next three years.

Earlier in the year it forecast that it might have to lay off 600 jobs for its own survival. The SABC’s salary bill represents more than half its revenue and 45% of its expenditure.

SANEF calls on the SABC leadership to continue to fulfil its public mandate by ensuring that its budget cuts do not curtail a number of critical services including its African language and regional programming. We call for the SABC to ringfence core news and current affairs posts and not compromise its core public mandate of news delivery.

SANEF will be seeking a meeting with the SABC to get a deeper understanding of its restructuring plans and its vision for the future of the public broadcaster. We note that Section 189 notices to the newsroom staff have temporarily been withdrawn.

Since President Cyril Ramaphosa declared the Coronavirus pandemic a national disaster on 23 March 2020, more than 700 jobs have been lost in the media industry. In the first two months of the lockdown we saw the closure of two magazine publishers and 80 small print publications operating across the country.

SANEF notes with deep concern that in many newsrooms around the country, journalists are simply not replaced, resulting in a diminished capacity to cover the length and breadth of the country. With the prevailing tough economic conditions, advertising revenue has declined dramatically, and the bulk of digital advertising revenue leaves the country’s shores to Facebook and Google.

It is not just the COVID-19 crisis that has decimated the media sector. In the past three years, scores of journalists lost their jobs due to retrenchments by the then Tiso Blackstar, Media24, Independent Media and the shutdown of Afro Worldview, previously known as ANN7, by MultiChoice. Titles like The Times and HuffPost SA were closed, which diminished the diversity of voices in South Africa.

We call on media owners to think creatively and responsibly about implementing new, sustainable business models, built on the integrity and the trust that our readers, viewers and listeners place in us to tell the country’s stories without fear or favour.

Note to Editors: The South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) is a non-profit organisation whose members are editors, senior journalists and journalism trainers from all areas of the South African media. We are committed to championing South Africa’s hard-won freedom of expression and promoting quality, ethics and diversity in the South African media. We promote excellence in journalism through fighting for media freedom, writing policy submissions, research and education and training programmes. SANEF is not a union.

For more information please contact:

Sbu Ngalwa – SANEF Chairperson (073) 404-1415

Adriaan Basson – SANEF Deputy Chairperson (082) 562-2113

Mahlatse Mahlase – Secretary General (083) 399-2852

Nwabisa Makunga – Treasurer (082) 555-1972

Asanda Ngoasheng – Western Cape Convenor – 082 610 9374

Judy Sandison – SANEF KZN Convenor (082) 571-3334

Katy Katopodis – SANEF Gauteng Convenor (082) 805-7022

Chiara Carter – SANEF Eastern Cape Convenor (082) 659-9162

Kate Skinner – SANEF Executive Director – (082) 926-6404

Twitter: @SAEditorsForum

Email: [email protected]  Website: www.sanef.org.za

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