SABC sticks to its guns on canned Metro FM debate

2012-12-06 00:00

ACTING SABC operations chief Hlaudi Motsoeneng and radio group executive Lesley Ntloko have admitted they were responsible for stopping a live Metro FM debate on the ANC’s upcoming national conference.

Both said the show lacked balance and fairness without an ANC representative and contravened the SABC’s editorial policy.

Ntloko blamed the last-minute cancellation on the late arrival of show briefings, which he said were usually sent earlier in the day to the station’s bosses.

The host, Sakina Kamwendo, expressed shock and disappointment at her bosses’ decision to can her programme on Tuesday evening, in which she was to host three journalists on the ANC’s Mangaung conference.

Business Day political editor Sam Mkokeli was to be part of a panel with Sunday Times political editor S’thembiso Msomi and Financial Times bureau editor Andrew England.

They were told minutes before they were due on air, by Kamwendo, that “higher powers” had instructed her not to do the show.

No explanation was offered and all three journalists left.

After receiving a call from one of her listeners, who asked what was going on, Kamwendo said the situation was difficult for her.

“I’m not gonna (sic) sit here and lie to you as the listener.

“At the same time I have a duty to uphold the integrity of the show and station.

“But where is it gonna leave me? I have done nothing but go out and try to do my job to the best of my ability in the most objective way possible. And I find myself in a position where I don’t know whether I’m coming or going. I think this is wholly unfair. I mean nobody should have to go through this and I’m not gonna lie, I’m not gonna lie.”

She told listeners her integrity would remain intact.

Mkokeli said he did not believe the cancellation was due to political interference, but because of over-eagerness by SABC officials to be seen to be towing the ANC’s line.

However, the SABC said the programme was canned because it lacked balance.

Sister paper City Press reported Motsoeneng saying they took the decision after analysis and checking.

“People didn’t follow proper procedures,” he said.

He said the debate would continue if the panel is balanced. “We mean business at the SABC, this is leadership at its best,” Motsoeneng said.

Sakina Kamwendo, the talkshow’s host, will meet her bosses and a decision on what action she will face will be taken thereafter, according to Motsoeneng. Motsoeneng warned there could be consequences for Kamwendo if it is found she did not follow the SABC’s editorial policy.

He denied politics had played a role in the decision. “People try their luck, but we can’t allow people to influence our decisions,” Motsoeneng said.

There have been increasing incidents of self-censorship at the SABC.

City Press said Kamwendo would meet her bosses and a decision on what action she faces taken thereafter. National Press Club chairperson Antoinette Slabbert condemned the SABC’s actions, calling it “censorship”. “This looks like blatant censorship and editorial interference from management. This looks like apartheid-style antics that show no respect for editorial independence or listeners’ right to know,” she added.

• Go to www.facebook.com/witnessnewspaper to listen to Sakina Kamwendo’s angry reaction to the canning of her programme.

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