Monday, July 17, 2017

Radio 702 talk show and presenter Eusebius McKaiser created hostile environment, showed intolerance, Broadcasting Complaints Commission finds.

702 has breached the Broadcasting Code with the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa (BCCSA) finding that the talk radio station breached the Broadcasting Code after a talk show presenter created a hostile environment, showed intolerance against opposing views and exhibited a lack of respect towards callers and other views.

702, owned by Primedia Broadcasting, wasn't fined but got reprimanded by the BCCSA following listener complaints, after a morning show on 7 May 2017 with presenter Eusebius McKaiser.

Listeners submitted complaints to the BCCSA regarding Eusebius McKaiser's apparent "censorship" and told the BCCSA that despite the presenter's "vitriolic attack" on former South African president FW de Klerk they would have liked to hear what the De Klerk Foundation would have said it the representative wasn't cut off.

"Many people would have liked to hear what the chair of the De Klerk foundation has to say about this sensitive subject but Eusebius McKaiser's censorship will only allow selected comments to go on air.

“I feel that this kind of conduct is upsetting to a lot of people and also agitating in an already volatile social climate. Eusebius McKaiser’s conduct does not help the people of South Africa to understand the importance of open, honest dialogue as an important tool to solve problems. He causes tension between races and people with different background,” one of the complainants, Thomas Mihal told the BCCSA.

Dave Steward, chairman of The FW de Klerk Foundation, who was heard on the day's phone-in show, was one of the other complainants, and said he was "shouted down and ultimately cut off by Eusebius McKaiser".

702's topic revolved around the inclusion of the former apartheid president FW de Klerk's inclusion in a forum of former presidents aiming at promoting a dialogue around issues facing the country, and whether it was appropriate for an apartheid president to be included in the initiative known as the National Foundations Dialogue Initiative (NFDI). 

Eusebius McKaiser cut the representative off who was on the line.

702 told the BCCSA that it disputes the allegations that the talk show was a "vitriolic attack on FW de Klerk", saying the show's intention was not to criticise FW de Klerk. 702 told the BCCSA that former president Thabo Mbeki and current president Jacob Zuma were both also criticised in the programme.

The BCCSA in its judgement found that Eusebius McKaiser "didn't make reasonable efforts to fairly present opposing points of view", that there was "a hostile attitude demonstrated towards De Klerk by what both the presenter and his guests said", that the presenter didn't correct a caller using the word "criminal" and that the only caller making an effort to put up an opposing view had his call cut off.

The BCCSA found that the 702 talk show exhibited "a lack of fairness", that "the lack of respect towards callers and lack of tolerance towards views which do not correspond to those of the presenter also appear from what is said" and that "these are qualities that are expected of presenters in this type of programme".

BCCSA: '702's Eusebius not tolerant'
The BCCSA also slammed 702 for arguing that the show was not aimed at discussing FW de Klerk’s views, calling the radio station's argument "to say the least, ingenious".

"The many times that De Klerk’s name was mentioned during the programme, which lasted 80 minutes, is proof of the fact that the programme was about him and, by necessary implication, his views," the BCCSA says in its judgment.

"702 argued that it would have been irresponsible to have De Klerk on the show. We find that it was a contravention of clause 13(2) of the Code not to have him or a spokesperson of his foundation on the show."

"The first complainant, who is a spokesperson for the FW de Klerk Foundation, was not invited to appear on the talk show, and when he phoned in, he was cut off before finishing his contribution to the debate."

"It is clear to us that the intention of the presenter was to cast as bad a light as possible on De Klerk and in the process he was not tolerant towards opposing views, thereby not obtaining balance between opposing points of view".

"It is important to state that nowhere in this judgment do we say or even suggest that 702 should not have discussed De Klerk or his views. This is the content of the right to freedom of expression which the BCCSA enforces."

The BCCSA says "the presenter did not make a reasonable effort to fairly present opposing points of view. Neither did 702 allow De Klerk a right to reply, while its intention with the programme was clearly to criticise De Klerk".

702 was not ordered to broadcast a summary of the finding and the BCCSA judgement found that "the appropriate sanction in this instance will be a reprimand" for 702.