Reports say South Africa Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) has decided to stop radio call-ins from South Africans until local government elections are over.
Buzzsouthafrica gathered that a note was sent to all SABC radio stations with instructions to ban open lines until local government polls are over. According to the SABC, the decision is to “protect the station against anybody who could potentially use the platform for their own benefit and also use it for electioneering”.
Following the development, rival parties in South Africa have called on the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) to probe the alleged decision by the corporation.
The Democratic Alliance’s Phumzile Van Damme has condemned the decision. She said banning call-ins militates against the number of diverse opinions aired on SABC radio stations and as such, allows only radio presenters‚ government and politicians to be the only ones given airtime.
Damme maintained that SABC’s decision contradicts its current editorial policy‚ its obligations as listed in the Broadcasting Act‚ and its licence conditions in terms of the Icasa Code of Conduct for Broadcasting Service Licensees
She added, “the DA intends on fighting this matter‚ and all other instances of the full state capture of the SABC. Muthambi and Motsoeneng will not be given full rein to turn the SABC into the ANC’s propaganda tool.”
According to the SABC’s Editorial Policy‚ “phone-in and discussion programmes are an accepted and important means of broadcasting individual points of view on topics in order to uphold the SABC’s editorial principles of fairness‚ impartiality and balance‚ and to ensure that a wide range of views are broadcast.”
The Broadcasting Act requires that the SABC’s programming to be varied and offer a range of content and analysis from a South African perspective and provide a reasonable‚ balanced opportunity for the public to receive a variety of points of view on matters of public concern.
The ICASA Code of Conduct for Broadcasting Service Licensees requires that particularly when related to controversial issues of public importance‚ broadcasters must make a reasonable effort to fairly present opposing points of view‚” Van Damme said.
Also, The Congress of the People (COPE)’s Dennis Bloem has threatened to go to “court to interdict the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) from illegally gagging South Africans.” He also labelled SABC COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng “a danger to our democracy”.
“For the SABC to have the gall to impose a gag on callers participating in talk-shows is despicable‚ revolting and sickening.”
“The public broadcaster belongs to the people‚ not the African National Congress (ANC). A talk-in show by its very definition is participatory with open lines. It is anathema to COPE that the SABC continues to be a law unto itself.”
“South Africa must resist the hardcore fascists controlling the SABC‚” Bloem added.
Economic Freedom Fighters member Quintin Ndlozi asserted that “It is indeed true that the SABC’s move comes as a result of many ANC ministers who complained that there is too much negativity against the government of the ANC“. That notwithstanding, “the ideal that makes a public broadcaster is free speech and the ability to hold those in power acceptable”
“Open lines, give a chance to the ordinary voices in the suppressed‚ neglected and forgotten parts of our country to air their views and influence the setting of the agenda of public discourse,” Ndlozi said.