Communities comment on the SABC’s Charter

Monday, 26 January, 2009 - 10:17

The SABC’s Charter is the Corporation’s vision and mission document – or should be. The “Save our SABC” Campaign travelled to Phiri in Soweto to find out what people wanted from their SABC and what they wanted included in a new Charter.


The SOS Coalition has discussed in some detail the importance of taking its campaigns to community level. One of SOS’s most important campaigns is to call for a complete review of broadcasting policy and the development of a new SABC Act. One of the key areas in this process that needs analysis is the SABC’s Charter. The Charter sets the vision and mandate for the SABC.

At its various working group meetings SOS has talked about the urgent need to get community input – particularly in terms of the Charter. A project was then devised between SOS partners, the Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI) and the Institute for Advancement of Journalism (IAJ) to visit various locations around the country to get input from community members. The plan was to video these locations and to make a documentary that we hoped to broadcast on the SABC itself. Further, there was to be a major community radio component.

To launch the project SOS, IAJ and FXI worked together on a pilot video shoot in Phiri, Soweto on 6 December 2008. This article reflects the comments made by community members at the event.

To date the project has been put on hold due to lack of funding. However, SOS has been lobbying the Department of Communications to run a major roadshow around the country to get community input on “what they want from their SABC”. SOS is hopeful that this project will go forward.

Phiri Event

Phiri was selected because Phiri residents have expressed some frustration as regards the SABC’s coverage of their service delivery struggles.

Service delivery struggles

This was a burning issue. Residents had fought against the installation of pre-paid water meters. They then won a Constitutional Court case in this regard. However, the event was not given media coverage. Phiri residents felt that only high profile people such as the major Amos Masondo were given coverage and that poor people and their issues were not.


HIV/AIDS is the huge challenge facing our communities. It includes those who are infected and affected. Residents said the SABC was failing to provide the educational programmes they needed to face this major scourge. However, there were some dissenting voices - some people said that “all we hear about is Aids”. The message here was that other health and development issues needed to be covered.

Covering community issues

The SABC needs to be closer to the people. It needs to liaise with community members more regularly. It needs to have offices in communities. It needs to assist community members to make their own programmes. Programmes are always made by outsiders. Community voices need to be heard and programming needs to be shaped by community concerns. Community members should not always be shown as victims – or as violent.

Positive content

Residents said that we need more positive, uplifting content not always about crime and violence.


Some residents claimed that soaps such as “The Bold and the Beautiful” and “Generations” were not educational - they should be replaced by educational content. They claimed that the behaviour of some of the soapie stars “leaves much to be desired”; “the characters are not good role models for our kids”, and “our morals are being badly affected”. Some people however disagreed that soaps should be removed. They said it was important that content was just relaxing and entertaining.


Residents stated that sport coverage was very important to them. Some people stated that they were unhappy that games were not shown live on TV. People knew the scores in advance and that was very disappointing.

Lack of African history and culture

Programmes lack a focus on African history and culture. Few films are made and produced in Africa. The SABC focuses largely on foreign countries and most of the content is foreign. That is a problem.

SABC news and current affairs

A number of residents said they liked the SABC’s News – it provided them with information on what was happening. Some residents said they disagreed. They said they were sick of only hearing about political parties – “Cope, ANC, Cope, ANC!” - they wanted to hear about other issues. A resident stated that she wanted “truly independent news” like the news on eTV. She thought the SABC’s news was biased towards government.

Compiled by Tendayi Sithole and Kate Skinner
December 2008

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