The SABC is being oversensitive for reportedly choosing not to air an advert depicting President Jacob Zuma and his family, say industry experts.
"Democracy delivers rough and tumble debates all the time – all citizens, especially politicians, need to be a little more thick skinned," Professor Anton Harber of the Wits journalism school told the Mail & Guardian on Tuesday.
An ad promoting a fast food outlet was due to be aired on the public broadcaster's channels on Monday night, and was meant to be aired until February, but it was pulled just two hours before it was scheduled to be flighted, the Star reported on Tuesday.
The animated commercial begins with the words "Dinner time at Nkandla" appearing over a picture of a mansion.
The next frame is indoors. A woman, seated at one end of an extremely long dining room table lined with children and several other women on both sides, says in isiZulu: "Oh Zuzulicious, we're having fish and chips from Shabba today."
The huge family enjoys the fish and chips dinner.
An animated Zuma responds: "Eat up honeybunch, there is a lot of good food here. It's from the Fish and Chip Company. There are many of you in this house, at only R25 even Pravin will approve this.
Harber added the SABC had a "sense of humour failure" and were being "oversensitive".
His stance is mirrored by Stiwe Chireka, communication specialist at the International Data Corporation, who believes the SABC were being "too politically correct".
"You can't control the media. Unfortunately, mass communication like this can go viral very quickly," Chireka told the M&G.
The video was aired on several social media platforms and by late Tuesday morning received over 3 000 views.
"The SABC forgot about the other platforms that will immediately see that this goes viral," Chireka added.
By midday on Tuesday the SABC had not officially stated their reasons for not flighting the advert.
"We are going to be issuing a statement soon. Until then I can't help you," SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago told the M&G.
But, Harber said the SABC must give reasons for censoring the advert.
"They are obliged to show the processes they followed in making this decision, and the onus is on them to explain their reasons for not airing it," he added.
'Good taste and decency'
The Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa (Asasa) governs the suitability of adverts for broadcast in South African media – but no complaint was formally made to them about the advert.
Clause two in section II of the advertising code states: "No advertising may offend against good taste or decency or be offensive to public or sectoral values and sensitivities, unless the advertising is reasonable and justifiable in an open and democratic society based on human dignity, equality and freedom."
Furthermore, clause 11 in the same section of the code aims to protect the rights of individuals.
"Advertisements should not, except in the circumstances noted in 11.2, portray or refer to, by whatever means, any living persons unless their express prior permission has been obtained. Advertisers should also take care not to offend the religious or other susceptibilities of those connected in any way with deceased persons depicted or referred to in any advertisement," it reads.
"If the ad didn't flight, our hands are tied," Leon Grobler, manager of dispute resolution at Asasa told the M&G.
"We would only invoke an order or undertake an investigation when there is a complaint – but there was none. I can only guess the broadcaster made their own decision not to air it based on its content."
Later on Tuesday, the SABC released a statement, saying it "reserves the right to exercise editorial control over all content ..."
Kganyago said, "We are of the view that the advert implied an endorsement of the product sold by the Fish and Chip Company." He said that all advertisements must be received five working days before broadcast to allow the SABC to do quality checks but this ad was received late.