Wednesday, April 16, 2014

BREAKING. SA broadcasting regulator orders SABC to start airing the Democratic Alliance political TV ad which it banned, immediately.

South Africa's broadcasting regulator on Wednesday night ordered the SABC to start broadcasting the paid-for political TV commercial of the Democratic Alliance (DA) immediately which the South African public broadcaster unilaterally banned last week.

The case was also postponed indefinitely tonight because the beleaguered and chaotic SABC unexplicably dumped its legal team between Tuesday evening when the case was first heard, and tonight.

Yesterday evening the SABC was unable to give basic answers to basic questions from the Complaints and Compliance Committee (CCC) of the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa).

On Wednesday evening the SABC and its new legal team - now Terry Motau representing the SABC, with lawyer Ronnie Bokwa from Tuesday evening gone - arrived and suddenly requested "more time to prepare".

CCC chairperson Wandile Tutani however was having none of the SABC's unprepared mess and ordered the SABC to start broadcasting the "Ayisafani" TV commercial "with immediate effect".

South Africa's next general elections is set to take place on 7 May in 20 days' time, but will take place within a growing concern regarding major, undue and direct political interference into editorial matters at the SABC.

Political parties and South African civil society are vocal about widespread abuse at the struggling SABC and are accusing the public broadcaster of being blatantly politically biased in favour of the ruling party, the ANC.

The SABC unilaterally pulled the paid-for political advert off the air last week after showing it three times, claiming that it incites violence, that it contains statements not proven regarding Nkandlagate and claiming that one "product" can't attack another "product".

On Wednesday evening it suddenly came to light that the SABC got rid of, and now has a new legal team in place - suddenly begging for more time to provide the basic information, screening decisions and documents under which it felt it was okay to ban the advert.

On Tuesday evening the SABC and its then legal team - now suddenly gone - struggled to give any answers to basic questions the CCC asked, like whether the SABC screened and rescreened all political adverts consistently and in the same way as it did with the DA commercial.

The SABC was also asked whether it had a checklist for all TV commercials shown on all of the SABC channels and to provide a copy. The SABC couldn't answer the CCC's basic questions.

Other broadcasters have had no problem airing the TV commercial.

With the looming elections only weeks away, the CCC didn't want to postpone the urgent case brought before it any further and ordered the SABC's new legal team back to get answers, ordered the SABC to reinstate and start broadcasting the commercial immediately, and postponed the case indefinitely.

The CCC said the SABC must show the TV commercial and that the case will resume once the SABC has further "investigated the facts" and decide to return.

The DA political party in a rush press statement following the regulator's decision says "We maintain that the banning of the 'Ayisafani' advertisements was unlawful and unconstitutional".

"No amount of further preparation on the part of the SABC's legal team will change that. We stand ready to defend our advertisements at a future hearing".