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DA's Icasa advert hearing adjourned for SABC response

Mpho Raborife

A hearing on the DA's ad complaint against the SABC has been adjourned following the broadcaster's request.

The SABC pulled the Democratic Alliance's 'Ayisafani' advert. (Gallo)

A hearing by the Complaints and Compliance Committee on the DA's advertisement complaint case against the SABC was adjourned on Tuesday night.

The hearing would resume on Wednesday at 6pm to give the SABC more time to consult with its legal team, committee chairperson Wandile Tutani told those present at the Independent Communications Authority of South Authority (Icasa) headquarters in Sandton, north of Johannesburg.

The committee was hearing arguments from the Democratic Alliance (DA) and the SABC regarding the pulling of the party's television advert that was paid for after airing it only three times. Ronnie Bokwa, for the SABC, said the advert was aired twice last Tuesday and once last Wednesday before it was taken off the air.

The DA laid a complaint with Icasa on Saturday after the SABC failed to broadcast its election advertisement. The "Ayisafani" TV advert was pulled off the air last week, along with five radio advertisements.

The advert shows the DA's Gauteng premier candidate and spokesperson, Mmusi Maimane, standing in front of a mirror talking about the current state of the country. He says life today is better than it was 20 years ago and gives credit to great leaders who he believes have taken the country forward.

"But since 2008 we've seen President Jacob Zuma's ANC. An ANC that is corrupt. An ANC for the connected few. An ANC that is taking us backwards. An ANC where more than 1.4 million people have lost jobs." Maimane then asks Zuma where the jobs are.

Four grounds for not airing ad
The SABC did not broadcast the advertisement and gave the DA a letter. In it, SABC acting group chief executive Tian Olivier informed the party that it would not be able to broadcast the advert on radio or television on four grounds:

  • The Icasa regulations on political advertising state clearly that there may not be incitement of violence;

  • That the Electoral Code of Conduct includes a clause prohibiting the publication of false information about other candidates or parties;

  • That the Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa did not permit attacking another product to promote its own; and that

  • The SABC would not permit personal attacks on any party member or leader by any other party, as was being done in the DA's advert in respect of Zuma.

The SABC stood by its decision. It said the party could submit an amended version of the advertisement.

"We acted properly," Bokwa said at the hearing.

Who is 'our' people?
DA leader Helen Zille and the SABC's acting chief operations officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng were present at the hearing. Bokwa said the DA's video advert included a part where a picture appeared of a police official pointing his firearm at two members of the public wearing blue shirts. The voice along with the picture said: "We have seen the police force killing our people." Bokwa said the use of language and the visuals used were inflammatory and could not be seen as freedom of speech. He said the current climate in the country and the media reports of police brutality portrayed a negative image of the police.

"From a responsible broadcaster's point of view, we felt to flight the advert would create the impression that there is an imminent threat of violence."

Bokwa said he had an issue with the use of the word "our". "Does it mean police are killing the DA's people?"

A member of the committee asked whether the broadcaster had a checklist for all adverts aired on the broadcaster's channels.

The SABC asked for an adjournment before responding, and is yet to answer a number of questions posed by members of the committee.

The compliance committee – established in terms of the Icasa Act, is an independent statutory body empowered to adjudicate, hear and make a finding on all matters referred to it, not only by the authority, but also by the public. – Sapa

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