The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) is one of the most important statutory institutions established, to play an active role in the realisation of democracy, in line with the key tenets of the South African Constitution Act 108 of 1996. The fundamental existence of this Constitution is to protect the rights of citizens as stipulated in the Bill of Rights, and the SABC as a public service content provider, continues to play a pivotal role in the protection and preservation of the human rights.
In particular, the SABC has over the years proven to be a catalyst for social change by raising awareness and educating citizens about their rights and restoring their dignity through a plethora of diverse programming.
One of the key objectives of the Constitution is to heal the divisions of the past and establish a society on a firm foundation of democratic values, social justice, and fundamental human rights. This objective underpins the values and principles that define the SABC, as outlined in the public broadcaster’s Editorial Policies. The SABC, in its Editorial Policies, is identified as an important institution which is set to play a role in healing the divisions of the past, promote respect for democratic values and human rights.
It is against this background that the responsibility bestowed upon the SABC, which boasts 19 radio stations, with the inclusion of Channel Africa which is broadcast in several African countries and five (5) video entertainment services, should also be seen from a social justice perspective.
The SABC’s radio, television and digital services provides significant societal benefits as the Broadcasting Act of 1999 advocates for a South African broadcasting system that serves to safeguard, enrich, and strengthen the cultural, political, social, and economic fabric of the country.
Over the years, the public broadcaster has showcased compelling content designed to heighten awareness for citizen rights such as Khululeka Siyavota, a drama series aimed at addressing voter education prior to the first democratic elections in 1994 in South Africa and a News and Current Affairs programme Yilungelo lakho dealing with consumer affairs. It’s programmes such as these which have made a huge impact and empowered citizens in providing information that empowers them to exercise their rights.
The SABC’s programmes such as Daily Thetha and the newly launched series Breaking the Silence are targeted at addressing the pertinent issues facing South African communities, particularly that affect with human dignity. These programmes are designed with an aim to expose myriad human rights violation, such as the suppression of freedom of expression as well as Gender-Based violence that violates the rights of women and children, and the marginalization of people living with disabilities.
Since the eruption of the COVID-19 pandemic that threatened human life and raged around the globe since 2020, the SABC continues to respond to the escalating need for public awareness and more targeted information around the coronavirus pandemic, to ensure that vital public health protocols messages are prioritised. The prioritization of messages is compounded by the SABC’s inherent duty to ensure that citizens have access to information.
The outbreak of the coronavirus in 2020 saw the SABC had to displacing revenue-generating programming across platforms through simulcast on its free-to-air channels to accommodate all public service announcements and media briefings relating to the COVID-19 pandemic; amplify news and current affairs content; provide general programming which is more focused on information regarding COVID-19 and enter into strategic partnerships to provide on air public service announcements.
At the core of what the SABC is mandated to deliver on, is the understanding that South African citizens have a right to be informed and educated about social, economic, and political, and the SABC’s ability to deliver important information freely to the citizens is by in its nature protecting people’s human rights.
The information delivered by the SABC on a daily basis is aimed at empowering citizens and enabling them to make sense of the world around them and more importantly to allow them to contribute meaningfully to the public discourse. The public broadcaster is committed to continue to provide consistent, relevant, and top-quality information and analysis that South Africans can rely on as they discuss and deliberate, form opinions and build a common future.
With the SABC’s values of Respect, Trust, Integrity and Quality, the public broadcaster remains committed to ensuring that these values are embedded and transmitted in the programmes we provide to the South African citizenry. The SABC will continue to work together with various stakeholders to ensure that universal access of SABC services is realised in line with the right of access to information and other rights that seek to restore human dignity.
Mmoni Seapolelo is the SABC’s Media Relations Manager