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Thursday, November 12, 1998 Published at 16:13 GMT


South African broadcasting transformed

A new broadcasting bill will soon transform the South African Broadcasting Corporation into a limited liability company, with the state as the sole shareholder.

The bill marks another phase in the deregulation of post-apartheid broadcasting.

Peter Feuilherade of BBC Monitoring's Foreign Media Unit reports : The new charter for the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) will be closely modelled on the BBC's charter.

The SABC will be transformed into a limited liability company, with the state as the sole shareholder.

It will report to the minister of communications, and members of the SABC board will be appointed by the president, in consultation with parliament.

The Broadcasting Bill, passed at the beginning of November, also gives the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) powers to regulate the broadcasting sector "without fear of interference" , in the words of the South African news agency SAPA.

The bill was opposed by all the opposition parties except the Pan-Africanist Congress.

But the ruling African National Congress said it was desirable to set broadcasting objectives and principles, and insisted the bill was constitutional.

The new bill will repeal the old Broadcasting Act of 1976 and will divide the SABC into two services, public and commercial.

The bill marks another phase in the deregulation of South African broadcasting.

Since it was set up in 1994, shortly before the first post-apartheid national elections, the IBA has coordinated the sale of six SABC stations to commercial operators and granted licences to eight new radio stations and a new commercial station.

It has also licensed 82 community stations, of which 74 are currently on air.

Media pressure groups in South Africa, such as the Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI), welcomed the comprehensive review of broadcasting policy that the bill represents.

But they warned that, in their view, it contained some "politically and financially dangerous proposals" .

The FXI regards as "a serious omission" the fact that the independence of the SABC is not guaranteed explicitly in the charter.

It also recommends that the charter should cover both the SABC's public and commercial services, to help prevent the latter getting priority from SABC management.

The media group argues that the core of the SABC's future funding should come from the state, rather than from commercial operations, to ensure that public broadcasting does not wither away completely.

BBC Monitoring (http://www.monitor.bbc.co.uk), based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.



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