Icasa committee orders SABC to air DA adverts

DA's Gauteng premier candidate and spokesperson Mmusi Maimane. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

DA's Gauteng premier candidate and spokesperson Mmusi Maimane. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

A hearing by the Complaints and Compliance Committee on the Democratic Alliance's (DA) advertisement complaint case against the SABC was postponed on Wednesday night.

Committee chairperson Wandile Tutani told those present at the Icasa headquarters in Sandton, north of Johannesburg, that the matter would be postponed indefinitely as the SABC had hired a new legal team.

The new team would have to investigate the facts of the case, and once they had made a conclusion on the matter, they would decide whether it would be taken further.

The DA did not oppose the postponement.

DA leader Helen Zille said the postponement was only accepted on condition that the party's six adverts be aired with immediate effect. 'It is a victory for common sense," she said.

The party laid a complaint with Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) on Saturday after the SABC failed to broadcast its election advertisement.

Off air
The "Ayisafani" TV advert was pulled off the air last week, along with five radio advertisements. The advert shows the DA's Gauteng premier candidate and spokesperson, Mmusi Maimane, standing in front of a mirror talking about the current state of the country.

He says life today is better than it was 20 years ago and gives credit to great leaders who he believes have taken the country forward.
"But since 2008 we've seen President Jacob Zuma's ANC. An ANC that is corrupt. An ANC for the connected few. An ANC that is taking us backwards. An ANC where more than 1.4-million people have lost jobs."

Maimane then asks Zuma where the jobs are.

The SABC did not broadcast the advertisement (and five radio adverts), and gave the DA a letter. In it, SABC acting group chief executive Tian Olivier informed the party that it would not be able to broadcast the adverts on radio or television on four grounds:

  • The Icasa regulations on political advertising state clearly that there may not be incitement of violence;
  • That the Electoral Code of Conduct includes a clause prohibiting the publication of false information about other candidates or parties;
  • That the Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa did not permit attacking another product to promote its own; and that
  • The SABC would not permit personal attacks on any party member or leader by any other party, as was being done in the DA's advert in respect of Zuma.

The SABC stood by its decision. It said the party could submit an amended version of the advertisement.

Terry Motau, for the SABC, confirmed that the public broadcaster would flight all six of the party's adverts on air with immediate effect.

One television advert and five radio ads were pulled off air after being flighted for two days on April 8 and 9.

Steven Budlender, for the DA, confirmed that the party had withdrawn its urgent high court application.

On Tuesday, the SABC said the advert was aired twice last Tuesday and once last Wednesday before it was taken off the air. It said the DA's video advert included a part where a picture appeared of a police official pointing his firearm at two members of the public wearing blue shirts.

The voice along with the picture said: "We have seen the police force killing our people."

The broadcaster's previous lawyer Ronnie Bokwa said the use of language and the visuals used were inflammatory and could not be seen as freedom of speech.

He said the current climate in the country and the media reports of police brutality portrayed a negative image of the police. "From a responsible broadcaster's point of view, we felt to flight the advert would create the impression that there is an imminent threat of violence."

Bokwa said he had an issue with the use of the word "our".

"Does it mean police are killing the DA's people?" he asked.

A member of the compliance committee asked whether the broadcaster had a checklist for all adverts aired on the broadcaster's channels. The SABC could not confirm this.

The committee – established in terms of the Icasa Act, is an independent statutory body empowered to adjudicate, hear and make a finding on all matters referred to it, not only by the authority, but also by the public. – Sapa

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