Statement on ruling against SABC by Broadcasting Complaints Commission
Friday 6 May 2005 by Dale
BROADCASTING COMPLAINTS TRIBUNAL (SOUTH AFRICA) UPHOLDS COMPLAINT BY APF AGAINST SABC NEWS COVERAGE OF PRE-PAID WATER METERS
SABC NEWS FOUND GUILTY OF NOT REPORTING NEWS ‘TRUTHFULLY, ACCURATELY AND FAIRLY’ AND OF ‘DEPARTING FROM THE FACTS’
On Monday 24th January, SABC3 News at 7 ran an item on the ongoing pre-paid water meter struggle/controversy presently taking place in Soweto (and more specifically in the Phiri community). The millions who no doubt watched this broadcast were presented with a ‘story’ that came across as a virtually unqualified endorsement of Johannesburg Water’s pre-paid meter programme and that presented a picture of Soweto/Phiri in which there was no meaningful or organised community resistance to a programme that was, according to the SABC, an unqualified ‘success’. In order to present such propagandistic and mythical ‘news’, SABC consciously manipulated interview footage with one of the leaders of the struggle against pre-paid meters in Phiri so as to make it appear as if she endorsed the roll-out of the meters as a means to ‘conserve water’.
In the face of such bald lies and editorial manipulation, the APF and its affiliate, the Phiri Concerned Residents (PCR), filed a formal complaint to the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa. The SABC responded to this complaint with the kind of dismissiveness and arrogance that it now seems has become the hallmark of the so-called public broadcaster when confronted with legitimate criticism and evidence of bias in its news coverage. A hearing was then held in front of the Broadcasting Complaints Tribunal of South Africa on 29th March with legal counsel for the APF and the SABC present. This week, the Tribunal rendered its judgement on the complaint and found the SABC guilty of contravening both Sections 34.1 and 34.2 of the Broadcasting Code.
** The full judgement of the Tribunal, which includes the APF complaint and the SABC response is included below, in full**
The APF and the PCR welcome the findings of the Tribunal, as should all those who have witnessed the gradual but systematic transformation of SABC News into a virtual propaganda mouthpiece for the ruling party and the government, and of the SABC as a whole into profit-hungry corporation that has long lost a vision of what it means to be a public broadcaster. We are disappointed that the Tribunal only ‘reprimanded’ the SABC, believing that it would have been fair and proper to order SABC news to flight a correction and/or to hold a live debate on the issue of pre-paid meters. Nonetheless, we consider the Tribunal’s finding to be a small victory in what has been, and will continue to be, a long battle to reclaim the ‘public’ in the character of the SABC as an institution and in the content of its programmes.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION/COMMENT CONTACT: Dale McKinley on 072 429-4086
This author's articles
- Phiri Concerned Residents Committee - PCRC
- Rights of expression