South African journalism has had some low points in its 200-year history. This week's admission that the SABC sells interviews without telling the audience is one of the lowest.
Minister Bathabile Dlamini admitted paying the SABC for an interview last year in the middle of crucial ANC leadership battles, and describing this as routine practice and "an investment in the public broadcaster" for which she would not apologise.
What she has done is destroy the public broadcaster's journalistic credibility, undermined its integrity, and compromised its professionalism. She has certainly destroyed the credibility of SABC's Real Talk show and its presenter Anele Mdoda. Even if Mdoda was not instructed to go soft on Dlamini, who was after all a client rather than an interviewee, her credibility is blown.
To run a paid-for interview with a politician is dubious at all times, but especially in the middle of a major leadership battle. To do so without telling the audience is in contravention of every principle of journalism, every code of conduct, every professional rule - including the SABC's own editorial charter, the industry code and the Broadcasting Act, which commits the SABC to the highest editorial and journalistic standards. To spend public...