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Transformation Of SSBC Falls Behind Schedule

By Roger Alfred Yoron

 

S

outh Sudan Television/Radio (SSTV/R) was according to media legislations, to transform to South Sudan Broadcasting Corporation SSBC, an establishment towards transforming the State owned Media into public broadcasters, independent from political or economic control of the government, but program has not been done safe for the name.


A nine-member board of directors, appointed by President Salva Kiir, has managed to effect the changes in the name, but got stuck in implementing the rest of the reforms set out in the SSBC Act.

Chairperson of the board, Professor William Haizaza cites lack of budget, organization structure for the SSBC and financial self-sustainability as the main challenges facing the corporation in discharging its duties.


“We the media are having a lot of problems is because we don’t have guidelines to back up our operations, to give the protection to the journalists and the absence of these codes,  conduct of business regulation is really harming the work, profession itself,” Haizaza told The Nation Mirror.


“We in the Broadcasting Corporation are supposed to enact our regulations for the Radio and TV and pass it  and give copy to the Media Authority, which then they will use it to check on us, because we are a government institution. So this is the task before us but it needs budget, it needs finance. It is not very easy.”


Currently, revenues generated by the SSBC are remitted directly into the accounts of the government leaving the corporation financially unsustainable, Haizaza said: “We have some good revenues when we do advertisements, and we have transmitters which are being rented by BBC, by VOA, by Radio France International, all they pay. All these we need to see how they are reflected in our budget.”


Legally, the Media Authority is a regulatory body for the transformation of government and state controlled television and radio into a public broadcasting corporation. Section 32 of the SSBC Act also gives the Media Authority the power to refer to court grounds it believes to be a breach by the Corporation of any obligation specified in the Act. The Authority has failed to deliver its mandate saying it lacks budget.


However, Haizaza said the board together with a new managing director is working out an organization structure for the corporation.


“…we succeeded to work the organization structure which is very important instrument for the transformation of the SSTV/R into SSBC as a public broadcaster… Up to now the organization’s structure is still under process because it is still to be submitted to the minister, to the Council of ministers and then to the parliament,” he said.


“…since SSTV/R was operating we didn’t see any organization structure so that means the people who are employed here, they are randomly employed and their job descriptions, job specifications are not incorporated into the Act and into the structure. So you cannot evaluate the performance very quickly. But now, this is an important instrument of transformation and it is being worked on.”

The SSBC Act President Kiir signed into law gives the Corporation an overall mandate to provide range of programming for the whole Country that “informs, enlightens, entertains and serves the people of South Sudan, taking into account their ethnic, cultural and religious diversities.”

The Act says for five years from its commencement, the government shall continue to provide funding to the corporation.


Haizaza said the roadmap has been established to transfer the Institution from the ministry of information and broadcasting into public broadcaster.


He said the corporation shall work in close cooperation with the ministry of information, in terms of finance and policy framework.


“….but in terms of administration we were supposed to do a number of things in the first one year interim period, which started in February this year,” Haizaza said.   “So when we assumed our task, we started with changing the logo from SSTV/R to SSBC. Our concept for change is symbol. Both radio and TV has a common denominator which is to raise the voice of the people and their aspirations to the government and to take the programs and policies of the government to the people through the mic.” Haizaza said.


Balancing News and Editorial Integrity

The Act requires the Corporation to align its activities with the democratic values enshrined in the national Constitution and to enhance and protect fundamental freedoms and human rights.


Section 7 subsection 3 of the Act enshrines:“The Broadcasting Corporation shall strife, among others, to provide a service that:

(a) is independent from political or economic control by the government and reflects editorial integrity;

(b) Includes comprehensive, impartial and balanced news and current affairs programming during prime time, covering South Sudan and international events of general public interest.…

(l) Contributes to informed debate and critical thought...” 

However, Haizaza recognizes lack of fair and professional coverage by the SSBC. 

The board’s chairman says he has directed the managing director to accord equal airtime to all South Sudanese irrespective of political affiliations.   

“Our program now is geared towards peace... to welcome our brothers (opposition) and to treat them equally and to have their programs aired out as much as all other programs are being aired… these are the transformation which are taking place” Haizaza said.

“As a government institution, we must give equal platform to all political parties and people, in order to harmonize… because if you segregate you will set fire. So this is some of the transformation we expect to do...”

However, Member of Parliament leading Democratic Change party in the transitional assembly Onyoti Adigo Nyikwec insists that the opposition views are not given fair opportunity. 

He says “if you see me there… it is something which has been organized by other people, not by us [opposition].”

“The TV is still being controlled by the government, even the radio and especially by the minister of information. So it has become property of some people not the South Sudanese people,” Adigo told The Nation Mirror.

“There is a need to look into the other side of the coin. Not all the time you are looking on one side. Views should be reflected so that people think which is the best way to go,” he stressed.

A Juba based Civil Society activist agrees that the SSBC is still not independent from control of the government.

Wodcan Savior Lazarus of Support Peace Initiative Development Organization SPIDO argues that an issue of balancing of news stories does not need a budget.

“The independence of the SSBC is not evidenced…some of these stories on South Sudan Television and Radio are not being balanced. In most cases the stories are one sided favoring the interest of the government. This is one area the Corporation needs to improve on… the law is there but the implementation is really poor,” Savior who commended the government for enacting the law told The Nation Mirror.

“The budget would have not been one of the major excuses because some of these things they would have even done it without the budget.” 

The activist urges the government to allocate budget to the Corporation and also raise awareness on the stipulations of the SSBC Act.

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