SABC must reverse draconian editorial policy - SACP

Party says recent suspensions clearly expose the character of the internal censorship at public broadcaster

The SACP pledges solidarity with suspended SABC workers and welcomes the Competition Appeal Court judgement in the case against the extension of MultiChoice's control over the SABC, our public broadcaster! 

The South African Communist Party (SABC) is calling on SABC bosses to reverse their draconian editorial policy, to refrain from changing policies without proper public consultation given that the SABC is a public broadcaster, and to respect workers' rights!

The news this week that SABC economics editor, Thandeka Gqubule, Radio Sonder Grense executive producer Foeta Krige and senior journalist Suna Venter have been suspended for disagreeing with an instruction during a diary meeting not to cover a campaign protest against censorship at the public broadcaster is shocking to say the least. The suspensions follow a decision taken within the SABC, announced in May, that the broadcaster will no longer cover footages of violent protests in its news reporting. 

The suspensions clearly expose the draconian character of the internal censorship that has been imposed at the SABC and manipulation of news from within. Since the banning decree was announced, it has become very difficult to trust the SABC as a source of uncensored news. Each time news is broadcast an unanswered question what was concealed re-surfaces. This is very bad for the image and credibility of the SABC.

The SABC must broadcast news without fear or favour. This includes both good and bad news. 

The SACP and indeed many law abiding South Africans have always condemned the destruction of public property, and even taken action against such criminality. It can only be intellectual bankruptcy to suggest that South Africans are a homogeneous mind that takes its cue from wrongdoing when it is broadcast on television. The SABC in fact reserves the right to condemn such wrongdoing in its news coverage and educational programmes.

The populist posture towards policy and labour relations at the SABC based on the creation of a personality cult in the unlawfully appointed COO constitutes a deeply worrying trend. A personality cult emerges among others when an individual uses mass media, propaganda, or other methods to create an idealised, heroic, and at times worshipful image, often through un-questioning flattery, praise and, based on "being in charge", threats to others as a means of manufacturing their consent. Instead of complicity, the SABC board should be worried about the deteriorating state of good governance at the SABC. It is not too late to turn the tide!

The SACP welcomes the Competition Appeal Court judgment in the case against the extension of Multichoice's control over the SABC, our public broadcaster!

The SACP joins all South Africans committed to equality and affordable access to media in our country in applauding the decision of the Competition Appeal Court on Friday, 24 June 2016, on the SABC-MultiChoice agreement.

The SABC-MultiChoice agreement, signed in 2012 by the unlawfully appointed COO, Mr Hlaudi Motsoeneng, gives MultiChoice indirect influence over SABC news decisions and control of its massive programme archive. MultiChoice, a subsidiary of South Africa’s biggest media company, Naspers, was established by the same interests who founded the Afrikaner Broederbond and gave birth to apartheid – and was the only media company that refused to appear before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for its complicity in the crime of apartheid.

The agreement is a graphic example of corporate capture of a state asset, despite the veneer of legality provided by the 100-odd page “contract”.

Last year two NGOs, the Save Our SABC Coalition (SOS) and Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) joined by others, took the agreement to the Competition Tribunal, arguing that it was anti-competitive, gave MultiChoice control over policy making by the SABC, and was an effective merger in terms of the Competition Act.

Early this year the tribunal ruled that the agreement was not a merger, and that there was insufficient information to make a finding on various other aspects.

The SOS and MMA appealed against the finding.

On Friday, three judges of the Competition Appeal Court unanimously threw out the tribunal's decision and criticised the tribunal for failing to use its “inquisitorial” (investigative) powers to access the information it needed.

The case now reverts to the tribunal – but with much of the logic it used now declared invalid.

The SACP congratulates the SOS and MMA for their refusal to accept that corporate capture is now the norm in our country.

The SOS and MMA partnered with the SACP in hosting last year’s historical Media Summit, and are represented in the Media Transformation Task Team established by the summit.

Statement issued by the SACP, 26 June 2016