SABC chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng has denied banning any criticism of the public broadcaster and himself on any of its platforms, yet he vowed to hunt down the “rotten potatoes” that were leaking internal information to the media.
Motsoeneng was responding to reports put to him that SABC management had on Thursday called radio executive producers and presenters, and told them that the public broadcaster, its policies or Motsoeneng himself could not be criticised on air.
He also denied that he had banned outside commentators and newspaper editors, as well as SAfm Sunday show The Editors.
“I will have to check with editorial management, because, you know, every time there’s a decision people will say it’s Motsoeneng, even if I have nothing to do with it. I will check if such a decision was made, but what I know is I am not aware of any of the things raised here,” Motsoeneng said.
He repeatedly spoke of how those who “run to the media” were making life difficult for themselves.
“We will get rid of those who run to the newspapers ... Actually, SABC employees are very happy but there are a few rotten potatoes; there are very few of them, including those who leak internal information to the media.”
Motsoeneng, who has been widely criticised for a number of decisions made at the SABC, was adamant that few people were unhappy with his leadership and decisions at the public broadcaster that have been attributed to him.
“I am not apologetic about transforming the organisation and decisions, including not to show certain images in our news. In fact, the majority of South Africans, including religious organisations, have endorsed that decision,” he said.
“I can tell you that 90% of South Africans are very excited with the transformation at the SABC and our improved news coverage, and I don’t know where this other 10% comes from or who they represent. People are very apologetic where they have to implement equity and transformation, but not us at the SABC.”
He said SABC employees were expected to “sing the song and talk the talk of the SABC”.
“If the SABC releases a statement, our employees can’t say ‘the SABC said this’; they must say ‘we are saying this or have decided on that’. They can’t report like other broadcasters when they are part of any SABC decision,” he said.
“I have been thinking maybe our employees should have uniforms so that they can understand unity.
“The SABC is independent as an organisation, but no one is independent within the organisation.”
He clarified that decisions, some of which he took credit for, such as playing 90% local music on SABC radio stations, were not made single-handedly.
He also responded to reports that he was working for the ANC.
“We’re not here to serve politics and are not influenced by any political party,” he said.
An insider has told City Press that analysts such as William Bird have been blacklisted because of their critical views of the SABC’s approach to news reporting.
He said colleagues in other bureaus had complained that there were people they were not allowed to source information from.
– Additional reporting by Setumo Stone