Sunday, July 17, 2011

Eusebius McKaiser's shock Interface resignation: 'To leave the SABC can be good for one's CV. It means you are guilty of journalism'.

In his shocking resignation as the presenter of SABC3's political and current affairs show Interface at Sunday nights at 21:30, Eusebius McKaiser - citing that he was only paid R4 000 per month (R1 000 per week) - says ''I had no choice but to resign'' and says ''having to leave the SABC can be good for one's CV. It means you are guilty of  journalism'.

In an email from Eusebius McKaiser explaining why he quit, he says that R4 000 for 4 shows a month - for which he was the presenter as well as content producer - was to ''undervalue my professional skill set, and my dignity''. The South African media thought leader however also alludes to ''murkier truths'' besides just the low pay that led to his decision to dump the show, writing that ''self-censorship on the part of a sufficient number of SABC employees suffice to keep our politicians happy.''

The Interface presenter who's shocking resignation is sending shockwaves through the TV industry and which is once again going to raise questions regarding the SABC's editorial independence and possible political pressure, writes that ''my resignation made life easier. For everyone''. Eusebius McKaiser writes however that he will continue in broadcasting and continue to hold politicians to account ''but in the media outlets that do not shirk their social duty to be independent, analytic and fearless''.

Eusebius McKaiser who writes that the model for Interface was actually the BBC's Hard Talk interview programme, says he's ''disappointed'' that there was no phone call from his boss, Jimi Matthews - who's the head of the SABC's TV news and current affairs division - ''for days until I called him'' and cites various issues in his letter to give more perspective on why he decided to leave the SABC current affairs production in which he grilled local politicians.

Claiming that ''he [Jimi Matthews] did not do enough to help me stay on in the face of silent and not-so-silent pressures on him,'' Eusebius McKaiser writes that ''the bigger implication is that the vision Jimi Matthews has for the SABC's news and current affairs division will, in the end, be pointless, if he is unable/unwilling to resist his peers/bosses who are averse to, well, gutsy journalism. And that, clearly, is now happening.''

The SABC didn't respond immediately to a request for comment I made to the public broadcaster on Sunday night.

UPDATE Monday 18 July 15:15 - The SABC just responded:
''The SABC will not discuss individual's contracts, previous or current with the media,'' the SABC says in answer to my question on whether Eusebius McKaiser was paid R4 000 a month to do Interface.

''The SABC and Mr McKaiser parted ways amicably, when an agreement could  not be reached on a new contract,'' says the SABC in answer to my question on whether the SABC has any comment or statement, specially in relation to what Eusebius McKaiser says about Jimi Matthews and to what Eusebius McKaiser has said.