Why the SABC banned our ads

2014-06-08 15:00

The SABC has refused to screen a series of City Press TV ads that depict scenes related to the Marikana massacre, e-tolling and Julius Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).

The ads offer a single image or scenario – like Malema sitting at a table surrounded by his commissars – and two “headline” options: “Party leader” or “Party hat”.


The headlines – and, by association, the stories contained in City Press’s pages – offer readers the chance to make up their own mind about big news stories.

The advertisements, part of a barter agreement between the SABC and the newspaper’s parent company, Media24, were due to be flighted this month. As part of the deal, which runs from January to December this year, the ads would be aired on SABC’s TV channels and City Press would run SABC advertising in its pages.

The SABC has already used R1?045?380 on the current barter in City Press’s pages, as per the deal.

But on May 28, Cornette Zietsman from City Press’ marketing division was informed in an email from the SABC’s advertising division that the material was “not suitable for transmission” and was told that the booking request was cancelled “until further notice”.

After trying to get an explanation for several days, Zietsman was told in a telephone conversation by an SABC ad representative that the ads could not be flighted “due to internal policies and because (the SABC is) a government organisation”.

He promised to provide written confirmation of this conversation, but didn’t. During a follow-up phone conversation, the representative said he wasn’t allowed to send written responses and the matter had been referred to the SABC’s legal department.

Finally, on Thursday, City Press received an email from Anton Heunis, the SABC’s group executive of commercial enterprises. In his letter, Heunis wrote: “The City Press broadcasts were submitted to the SABC at a time where there were several matters pending before the complaints and compliance committee of [the Independent Communications Authority of SA] relating to the content of party political broadcasts by the SABC.”

This is likely a reference to advertisements by the DA and the EFF, which were controversially pulled by the public broadcaster in the run-up to the May 7 elections.


Heunis wrote that the “nature and content” of City Press’ adverts was similar to that contained in the adverts before Icasa.

“As a precautionary measure, we sought to obtain legal advice on the content of the City Press adverts submitted prior to the broadcast thereof,” he wrote.

Heunis said it was “regrettable” that when the time for the ads to be flighted arrived, the legal opinion hadn’t yet been obtained, and apologised for “having omitted to communicate this to City Press timeously”.

Robert van Rooyen, a director at advertising agency House of Brave, which conceptualised the campaign, said the idea was to use “newsworthy headlines as protagonists to the advertising we were creating”.

He added: “The ads bring to life the debate that is happening in the media and in the public’s mind.

“For example, the e-toll debate, with its numerous sides of the story, was brought to life by encouraging discussion around the issue through the headline: ‘Highway upgrade or Highway robbery?’


“The ad encourages people to know more and form their own opinion on the issue,” said Van Rooyen.

When contacted for comment, SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago said: “As the SABC, we believe that City Press, through Media24, is a client of the SABC and to attempt to turn this matter into a story is unfair.

“City Press in this regard is a complainant, and to now want to make the business matter between both parties into a story does not make sense as City Press would be conflicted and biased.”

Minette Ferreira, City Press’s general manager, said the campaign had been flighted on several media platforms since last year “and we have had no resistance from any other media owners”.

SABC stalls on taking action against acting COO

The SABC continues to stall on taking action against its acting chief operating officer (COO), Hlaudi Motsoeneng, months after the Public Protector found him guilty of several irregularities – including lying about his qualifications and receiving irregular pay increases.

In February, Thuli Madonsela recommended several courses of action, including suggesting to the government it should fill the long- vacant post of chief operating officer with a suitably qualified permanent candidate within 90 days. But the deadline passed without the required action.

Advertisements for a new chief ­financial officer and chief executive officer were run in national newspapers early in May, but the position for chief operating officer was not.

Last month, the SABC board asked for an extension from then communications minister Yunus Carrim before it could act on the recommendations.

This week, a spokesperson for new Communications Minister Faith Muthambi said they were still waiting for the SABC board to respond.

“They have assured the minister they are almost ready with the response. But they are still within the extension time given by the previous minister,” said the head of government communications, Phumla Williams.

SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago said he did not know when the board would respond. “They have not communicated anything to me. I can’t ask them as they promised to come back when they are ready.”

A source close the SABC said the board was divided on what to do with Motsoeneng, but it was likely they would shift him to another position within the public broadcaster.

“The view is that you can’t just wish him away like that. There is consensus that he does some things right and others wrong, and you can’t throw him to the dogs.”

Other proposals to deal with his situation included deploying him to another parastatal or sending him abroad to study.

The source said the board wanted to finalise the processes to appoint a chief executive officer who would then be involved in the arrangements to employ a chief financial officer and a chief operating officer that he or she could work with.


SABC’s recent history of censorship

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