Tuesday, April 15, 2014

BREAKING. SA broadcasting regulator, Icasa, holds emergency public hearing on the SABC banning the DA's 'Ayisafani' TV ad.

The South African broadcasting regulator, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa), held an "emergency" public hearing tonight, after the SABC banned a paid-for political commercial from the Democratic Alliance (DA) last week.

South Africans vote in the next general election on 7 May and the beleaguered South African public broadcaster remains firmly in the spotlight with a tarnished and highly damaged reputation of political bias, corruption, maladministration and undue, direct political interference into the editorial news coverage of the SABC.

Icasa scrambled on Tuesday to hold the public hearing on Tuesday evening, after the political party threatened to take Icasa itself to court as well, saying that the broadcasting regulator was flouting its own regulations and not hearing the case and giving a judgment within the prescribed 48 hours after receiving such a complaint.

The SABC unilaterally banned the "Ayisafani" TV commercial, claiming that it allegedly "incites violence", as well as other reasons, like that the TV adverts has "facts" not proven, and that one "product" can be used to attack another "product".

The SABC also banned five radio adverts from the DA on SABC Radio stations.

After telling the DA that Icasa couldn't convene its Compliance and Complaints committee before Thursday - and even unable to give any form of guarantee that the committee would give a definitive decision by no later than Thursday evening - the DA threatened High Court legal action.

Icasa on Tuesday afternoon pushed out a rushed urgent press release saying that Icasa will now hear the case on Tuesday evening at 18:00 at the regulator's head office in Johannesburg. The DA laid the complaint on Saturday.

Icasa spokesperson Paseka Maleka in the statement claimed that the regulator had followed its own 48 hour rule in "responding" to the case.

This all happened as the DA on Tuesday morning was filing an urgent application with the High Court to get Icasa to hear the case and give a decision by no later than 17:00 on Thursday.

This evening the Democratic Alliance's legal team argued in the public hearing that the SABC banning the paid-for political advert is infringing in freedom of expression in South Africa.

"The SABC is not a private broadcaster. It is accordingly obliged to fulfill the bill of rights. It is owned and controlled by South Africans and must be fair and unbiased," the DA's legal team told Icasa.

The SABC's legal team on Tuesday night told Icasa that the public broadcaster "acted properly".

The SABC's legal representation told the Icasa public hearing that the "Ayisafani" TV commercial is "not freedom of speech" and labelled it as "inflammatory".

"From a responsible broadcaster's point of view, we felt to flight the advert would create the impression that there is an imminent threat of violence," the SABC told Icasa.

Interestingly, other broadcasters and TV channels such as e.tv and eNCA (DStv 403) have no problem with showing to viewers.