What you hear may not be what you SABC

Civil society organisations are challenging the SABC’s decision to restrict its protest coverage, but it’s unclear what effect the partial ban will have on the millions who tune into the public broadcaster’s radio stations.

Media Monitoring Africa (MMA), the SOS Support Public Broadcasting Coalition (Sosa) and the Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI) have launched a legal challenge with the complaints compliance committee of the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa over the SABC’s decision. The organisations argue that the public broadcaster is in clear violation of the Broadcasting Act, the SABC’s licence conditions and its editorial policies.

One of the group’s concerns is the effect “the decision will have for ordinary South Africans and their right to freedom of expression and access to information”.

The SABC made headlines after announcing it would not air violent protests. It said, although reporters would be on the ground to cover protests, it would not air footage of “the destruction of public property during protests”.

Radio and television are South Africa’s most commonly used mediums for news and entertainment. About 12.3-million radio listeners rely solely on the public broadcaster for news.


According to a recent radio audience measurement survey (Rams), the SABC had 28.9-million listeners in December last year, 42.6% of whom tuned in exclusively to its radio stations.

The numbers underscore the SABC’s importance.

“The decision has clear negative implications for media freedom and yet we have been given no indication that the decision followed due process,” said the MMA’s director, William Bird.

The SOS said the broadcaster “has to be fair”.

The SABC’s chief operations officer, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, who is pushing the ban, was recently appointed the SABC editor-in-chief.

Sekoetlane Phamodi, the SOS’s co-ordinator, said the protest policy will stick in light of his appointment.

The organisation said the SABC’s editorial policies will be harder to challenge with Motsoeneng now handling all internal complaints regarding editorial decisions.

Kaizer Kganyago, the spokesperson for the SABC, said the public broadcaster will “continue to give people the whole story” when it comes to protests.

“How can they [civil society organisations] say it will affect our audience?” he asked. “Is it because they disagree with us? We have numbers that will never lie.”

In a week in December last year, 92% of South Africans watched television. Nine out of 10 of them watched one of the SABC channels, according to the broadcaster’s all media and products survey (AMPS).

Bird said the numbers show that the country has a long way to go towards developing accessible and diverse media.

Although editorial policies affect what audiences consume or don’t consume, Bird believes that people are much smarter than the SABC thinks.

“The SABC is in danger of losing its credibility to the extent that people simply won’t believe what they hear. That’ll happen when if what they’re seeing and hearing on the radio simply doesn’t tally with their reality,” he said.

Subscribe to the M&G for R2 a month

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

And for this weekend only, you can become a subscriber by paying just R2 a month for your first three months.

Raeesa Pather
Raeesa Pather
Ra’eesa Pather is a Cape Town-based general news and features journalist.

Related stories

Q&A Sessions: ‘I think I was born way before my time’ — Mamodupi Mohlala

The chief executive of the Estate Agency Affairs Board and the deputy chair of the SABC board, shares her take on retrenchments at the public broadcaster and reveals why she hates horror movies

Editorial: Political meddling won’t save the SABC

For years, in moves that harked back to the repressive regime of the Nats, the public broadcaster has been used by the party as its political football in internal factional battles, or to censor dissent.

The Zondo commission of evasion

Obfuscation, non sequiturs, outright lies, senseless babble, curry breaks — and we’re paying for it all

Unions cry foul over SABC dismissal costs and retrenchments

Broadcaster bodies say claims that a recent skills audit is unrelated to retrenchments are ‘irrational’

Political interference mounts over SABC retrenchments

The SABC says it needs to cut R700-million to survive. But senior politicians have allegedly interfered to stop retrenchments from proceeding

SABC staff ready to join picket line

The national broadcaster has rejected claims that it did not follow correct retrenchment and audit processes
Advertising

Subscribers only

ANC: ‘We’re operating under conditions of anarchy’

In its latest policy documents, the ANC is self-critical and wants ‘consequence management’, yet it’s letting its members off the hook again

Q&A Sessions: ‘I think I was born way before my...

The chief executive of the Estate Agency Affairs Board and the deputy chair of the SABC board, shares her take on retrenchments at the public broadcaster and reveals why she hates horror movies

More top stories

Between dark and light was Maradona

The life of Diego Armando Maradona, who died this week, will always remind us that the smell of shit is as important as the perfume of flowers, writes Niren Tolsi

Public protector’s ‘mistakes’ were made to nail the president, court...

Busisiwe Mkhwebane discarded facts that were inconvenient to her when she investigated the CR17 campaign, Cyril Ramaphosa’s lawyers argued

Student funding scheme gets new chief executive and board

The National Student Financial Aid Scheme has been under administration for two years after its board was dissolved and its boss resigned not even halfway through his term

General Council of the Bar slams Zuma Foundation

Another summons has been served on Jacob Zuma at his Nkandla residence, requiring the former president to appear before the Zondo Commission next year
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…