Tuesday, November 8, 2016

India's government puts censorship blackout of news channel NDTV on hold while South Africa's Indian community meets over SABC's 'disrespectful' Lotus FM changes.

After intense criticism the Indian government has put the censorship and ordered ban in the form of a day-long blackout for Wednesday of the Indian TV news channel NDTV (DStv 413) on hold, while in South Africa the furious Indian community is organising over what it sees as the SABC's "attack" on Lotus FM "as part of a ploy to bring down the Indian community".

After facing a massive backlash, India's government backpedaled on a censorship order of the country's NDTV news channel that can also be seen in South Africa and across Africa on MultiChoice's DStv satellite pay-TV platform.

India's Ministry of Information and Broadcasting minister Venkaiah Naidu decided to censor NDTV and ordered it off the air for a day on Wednesday as punishment for its coverage of a terrorist attack on Indian soldiers in January.

The censorship order against NDTV was the first such censorship order and ban for a TV station in India for reporting an attack on the state.

After a barrage of criticism, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has now backed off, saying the censorship order has been put on hold.

The Editors' Guild of India, along with several opposition political parties and civil rights groups condemned the censorship, demanding that the ban order be reversed and saying it was an infringement on press freedom.

The Press Club of India said the NDTV censorship decision is "uncalled for censorship at a time when press freedom is already under increasing threat in the country".

NDTV slammed the censorship decision, saying that it's coverage of the attack was "particularly balanced" and that "NDTV stands firm in its commitment to balanced and responsible journalism".

Indian community 'disrespected' by SABC's Lotus FM changes
Meanwhile in South Africa, the country's Indian community organised and held a meeting on Monday evening to discuss the way forward over shocking changes at the SABC's Lotus FM radio station meant to cater to Indian listenership but has seen its audience flee in droves after SABC boss Hlaudi Motsoeneng's 90% local content changes that's been described as reckless.

The South African Hindu Maha Sabha organised the meeting in Durban where the Indian community said they fear that the attack on Lotus FM - an SABC radio station - is "part of a ploy to bring down the Indian community".

Lotus FM has already seen the loss of over a third of its audience since late-May this year to rival commercial and community radio stations - and with that advertisers and sponsors - after Hlaudi Motsoeneng's abrupt 90% local content airplay decree.

While listeners are not against the 90% local content decision, they say Hlaudi Motsoeneng's bulldozer decision to force the various SABC radio stations, all catering to specific demographics and target audiences, to give needletime to music not aimed at the segmented audiences, is damaging and driving away SABC listeners.

The past few months since June the SABC's national and regional radio stations catering to specific language demographics have been forced to include and "cross-promote" music genres on radio stations that listeners are not tuning in for in the first place - for instance Afrikaans songs on the Sesotho Lesedi FM and kwaito and Xhosa on Lotus FM in KwaZulu-Natal that's supposed to be catering to the Indian diaspora.

On Lotus FM it's meant a dramatic cutback in Hindi, Urdu, Tamil, Punjabi, Gujarati and Telugu music from the rolling Bollywood films listeners love to hear.

"The authoritarian imposition of 90% local content on SABC radio stations has jeopardised the future of this iconic radio station," says Ashwin Trikamjee, president of of the South African Hindu Maha Sabha.

"Since May 2016 Lotus FM has lost a third of its listenership, with the inevitable decline in revenue which could force its closure ."

"This has serious negative implications for minority groups, especially for South Africans of Indian descent and would ultimately mark the death knell for Lotus FM as a viable, sustainable commercial radio station within the SABC stable," says Ashwin Trikamjee.

Two weeks ago, Krish Naidoo who resigned as SABC board member critised Hlaudi Motsoeneng's decision and said "Lotus FM has lost one third of its listenership because it's been asked to play all sorts of music which doesn't resonate with their listeners. Funders have pulled out, advertisers have pulled out and listeners have pulled out."

"The 90% local content decree was never a SABC board decision," said Krish Naidoo.

"Hlaudi Motsoeneng isn't busy with transformation. I think Hlaudi Motsoeneng is looking at projects within the SABC that could look Hlaudi look good".

"You empower local artists in a very responsible way and in a conscientious way where you empower local artists where it's done in a streamlined way so you don't upset local programming. You do it in consultation with stakeholders".

At Monday evening's meeting, emotional attendees said the SABC is disrespecting the Indian community and wondered if it's part of "a plan to silence the Indian community".

In a shocking interview in May on Lotus FM, an aggressive Hlaudi Motsoeneng railed against Indian callers who called him "the most arrogant man" they've ever heard, and said "Indian community, those who do not accept it, they shall just move on and accept it. It’s 90% local music."