SABC brought to heel: BCCSA ruling to air at 7pm tonight

The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) was on Friday night ordered by its board to air a scathing ruling against it by the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa (BCCSA), after it failed to give the Mail & Guardian an adequate right of reply to a news bulletin that alleged corruption and racism on the part of its senior investigative reporter Sam Sole.

The BCCSA summary judgment against the SABC will be aired on Saturday on the SABC3 7pm news bulletin, SABC chief executive Robin Nicholson told the M&G on Saturday morning.

“The board resolved that the SABC should comply with the BCCSA ruling, which found that the Mail & Guardian and Sam Sole were not given adequate right of reply,” said Nicholson. “Our apology will be flighted within the first twelve minutes of the news bulletin, as laid down by the BCCSA.”

Board members said the resolution that the BCCSA ruling should be aired was made at a scheduled board meeting on Friday night.

“The matter was debated, and there were different opinions about it,” said a board member, who asked not to be named. “We put it to the vote, and a resolution was taken that the BCCSA ruling would be flighted.”

This will bring an end to the broadcaster’s multiple attempts to avoid having to air the ruling, including its appeal against the BCCSA ruling and its move to try to have the matter heard by the compliance committee of the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa).

The BCCSA on Tuesday this week rejected the SABC’s application for the ruling to be suspended, pending a further appeal to Icasa.
It found that in terms of the legislation, only the complainants have the right of appeal to Icasa’s complaints body.

The judgment comes in the wake of a report on the SABC3 7pm news bulletin on November 3 last year, in which businessman Robert Gumede claimed Sole had received a corrupt payment while working for investigative magazine noseweek in 2001.

Gumede alleged his former business partner, John Sterenborg, had made a corrupt payment to Sole, but failed to include the M&G‘s explanation that the allegedly corrupt payment was Sterenborg’s reimbursement to him for the R900 Sole had spent on a ticket to fly to an interview with the businessman.

Sole’s version of events were later widely corroborated in various news reports by noseweek editor Martin Welz, who said the allegations that Sole was corrupt were “outrageous” and “appalling”.

Sole said on Saturday he was delighted this matter was coming to a close.

“I’m very pleased that the SABC board has exerted its authority and finally put this matter to rest,” Sole said. “Unfortunately the saga says more about the SABC management that it says about me.”

After the BCCSA ruling was made, M&G editor-in-chief Nic Dawes said: “It’s an important ruling, not just because it vindicates the M&G, but because it requires our public broadcaster to place more value on journalistic ethics than it does on political expediency.”

The allegations were “completely unsubstantiated, and wrong” and the SABC had given neither the M&G nor Sole a chance to address them, he said.

“Mr Gumede made his claims because he believed the M&G was about to publish a story about his own business practices and the public broadcaster failed to meet basic journalistic standards in repeating them without question,” said Dawes.

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