ICASA spokesperson Sekgoela Joel Sekgoela says the United Democratic Movement (UDM) has lodged a complaint stating that the public broadcaster is “a serial offender when it comes to bias in favour of the ANC”.R
This complaint refers to a panel discussion aired on SABC2 between the Democratic Alliance, Inkatha Freedom Party, Independent Democrats and African Christian Democratic Party on the implications and outcomes of the national convention.R
In a letter addressed to Paris Mashile, chairman of ICASA, UDM leader Bantu Holomisa says: “We were unceremoniously interrupted in the middle of our discussion and then the SABC crossed live to the ANC rally addressed by (ANC President) Jacob Zuma, where they gave him uninterrupted coverage to pillory the national convention, promote racism (with references to ‘white’ parties and ‘black’ parties), promote ethnicity and tribalism and to spout hate-speech (by referring among other things to political opponents as ‘snakes’).”R
He added that the SABC “won’t give any political party other than the ruling party as much as four minutes to launch our election manifestos, but the ruling party will be given hours of live coverage to launch their manifesto, election campaign and closing rallies.R
“On Sunday the public broadcaster again displayed its bias by interrupting a discussion on a matter of national importance and interest involving a diverse range of political parties in order to cross for live coverage to an exclusive ANC event that was quite clearly timed and planned to undermine the publicity its political opponents were receiving.”R
Sekgoela says ICASA is “still looking at the letter and analysing its content. There is a high possibility that the complaint will be handed over to the complaints and compliance committee. In this event, the case will be handled by the chairperson of the committee Judge Ratha Mokgoatlheng.R
“He will decide whether the SABC is biased in favour of the ANC.”R
ANC MP Khotso Khumalo announced on 3 November that it plans to lodge a complaint against the SABC for alleged bias towards a breakaway political party, led by Mosiuoa Lekota and Mbhazima Shilowa.R
The complaint stems from the public broadcaster’s coverage of the national convention on 1 November. Khumalo said the SABC had failed to give the ANC the right to respond to accusations levelled against it by those attending the convention. He added that the convention had been covered by the SABC for the whole day while a Zuma rally, held the next day, was not broadcast in full.R
The Progressive Youth Alliance (PYL) also stated that it planned to take the SABC to ICASA for airing an advertisement that features Lekota. In a statement the PYL stated that the advert “breached the authority and regulations of ICASA”. They believe the advertisement is “political in nature and seeks to attack the ANC-led alliance and its leadership”.R
Sekgoela says he cannot confirm that further complaints against the SABC have been lodged apart from that of the UDM,R
In a statement released by the SABC on 7 November, the SABC board states that a special meeting was called to “deal with concerns following concerted pressure which is increasingly being placed on the newsroom by political parties and allegations of bias levelled against its news division. R
“The SABC board is extremely concerned by this external pressure and believes that it has the potential to seriously undermine the editorial independence of the news division,” said Bheki Khumalo, chairperson of the committee, in a statement.R
The SABC has committed to a stakeholder relations programme and meetings with political parties will be held before the end of the month. The meetings will discuss SABC’s preparations for the elections and any concerns the parties may have.R
SABC News is setting up the office of a complaints officer who will deal with all complaints submitted in writing by political parties within 72 hours of submission. There will also be an internal campaign to re-affirm the primacy of the broadcasting charter, ICASA regulations and the editorial code in terms of election coverage and news broadcasts.
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