e.tv to appeal Gaddafi footage ruling
Johannesburg - Broadcaster e.tv will next week appeal a fine imposed on it over the way it broadcast footage of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's violent death, the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of SA (BCCSA) said on Friday.
It received three complaints relating to e.tv's eNews subscription channel and its free-to-air channel for broadcasts on October 20, the day Gaddafi died, and on October 22 and 23.
Viewers complained that the footage was not always preceded by a warning that violent scenes would be shown.
Where a warning was given for footage, no warning was given for a headline; and if a warning was given, the footage was too graphic, the complainants said.
Footage was also broadcast outside the watershed time and children could have been watching.
In its defence, e.tv said in some of the broadcasts the anchor made a mistake by not reading the advisory, but it was not aware that it was also required to give an advisory on headlines.
It submitted that it could not sanitise the truth, that the earlier footage was shown when there was doubt over Gaddafi's situation, and that it was careful about the "war scenes" it showed.
The BCCSA said it kept the possible limitation of the right to freedom of expression in mind, as well as the right of the public to be informed.
The BCCSA said the main defence was that the material was already in the public domain, and that e.tv had the right to keep its viewers informed about what was described as "war scenes".
An extract of e.tv's defence said: "Putting the blame on us is unfair as these images were not broadcast gratuitously but to put matters to proper scrutiny."
The television channel said it did not believe the depiction of injuries sustained in a war situation could be banned.
It could only be treated in the most dignified way possible under the circumstances.
The BCCSA said the question was "whether this warning is a defence against the repeated screening of images of the bloodied face of an apparently severely injured Colonel Gaddafi, during what may be described as the attack that ultimately led to his being shot dead".
In its finding earlier in February, it found e.tv's approach of having "carte blanche" in regard to "war scenes" was unfounded in law.
It "grossly overstepped" the bounds of necessity by repeatedly screening new mobile phone footage.
Once would have been enough to inform the public.
"In our view, news does not necessarily require or depend on repetition, unless the repetition is necessary for a better understanding of the news," the BCCSA said.
The "public interest" defence would not save the footage either, the BCCSA said.
The broadcaster would appeal against the finding on February 21, according to the statement.