NEWS & ANALYSIS

SABC biased against us - COPE

Juli Kilian says party will complain to BCCSA over election coverage

STATEMENT BY JULI KILIAN, COPE MP ON THE COMMUNICATION PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE

SABC CENSORSHIP OF COPE ELECTION ACTIVIES TO BE REPORTED TO BCCSA

The Congress of the People will on Monday lodge an official complaint with the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa against the SABC on account of the public broadcaster's editorial censoring of the COPE's election programme and in particular the Party Leader's programme.

The public broadcaster will also be reported to the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa for its transgressions of its public broadcasting licence agreement.

COPE is the third largest political party in the country and is contesting the third highest number of seats (5,929) in municipalities across South Africa. In two provinces, (Limpopo and the Eastern Cape), COPE is contesting more seats than the DA. In the Northern Cape, the party is on equal terms with both the ANC and the DA.

There can therefore be no doubt that COPE is one of only three parties contesting the LGE on a national scale and is entitled to equitable coverage during election programmes and during prime time television and radio broadcasts.

Apart from instances when the SABC ignored COPE events and campaign activities, even in those instances where reporters and camera crews did cover COPE events, the SABC's editorial censors either ignored the inputs or relegated the events to fleeting coverage on off- prime bulletins. Mr Lekota's sound bites and interviews were largely censored out or limited to split second flashes without carrying the essence of the interview or message involved. On occasion Afrikaans sound bites were screened in Sotho news casts or vice versa.

The following examples of SABC editorial bias logged over the past three days will be cited:

Thursday 14 April 2011:

Bloemfontein - Media Conference addressed by Mr Lekota on the murder of Mr Andries Tatane in Ficksburg: Notwithstanding the fact that Mr Tatane was a COPE member, coverage of the media conference in Bloemfontein as well as the live interview recorded by the SABC TV was edited out of prime time news bulletins.

Friday 15 April 2011:

Further comments by political parties on the police brutality in Ficksburg were carried on prime time news of SABC TV with comments made by the IFP from an intro phrase clearly lifted from the heading of a SAPA report earlier that day. Despite the fact that comments by Mr Dennis Bloem, COPE MP comprised the main body of the SAPA report, the SABC censored COPE's statement in toto while featuring an IFP logo throughout the item. After the item, the news reader, as if in an afterthought, concluded with "Meneer Tatane was 'n lid van COPE". (Mr Tatane was a member of COPE)

Friday 15 April 2011:

Notwithstanding the presence of a SABC TV crew in Petrusville during Mr Lekota's programme in the Northern Cape on Friday, no footage appeared on prime time news casts of the SABC on Friday evening.

Friday 15 April 2011:

COPE's Ms Lyndall Shope-Mafole was interviewed by the SABC at the IEC/Commission for Gender Equality Event in Pretoria, but footage of her interview only featured in the 17:30 news bulletin. On prime time news bulletins, Ms Shope-Mafole's interview was censored out and the item was aired with interview with the ACDP's Ms Lydia Meshoe together with that of the ANC participants' interviews.

Saturday 16 April 2011:

SAFM staged a live election broadcast from the North West Province where COPE is contesting 565 seats, without affording COPE an opportunity to participate in the election programme.

Saturday 16 April 2011:

SABC news prime time bulletins contain extensive footage of FF+ and ANC, but only a brief glimpse of the COPE Manifesto launch in Umtata, again censoring out Mr Lekota's recorded interview.

Saturday 16 April 2011:

Extensive broadcasts of the FF+ manifesto launch carried on prime time news bulletins. This was extended by repeated fully covered interviews with the FF+ leader.

Saturday 16 April 2011:

Items on potential coalitions after the LGE, once again featured full coverage of lengthy interviews with the FF+'s Dr Mulder and the ANC Ms Mbete in all bulletins. Actual interviews with COPE's Mr Lekota was censored out, except for one bulletin when a substantively cut version of his views were aired.

Editorial bias and /or prejudice, ignores the fact that COPE is potentially the leading party or senior coalition partner in the majority of municipalities in the Northern Cape as well as some urban centres such as Mandela Bay Metro and others.

Since regional parties such as the IFP, the UDM and the FF+ - essentially a small niche party - were afforded live coverage of their Election Manifesto's, COPE as a national player will insist on live coverage on SABC TV of an election event to be arranged within the next 3 weeks.

Statement issued by Juli Kilian MP, Parliamentary Whip, Congress of the People, April 17 2011

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