SABC clamps down on editorial control
"This decision will help us to have a centralised way of dealing with issues of political and governance nature in a coherent and systematic way and in line with our editorial policy," said Hlaudi Motsoeneng, the South African Broadcasting Corporation's acting chief operating officer, said on Wednesday.
According to a statement from the broadcaster: "It is therefore important for news and current affairs to be the custodian of all the talk shows that are dealing with political and governance issues in all its 18 radio stations. This will go a long way in assisting the organisation to be accountable to the public and have proper controls."
The broadcaster announced that the decision "will help the SABC to deliver on the requirements of the editorial policy".
According to the SABC's editorial policy – guided by the Broadcasting Act, No 4 of 1999 – "When an event of national importance is of a party political nature, editorial staff are to ensure that the SABC policies on objectivity, accuracy, fairness, impartiality and balance are adhered to".
'A state of paranoia'
Meanwhile, the Times reported on Monday that in an anonymous letter (purportedly written by SABC reporters, producers and presenters indicated concerns of political interference at the broadcaster) there were complaints that journalists were "taken to task" for not giving adequate coverage to President Jacob Zuma.
The letter was unsigned, apparently because the authors feared they would be victimised, and was addressed to the SABC board and acting news head Jimi Matthews.
"The climate of uncertainty and fear has created a state of paranoia in both the television and radio news rooms and has lowered morale," the letter read.
According to the newspaper, it contained allegations that some programmes were cancelled after the content was announced on air, and when talk show guests had already arrived.
Political journalists were allegedly removed from their posts and analysts from their regular shows without explanation.
There were also complaints that stories about expelled ANC Youth League president Julius Malema were "treated differently".
SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago denied to the Times that Matthews or the board had received the note and said the SABC had received no complaints about the issues it raised. – Additional reporting by Sapa