ICASA must investigate political interference at SABC - Phumzile Van Damme

DA MP says Metro FM's "Room Dividers" reportedly taken off air following complaints from Minister Fikile Mbalula

DA to request ICASA investigation of SABC political interference 

15 November 2015

Reports of political interference in programming at an SABC radio station are cause for serious concern, and as such, the DA will be requesting independent investigation of those allegations.

According to media reports, the SABC took Metro FM's “Room Dividers” off air following complaints from Sports and Recreation Minister, Fikile Mbalula, that he felt “offended” by comments made on the show.

“Room Dividers” is a robust segment on sports anchor, Robert Marawa’s show, [email protected], on Metro FM analysing the performance of rugby teams, administrators and the Minister in charge. 

The SABC has confirmed that the segment has been taken off air, pending investigation.

The SABC has set a dangerous precedent - anytime a member of Cabinet merely feels “offended” by views expressed on any a radio or TV show – the show will be taken off air for “investigation”.

There does not appear to be any legislation or policy that allows for programmes to be taken off air pending investigation.

The DA will therefore be lodging a complaint with the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), requesting an investigation of the SABC’s violation of:

S10 of the Broadcasting Act, which requires the SABC to "provide significant news and public affairs programming which meets the highest standards of journalism, as well as fair and unbiased coverage, impartiality, balance and independence from government, commercial and other interests”; and

S11 of the ICASA regulations on the Code of Conduct of Broadcasting Licensees which entitles broadcasters to“broadcast comment on and criticism of any actions or events of national importance."

The DA will also submit parliamentary questions for the record of decision approving the segment to be taken off air. We need to know who approved the decision, how the decision was made and why.

Like all South Africans, broadcasters have freedom of speech, and the right to share their points of view, regardless of whether this offends thin-skinned members of Cabinet. The DA will work hard to protect this right, in order to ensure that the SABC provides programming that is in the public interest, independent and represents varied opinions.

We trust that ICASA will view this matter with the importance it requires. 

Statement issued by Phumzile Van Damme, DA Shadow Minister of Communications, 15 November 2015