A scheduled discussion on MetroFM about the ANC's national elective conference was cancelled because the party had not been invited to participate, the SABC said on Wednesday.
"In this case, you know the issue was the discussion about the ANC. Our view is simple: you need the ANC to be part of that discussion. We are not banning anyone," SABC chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng told reporters in Johannesburg.
Three political journalists had been scheduled to appear on MetroFM's "Talk with Sakina", presented by Sakina Kamwendo, to discuss media coverage of Mangaung. The talk was cancelled at the last minute.
Sunday Times political editor S'thembiso Msomi, Business Day political editor Sam Mkokeli and Financial Times Southern African bureau chief Andrew England were already at the SABC studios when the interview was cancelled.
Group radio executive Leslie Ntloko said management received the list of guests for the cancelled segment late. When management learned the ANC was not participating, the plug was pulled. "We looked at [the briefing] and asked whether there was fairness and balance. We took the decision because there was no fairness," Ntloko said.
He cited SABC rules that when an issue involved an event of national importance, and a political party, that party had to be invited to participate. "I think that decision [to cancel] was made in view of the fact that some of these things I have just mentioned were not followed. Our normal processes were not followed. That's why management took the decision."
Motsoeneng and Ntloko were speaking at SABC headquarters in Auckland Park with spokesperson Kaiser Kganyago. SABC head of news Jimi Matthews had a place set for him at the briefing but did not attend.
Motsoeneng and Ntloko argued that while the discussion was about media coverage of Mangaung, because it also involved an ANC event the party had to be involved.
Motsoeneng denied that political interference had played a role in the decision and said the same rules would apply to other political parties and their events. "If you talk about the ANC, you must get them. If you talk about the DA [Democratic Alliance], you must get them."
Motsoeneng and Ntloko refused to say if Kamwendo or members of her team would be reprimanded, calling it "an internal matter between employer and employee".
However, Motsoeneng said the public broadcaster would "engage with individuals" who were part of the cancelled discussion before deciding on potential action.
This is not the first time Kamwendo has been instructed to drop a guest from her show at the last minute. In September, Friends of the Youth League claimed that management at the SABC instructed Kamwendo to cancel a planned interview with expelled ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema. At the time the SABC denied there was a political reason behind the incident.
The SABC has a history of editorial interference in its current affairs programmes. In the past few months it pulled an advert promoting the fast food outlet the Fish & Chips Co that parodied President Jacob Zuma and his family, and also instructed reporters not to refer to Zuma's home in Nkandla as a "compound", "homestead" or "any such term". – Sapa