National radio station 5FM set the cat among the pigeons by flighting an advertisement, featuring a top visiting musician, that promoted the boycott of Israel.
The 20-second advert, during prime time, featured Dave Randall, the lead guitarist of British electronic band, Faithless, who performed in South Africa last weekend.
Randall intoned: “Twenty years ago I would not have played in apartheid South Africa. “Today I refuse to play in Israel. Be on the right side of history. Don’t entertain apartheid. Join the international boycott of Israel.” The station received a flurry of complaints by email and phone and on social networking sites.
Samantha Cambier commented on Facebook: “Go to hell 5FM and Faithless … you have lost a lot of listeners, that’s for sure!”, and Boaz Yarmarkov stormed: “FU 5FM for going political”.
“We got a call from the station saying it was receiving many complaints and was finding it difficult to continue to run the advert,” said Joni Barnard, a member of South African Artists Against Apartheid, the collective that created the advert. “But in the end, it continued.”
Barnard said many of the complaints branded the ad “anti-Semitic”. “But to criticise a state is not anti-Semitic, just as to criticise apartheid South Africa was not anti-white,” she said.
Randall and Faithless’s lead singer, Maxi Jazz, are well-known supporters of the boycott, divestment and the sanctions campaign against Israel. Last year the band cancelled a tour of the country.
5FM has defended the decision to continue to run the advert in a statement, saying that it had “offended certain segments of the station’s listeners as it contains anti-Israel content voiced by a member of the band Faithless”.
But, it insisted that the advert, like any other, “is the property of the advertiser who has paid for it [and] does not reflect the views of 5FM or the SABC”. SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago said that the station had not foreseen the complaints. However, Barnard said that the complaints were wholly expected. “An advert of this nature is highly provocative,” she said.
“We chose to make a political statement and, obviously, that does come with repercussions. “But it is critical to make people think and question their political position.” South African Artists Against Apartheid include writer Imraan Coovadia, artist Brett Murray and poet Allan Horwitz.