Broadcasting Bill Passed by National Assembly despite Fears of Political Interference

Cape Times (South Africa), August 20, 2008 | Go to article overview
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Broadcasting Bill Passed by National Assembly despite Fears of Political Interference


BYLINE: Chiara Carter

THE Broadcasting Amendment Bill, which would allow MPs to axe the SABC board, came closer to becoming law yesterday when it was passed in the face of fierce opposition protests in the National Assembly.

Opposition MPs said they would petition President Thabo Mbeki not to sign the bill into law.

The bill was initiated by the communications portfolio committee against a backdrop of ongoing ructions at the top of the public broadcaster, including the suspension of CEO Dali Mpofu by the board which Mbeki appointed at the end of last year.

The bill creates a way for SABC board members and even the entire board to be removed at the behest of MPs.

The opposition has warned the bill paves the way for direct political interference in the SABC.

But ANC speakers in the National Assembly debate yesterday emphasised that the bill had been born out of the tensions that became evident at the SABC earlier this year - including the leaking of a memorandum criticising Mpofu.

Dene Smuts of the Democratic Alliance said the bill went far further than was necessary to ensure that where a board member needed to be removed for misconduct or incompetence, this could occur.

Instead there were also clauses that proposed the dissolution of the entire board and the installation of what Smuts described as "a small hand-picked interim board without any transparent process".

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Broadcasting Bill Passed by National Assembly despite Fears of Political Interference
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