Icasa can't reverse Hlaudi’s decision - SABC lawyer

2016-06-24 21:24
Hlaudi Motsoeneng (Picture: City Press)

Hlaudi Motsoeneng (Picture: City Press)

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Johannesburg – Icasa has no power to reverse the SABC’s decision to ban coverage of violent protests, the public broadcaster’s lawyer said on Friday.

The Independent Communications Authority of SA Act only empowered its complaints committee to investigate and make recommendations to Icasa’s council, Bantubonke Tokota, SC, said.

He was speaking at the committee’s public hearing on the SABC’s decision.

Opposition parties and media groups have criticised SABC chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng's decision, which he announced in May. He argued that showing footage of the destruction of public property would encourage such actions.

Gilbert Marcus, for the complainants Media Monitoring Africa, Save Our SABC Coalition, and the Freedom of Expression Institute, told the hearing the SABC was a Chapter Nine institution and had an obligation to the public.

“The debate is whether obligations have been met or not and the SABC has not met its obligations,” Marcus said.

Earlier, Tokota told the hearing the SABC would still send its reporters to protests, but would not air any visuals of people destroying property. It would only show the aftermath of the destruction.

The broadcaster was not obliged to show destruction of any property if it was not linked to the reason for the protest itself.

He used the recent burning of schools in Limpopo, caused by a municipal demarcation decision, as an example.

“The burning of a school has nothing to do with the transfer of land. There is no obligation to show it if it doesn’t relate to the complaint itself.

“Our rationale is that once people see cameras, they get excited. Rightly or wrongly so, that is our view,” Tokota said.

He said this was to protect viewers, especially children, who were likely to copy the same acts to get a few minutes of fame.

Marcus argued that having an SABC reporter give a verbal account of what took place, as opposed to showing viewers images, could lead to distortion and inaccuracy by the reporter.

"TV is a visual medium. That is what distinguishes it from radio and print mediums. It is intended to depict truth and reality."

He said Motsoeneng had not considered other ways of reporting on violent protests. These could include warnings to viewers before airing the footage, or providing context for the violence.

"The SABC hasn't even come close to trying, it has offered no more than mere speculation," Marcus said. 

For a viewer to get a fair reflection of what was happening in the country, one had to flip between the different news stations, Marcus said.

“The viewers are kept ignorant. They are treated by the SABC much as the apartheid regime [treated them]. We thought that was a matter of the past.”

Read more on:    icasa  |  sabc  |  hlaudi motsoeneng  |  media

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