SABC acknowledges bad conduct

2012-11-12 22:06
SABC acting head of news Jimi Matthews is seen after the Freedom of Expression Institute withdrew a complaint over the blacklisting of commentators. (Werner Beukes, Sapa)

SABC acting head of news Jimi Matthews is seen after the Freedom of Expression Institute withdrew a complaint over the blacklisting of commentators. (Werner Beukes, Sapa)

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Johannesburg - The SABC has acknowledged that the conduct of employees named in a Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI) complaint contravened its own editorial policies.

This was the terms of the settlement reached by the FXI and the SABC over the public broadcaster's black-listing of commentators, they said in a joint statement on Monday.

The SABC admitted that the conduct was not in line with its code of conduct for broadcasters.

It contravened SABC licensing conditions in respect of news and current affairs, and the SABC charter as contained in section six of the Broadcasting Act.

As a result, the SABC had adopted guidelines on the use of commentators, experts and analysts by SABC news.

"The parties had started settlement negotiations last week and they were finalised this morning," FXI and the SABC said.

"As a result, the FXI has withdrawn the complaint against the SABC and this settles fully and finally the FXI’s complaint against the SABC."

A public hearing by the Complaints Compliance Committee (CCC) of the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) was to have been heard on Monday.

The FXI lodged the complaint in 2007 after allegations surfaced of a "blacklist" implemented by the SABC's then group executive of news Snuki Zikalala.

It was believed Zikalala instructed his staff not to use certain political commentators because of their views on the presidency of Thabo Mbeki.

These commentators held particular views on the African National Congress's succession debate.

In the public interest

An independent commission of inquiry set up by the SABC found Zikalala gave the instruction. Based on this finding, the FXI laid a complaint with Icasa.

It contended that the SABC had violated the Broadcasting Act, the Icasa Act, the Constitution and its licence conditions by excluding commentators from expressing their views on the succession debate.

The SABC applied to Icasa to dismiss the complaint on the grounds that the CCC had no jurisdiction to investigate, hear, or make findings on the complaint. The CCC ruled in favour of the SABC.

The FXI then took the matter to the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg, which set aside the ruling and found that Icasa did have the authority to monitor the SABC's compliance.

The matter was referred back to the CCC to investigate and come to a decision on the matter.

Both parties said they were happy that the matter had finally been resolved.

"We remain committed to having a public broadcaster which will actively ensure the availability of social and political views on its airways," they said.

Meanwhile, the DA has urged both parties to reveal the terms of their settlement.

"It is unacceptable that a case that is clearly in the public interest... should be settled behind closed doors without the terms of this settlement being made public," Democratic Alliance MP Marian Shinn said on Monday.

"South Africans concerned with the suppression of diverse views... are anxious to learn what, if any, compromises or sanctions have been decided."

Read more on:    da  |  sabc  |  fxi  |  media

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