SABC thwarted in bid to appeal M&G ruling

The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) will have to broadcast a summary of the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa’s (BCCSA) ruling against it and in favour of the Mail & Guardian on prime time television, after the broadcaster’s second bid to appeal the ruling failed on Tuesday.

In March, the BCCSA tribunal found that the SABC had aired “unsubstantiated” claims of corruption and racism that businessman Robert Gumede had levelled against M&G investigative journalist Sam Sole and had failed to give the M&G, and Sole in particular, an adequate opportunity to reply.

The tribunal reprimanded the SABC and ordered the broadcaster to air its ruling during the first 12 minutes of its prime-time 7pm SABC3 television news bulletin.

The BCCSA’s order is considered a more serious punishment than the maximum R60 000 fine it can levy.

Appeal bids denied
In April the BCCSA dismissed an application by the SABC for leave to appeal against the order that it correct an unfair report about Sam Sole, saying an appeals tribunal would be unlikely to reach a different conclusion.

And on Tuesday the BCCSA denied the public broadcaster’s second application for leave to appeal its earlier judgment.

The first bid in April had been made to the chairperson of the BCCSA, who sat on the original tribunal. The second application for leave to appeal was made in terms of the commission’s procedure to the deputy chairperson of the BCCSA, who did not sit on the original tribunal.

Deputy chairperson Professor Henning Viljoen said in his judgment it was unlikely that an appeal tribunal would find that the conclusions of the first tribunal were “clearly wrong”. He said he was of the view that there was a thorough analysis of the evidence by the first tribunal and “reasonable conclusions” were arrived at.

M&G editor Nic Dawes said on Tuesday: “I am delighted, but not at all surprised that the very strong original ruling of the BCCSA has been reaffirmed. I look forward to hearing a summary of that ruling on prime time SABC television news as ordered.

“More importantly, I look forward to the renewal of a culture of ethical journalism at the SABC,” added Dawes. “It is a culture that many of our colleagues at the public broadcaster have been fighting to defend because they know it matters deeply to all South Africans.”

The dispute relates to an insert aired during SABC3’s 7pm bulletin in November. Gumede claimed in an interview that Sole received corrupt payments from businessman John Sterenborg in 2001, while working for investigative magazine noseweek.

Gumede claimed that Sterenborg had influenced Sole’s subsequent coverage in the M&G of Gumede’s business dealings and that Sole was “out to attack black people, to say that they are corrupt”.

The payment Gumede identified related to a R900 air ticket for which Sterenborg had reimbursed Sole, although the SABC insert did not reflect this explanation.

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