SABC in last-ditch bid to overturn M&G ruling

The South African Broadcast Corporation (SABC) has notified the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa (BCCSA) of its intention to fight the BCCSA’s decision to uphold the Mail & Guardian‘s complaint against the SABC regarding its broadcast of Robert Gumede’s claims of corruption and racism against investigative journalist Sam Sole.

The M&G on Monday received a letter from the BCCSA saying that the SABC intends taking the matter to the complaints and compliance committee (CCC) of the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa), and thus will not be airing the ruling in the M&G‘s favour as it was ordered to by the BCCSA.

Watch the original broadcast as aired on SABC3 in November 2010.

In March, the BCCSA tribunal found that the SABC had, in November 2010, aired “unsubstantiated” claims of corruption and racism that Gumede had levelled against M&G 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. This order is considered a more serious punishment than the maximum R60 000 fine it can levy.

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

And on May 31 the BCCSA denied the public broadcaster’s second application for leave to appeal its earlier judgment. In terms of the BCCSA ruling, the apology was be broadcast within seven days.

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.

On Monday lawyers acting on behalf of the SABC sent a letter to the BCCSA saying that they were seeking advice on the ruling and intended taking the matter up with the CCC. The SABC would therefore not be broadcasting the order by the commission until an outcome from the compliance committee.

According to its mandate, Icasa’s compliance committee can overrule the BCCSA’s ruling if the SABC can prove that one or more of the following took place:

  • The BCCSA acted outside of its jurisdiction;
  • Bias, malice or corruption was shown by the BCCSA;
  • Gross irregularity occurred in the proceedings; or
  • There was a failure to comply with the rules of natural justice.

The national broadcaster would have to cite one or more of these in its appeal to Icasa to have the BCCSA’s decision reviewed.

The SABC has yet to confirm by affidavit its intentions to take the matter up with the CCC. The SABC will have to file for appeal on or before June 8. The M&G will then have until 3pm on Friday to respond.

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