J’burg news hire under fire

JOHANNESBURG — Controversy swirled Monday over the appointment of former newspaper editor Allister Sparks as editor of the TV news department of pubcaster South African Broadcasting Corp. (SABC).

Sparks is executive director of the Institute for the Advancement of Journalism, a training school for young journalists. In the 1970s, he was editor of the now-defunct Rand Daily Mail, a fiercely anti-apartheid newspaper.

He is also a member of the SABC board, a position he will have to resign to take up his new position.

His appointment sparked the resignation of the department’s editor in chief, Joe Thloloe, who accused SABC chiefs of “trampling” on the visions and values of the corporation.

Thloloe, a black man, accused Sparks of misusing his position as a board member and asked why a white man should be appointed to such a key post when the SABC is committed to affirmative action.

“Is the white missionary the only hope for dark Africa?” he asked.

At least three other key members of the news department also resigned in protest.

In a statement, the SABC said that central to Sparks’ task would be on-the-job training of TV reporters and developing their journalism skills.

“During this period, Mr. Sparks will examine and restructure television news structures and processes with a view to ensuring that the newsgathering and broadcasting process will be more dynamic, and enable television news to present up-to-the-minute news reports,” it said.

Sparks is to visit Australia this month to examine the Australian Broadcasting Corp.’s restructuring process, the statement added.

Group chief executive Zwelakhe Sisulu said the transformation of the SABC would go ahead despite the resignations of senior employees.

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