The national broadcaster has again centralised and tightened its political coverage, instructing that no radio stations should speak to any political party without consulting their political editor. The SABC says this is to make sure content such as the “vulgar language” in Parliament is not aired. But SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago insists there is nothing sinister – this was a decision made a while ago. On November 19, the general manager of radio, Leuba Ramakgolo, sent an email to SABC staff members informing them that permission was necessary before bringing any political guests on to news platforms. “Stations must ensure they discuss the topics of a political nature and the angles they intend following in tackling those topics with Mr Simon Tebele, the political editor, before they finalise their preparations. Stations must not engage politicians before agreeing with Mr Tebele,” reads the email. Tebele is the newly appointed political editor who was selected after a two-year stint in special projects at the SABC. Ramakgolo has in the past been station manager for the likes of Thobela FM and 5FM. His email, which has rattled a few senior members of the news team, states the SABC is a “responsible broadcaster”, thus radio platforms should not allow a situation in which content that is unacceptable is being aired. “The decision for the news team to handle any political news which is current affairs was made a long time ago. “This is just process,” said Kganyago. But the people who work with the content are unhappy with these rules and regulations, and say it will prove difficult for them to work in this environment. “How are people supposed to work? Do they know how many stations there are at the SABC?” asked a senior staffer. But the email makes the broadcaster’s stance clear: “It does not matter who says wrong things, whatever is not at home with public good will not be aired.” This communication came six days after a raucous session in Parliament, in which Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) MP Ngwanamakwetle Mashabela refused to leave the podium after calling President Jacob Zuma a “thief”. Shortly after that, another EFF MP screamed: “Voetsek, nina zinja.” (Voetsek, you dogs.) According to Kganyago, the broadcaster is regulated so it cannot simply let any DJ or platform run their own stories. “These have to be coordinated. We are just trying to avoid being taken to the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of SA,” he said. His statement is reiterated by Ramakgolo’s email, which instructs that station managers must make sure that they remind their teams to be responsible at all times and that they should not promote usage of any vulgar language. “The unfortunate events witnessed in the recent past that were evident in Parliament may be cited as examples of what the public broadcaster will not promote,” reads the email. Kganyago said there was once an incident “with Metro FM with some political party that landed us in trouble”. A source in the SABC said the broadcaster “likes sending these emails and maybe it’s just to keep us in check. But I know the two stations they’ll definitely be focusing on are Metro FM and SAfm”. Kganyago said SAfm and similar talk radio stations would receive their orders on what to run with. “All they have to do is go to current affairs and explain the story they want to run, and the editor will ensure all the angles are covered,” said Kganyago.