Johannesburg - South Africa woke up on Saturday morning to the news that Gareth Cliff would not be returning to Idols as a judge after controversial comments made on social media.
Responding to calls to criminalise racist posts on social media, Gareth got into a debate regarding freedom of speech. His comments received massive criticism, with many calling for boycotts against his online radio station, CliffCentral as well as Idols.
M-Net reacted swiftly, saying his future employment was under review, and at 1am this morning released a statement saying Gareth would no longer be part of the judging panel.
Since the announcement, there have been many questions around the decision. We've spoken to team Gareth and M-Net and have answers:
Was Gareth contracted to do the next season of Idols?
M-Net had approached Gareth to do the next season. A fee was negotiated and all negotiations were in writing. Gareth had also received the audition schedule. M-Net says that the 'contracting process had not been concluded.' However, in all previous seasons of Idols, Gareth and other judges had never signed the contract prior to the auditions. Negotiations were always verbal and via email.
Deciphered: Technically, he wasn't fired because the contract wasn't signed. But taking past protocol and written instructions into account, he was axed.
What prompted M-Net's decision?
"The recent controversy regarding Cliff's comments on social media risks distracting attention from the contestants and their considerable talents. M-Net supports the values of nation-building and believes all people should be treated with respect. To that end, we hold our representatives and brand ambassadors to the highest possible standards," said M-Net CEO, Yolisa Phahle.
Deciphered: You wanted it and got it.
Was the decision taken based on Twitter threats to boycott Idols SA?
"M-Net always takes note of public opinion, but our business decisions are made based on our business objectives and the interests of our various stakeholders," explained M-Net CEO Yolisa Phahle.
Deciphered: Yes! Your voice was heard.
What action, if any, was taken against Somzi?
"Over the last few months following Unathi's indiscretions on social media, we been in discussions with our judges, presenters and talent to sensitize them to the pitfalls of using social media. Unfortunately we then had to deal with Somizi’s inappropriate comments, and following the latest issue we have now implemented a zero tolerance policy," said the M-Net big boss. "This policy will apply to everyone associated with our brands going forward We do not believe that Gareth is a racist, but his response showed a deep lack of empathy for our history and it is important to differentiate between freedom of speech and hate speech. Penny Sparrows comments were hateful. Hate speech is not applicable with regard to freedom of speech," she added.
Deciphered: Unathi and Somizi were given a slap over the wrists for their social media posts. M-Net considers Gareth's tweets to be more serious. Also, Somizi's tweets were after Idols had finished.
What is Gareth's next move?
The Juice has it under good authority that Gareth is considering his legal options. However, he has been vocal about his reluctance to continue with the show in the past, and may have a change of heart once the dust has settled.
He tweeted this earlier this morning.here) we reckon M-Net is going to get a lashing.