The SABC’s broadcast of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s late night announcement on land expropriation without compensation infringed on a section of the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa’s (BCCSA) code of conduct, according to the Democratic Alliance.
This was the party’s main argument when it presented to the tribunal against the SABC on Wednesday after having filed a complaint to the BCCSA last month.
Section 13(1) stipulates that: “In presenting a programme in which a controversial issue of public importance is discussed, a broadcaster must make reasonable efforts to fairly present opposing points of view either in the same programme or in a subsequent programme forming part of the same series of programmes presented within a reasonable period of time of the original broadcast and within substantially the same time slot”.
The public broadcaster aired a pre-recorded video of Ramaphosa in July with the strapline that said, “President Ramaphosa addresses the nation”, which the DA says is deceptive because he was speaking in his capacity as ANC president and not as president of the republic.
Ramaphosa was announcing the ANC’s support of amending section 25 of the Constitution to allow for the expropriation of land without compensation.
Following the broadcast, the DA accused the SABC of knowing that the address was of a “party-political nature” and said the video “reveals the ANC’s abuse of a state institution”.
The party then gave the national broadcaster a specified time frame to air a message from its leader Mmusi Maimane on land reform saying that “if the SABC is as impartial as they claim, they will air the clip.”
This clip was not aired in the time given but a DA spokesperson who was appearing on the Morning Live programme the following day was asked to respond to Ramaphosa’s announcement.
The SABC contends that it met its obligations under section 13(1) by allowing the party’s spokesperson to speak on Morning Live.
But the DA does not agree and says the SABC is in breach of clause 13(1) because it did not make an effort to air its video – which is an opposing view to the president’s land announcement – within a “reasonable” period of time of the original broadcast and on the same programme.
The party says Ramaphosa was “afforded more time, on a platform of significantly higher quality, to advance the ANC’s position.”
The DA has requested that the BCCSA “reprimands the SABC” and that the tribunal’s findings be broadcasted in order “to remedy the situation”.
In a statement, the party said it would not “stand by as the failing ANC administration continues to use the public broadcaster as its own personal mouthpiece, as the Zuma administration did.
“The SABC must remain impartial and provide balanced reporting and the DA will stop at nothing to ensure that the public broadcaster informs citizens without fear or favour.”
The BCCSA will give its judgement within two to three weeks.
Read the DA’s heads of argument below: