The Tribulations of a Public Service Broadcaster : The South African Broadcasting Corporation and its Structural Dilemmas
The 1994 democratic elections in South Africa as a significant turning point marked the beginning of a more democratic dispensation, one which impacted on all aspects of South African life, especially the broadcasting industry as a media structure. It impacted on the nature of a public broadcaster that the South Africa of the new era ultimately established. Under apartheid, the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) was perceived as a “propaganda machine for the Nationalist government.” It operated a structure that stood guard against any perceived threat to the state, thereby disadvantaging certain stakeholders. There was fear that this would continue during the transformation process and beyond. However, the transformation process, as will be discussed, brought with it new notions of liberation and independence within the discourse of a transformation process as an emancipatory project together with its eschatological promise. But it may be necessary to also highlight that, despite these changes, certain structural arrangements were not discontinued, thus paving way for residual policy models, as will be discussed later. The article therefore examines the restructured SABC and focuses, inter alia, on the controversial selection of the board of the SABC, especially the case of 2007 and the policy behind such decisions as well as the subsequent turbulent atmosphere that existed in the public service broadcaster. In view of these structural developments, pitting the SABC as a public broadcaster against the turbulence of post-Apartheid South Africa, the paper will use political economy as an approach. It will then engage Anthony Giddens’ (1984) theory of structuration as the conceptual lens to analyse relevant contemporary data from a range of sources. The thrust in engaging the theory of structuration is to make sense of media structures and human agency and to understand their synapses.