Stop making mediocrity King of our broadcasting

WHERE IS South Africa's Larry King? Come this American autumn and Larry King will retire from hosting Larry King Live on CNN.

WHERE IS South Africa's Larry King? Come this American autumn and Larry King will retire from hosting Larry King Live on CNN.

Through this show he has entered the Guinness Book of Records for being a part of the longest-running TV show on Earth, on the same TV network, in the same time slot, with the same host. This is what meritocracy delivers.

My favourite Larry King Live moment is of the one time Nelson Mandela visited George Bush senior at the White House and refused to address the media first when the then US president signaled for him to do so.

Speaking after George Bush, Mandela said, in the glare of the world's media spotlight, something to the effect that Bush was "ill-informed" and that he hoped to give him the proper facts on which to base his decisions on South Africa in the hour that they were to spend together.

That Larry King Live moment, showing Mandela, standing on the lawn of the garden of the building that has housed arguably the most powerful presidents in the world, holding his ground, not intimidated, was magical for me.

I saw for the first time that we had a leader who was not only physically taller than most leaders anywhere in the world but could stand toe to toe with any of them on issues of principle.

I remember feeling proud and important because of this Larry King broadcast on the then Bophuthatswana Broadcasting Corporation's TV station, BopTV.

It was 1991. The SABC at the time did not even have a clue who Larry King was, let alone broadcast his shows.

So it's the end of an era in TV in a way. An iconic TV communicator is about to switch his microphone off.

What a pity that it will be forever until the SABC can have an anchor who can say that s/he is retiring after breaking this or that record of excellent broadcasting.

I know this won't happen any time soon because I worked at the SABC. Excellence is deplored there. In one year I brought in advertising revenue of about R80000 a month in a time slot that previously had no advertising.

I brought in more than 50000 new listeners when the radio station had lost over 150000 listeners just before I joined. You would think that merited a pat on the back and a raise.

Instead trumped up charges of hate speech and xenophobia were brought against me and I was fired without a hearing.

A friend of one of the managers was given the slot and went on to almost ruin it. That's our country.

Examples of excellence exist everywhere for us to follow. But our lack of integrity as a populace, our rampant corruption as a people and our addiction to mediocrity keeps us down.