DA gives SABC until midnight, Wednesday, to prove impartiality and broadcast packaged content

Issued by Phumzile Van Damme MP – DA Shadow Minister of Communications
06 Aug 2018 in News

Please find attached a soundbite by the DA Shadow Minister of Communications, Phumzile Van Damme MP.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) will today submit a packaged video of the DA Leader, Mmusi Maimane, speaking on land reform to the SABC. This follows the public broadcaster’s refusal to grant the DA’s request for a right of reply to the ANC President, Cyril Ramaphosa’s, recent late-night announcement that his party supports land expropriation without compensation.

We will give the SABC until midnight on Wednesday, 8 August 2018, to air this packaged content. This is not just about the content of the broadcast but the principle that the public broadcaster must uphold.

This is highly irregular and unacceptable for the public broadcaster to accept a packaged video from a political party, to interrupt normal programming to air the recording, and then deny opposition parties the opportunity to do the same. The explanation that this package was intrinsically newsworthy is dishonest because had that been the reason, they would have aired it as part of a news bulletin and not a special broadcast.

This points to a public broadcaster that is pandering to the views and opinions of the ruling party.

Even more troublesome was the SABC Board Chairperson, Bongumusa Makhathini’s response to the DA’s request stating that “the SABC as a responsible public service broadcaster, made efforts to deliver a balanced story by soliciting reactions from other political parties, including the Democratic Alliance. In fact the Democratic Alliance represented by the Spokesperson for the leader of the DA, was on Morning Live today responding to this story.”

By having the DA Leader’s Spokesperson on Morning Live the following morning to provide comment, is simply not enough. In order to ensure fair and “equitable coverage” the SABC has a duty to air the video package the DA has sent, to provide the public with adequate knowledge on the matter of land expropriation.

A failure to do so, speaks to a lack of understanding of the SABC’s duty and responsibility as the public broadcaster. Major political parties should enjoy “equitable coverage” on the SABC, particularly when it comes to matters of national importance.

Section 13 (1) of the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa (BCCSA) states that “In presenting a programme in which a controversial issue of public importance is discussed, a broadcaster must make reasonable efforts to fairly present opposing points of view either in the same programme or in a subsequent programme forming part of the same series of programmes presented within a reasonable period of time of the original broadcast and within substantially the same time slot”.

The BCCSA  has received the DA’s complaint regarding this matter and we will now wait for the SABC’s response.

The SABC has a mandate to educate and inform the public in an impartial manner. However, giving the ANC’s a special broadcast on their President’s video on land redistribution without compensation, the SABC has robbed the public of adequate knowledge, from different points of view, on issues of public importance. They have abused this public institution.

With the 2019 elections fast approaching, it seems as though the ANC’s toxic influence over the SABC is once again rearing its ugly head.  The DA will never shy away from challenging those who attempt to capture the SABC and making it their mouthpiece.