DA and EFF to approach ICASA over SABC phone-in ban

BY CHARL BOSCH - FEBRUARY 29, 2016

The Democratic Alliance (DA) and Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) have reportedly called on the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), to investigate weekend media allegations that the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) barred its talk radio stations from accepting any phone calls until after the local government elections.

According to reports, the public broadcaster stated in a notice that all phone-ins would be put on hold in an attempt to protect its stations from individuals, seeking to publicise their party in the run-up to the votes on 18 May.

Last week, listeners of Metro FM accused the station of censorship after one of its presenters, according to CityPress, refused to take any calls while allegedly interviewing a businessman with links to the African National Congress (ANC).

SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago however told the paper that the clampdown had nothing to do with the ruling party, and that people had been trying to misled others on purpose.

“We have said to people that when it is almost closer to time for elections, we don’t want programming to deal with political issues. We want political issues to be dealt with by news and current affairs because it is made out of journalists who are able to handle that,” he said.

“There is nothing new about what we are doing. We have done that before. We are not talking ANC here. Politics is not ANC”.

Speaking in a statement, DA Shadow Minister of Communications Phumzile van Damme said the ban not only violates the broadcaster’s own editorial policy, but prevents South Africans from having their say relating to the business of politics.

“Banning call-ins limits the amount of varied opinions broadcast on SABC radio stations and news programmes, and will result in the opinions of radio presenters, government and politicians being the only ones given airtime,” van Damme said.

“The SABC is the public broadcaster and must broadcast the opinions of all South Africans regardless of political affiliation, race or culture. We will not give [Chief Operating Officer Hlaudi] Motsoeneng and [Communications Minister Faith] Muthambi full rein to turn the SABC into the ANC’s propaganda tool”.

In a similar reaction, EFF national spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said the decision is evident that the public broadcaster wants to put a hold on free speech.

“The SABC has once more insulted the intelligence of its journalists by impressing on them that they need tutelage during this local government elections year. It is effectively saying they cannot through their journalistic judgment differentiate between electioneering and general public discussion,” Ndlozi said.

“It is true that the move comes as a result of ANC ministers who complained that there is too much negativity against the government. The move therefore is not concerning elections, but protection of ANC from public criticism, which is a clear violation of freedoms of speech”.