The parties are expected to present their case on March 11 and 12 before a committee of the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA).
This follows the lodging of a supplementary complaint by the FXI, which contains added evidence against the SABC, including submissions by two senior journalists.
The FXI at first lodged a complaint against the SABC in 2007. Both this complaint and the supplementary complaint relate to an issue dating back to 2006, when the Sisulu Commission of Inquiry found certain analysts had been banned from commenting on the SABC’s programmes. Snuki Zikalala, head of news and current affairs, subsequently received a verbal warning for his role in the so-called “blacklisting” saga.
At the time when the FXI’s initial complaint was heard, ICASA’s Complaints and Compliance Committee (CCC) ruled that the FXI could not rely on the Sisulu report to substantiate its complaint. Melissa Moore, head of the law clinic at FXI, says they have since consulted their witnesses and the “complaint has been reworked”.
But, SABC spokesperson, Kaizer Kganyago, doesn’t understand “why the FXI decided to go this route. There is nothing new in their complaint.”
The FXI’s second attempt includes a detailed list of incidents at the SABC where policies were purportedly contravened. Affidavits from former high-profile staffers – head of radio news Pippa Green and SAfm presenter John Perlman – form part of its case.
In Green’s affidavit, she states that Zikalala claimed former SABC correspondent Paula Slier was biased and forbade her to file stories following Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s death. Green is also unhappy with the way Zikalala handled the 2005 Zimbabwean elections.
The affidavit from Perlman indicates that Zikalala banned Business Day political editor Karima Brown and political commentator Aubrey Matshiqi from appearing on air.
In its complaint, the FXI alleges that the SABC has failed to comply with, amongst other things, broadcasting legislation and licence conditions. The FXI also alleges that the public broadcaster has failed to implement the recommendations of the Sisulu Commission. These include conducting an annual audit of commentators and analysts used by the SABC and the establishment of guidelines for the use of such commentators and analysts.
Kganyago argues that the SABC has dealt with the recommendations, “but they are just recommendations. We set up a research unit that gathers information around analysts and commentators. When a topic matter is chosen, the unit recommends commentators from the pool of specialists,” he says.