South Africa

South Africa

Motsoa-do about nothing: The SABC communications Quotathon

The latest in South Africa’s comedy of media errors is the news that the reading of newspaper headlines will no longer be broadcast by the SABC. Take a look at some of the more memorable recent assessments of freedom of expression. By MARELISE VAN DER MERWE.

Communication crackdown

Both the SABC and Muthambi are quickly running out of legal room to manoeuvre.

  • EWN reporter Rahima Essop, ahead of the deadline to petition the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) to hear the pair’s case

[This is] ongoing censorship creep at the South African public broadcaster.

  • Channel24, June 2016, on the canning of SAfm’s long-running programme The Editors, as well as the decision to no longer advertise jobs and tenders anywhere other than through SABC channels

Censorship at the SABC ahead of the local government election has reached crisis proportions.

  • DA national spokesperson Phumzile van Damme following SABC’s decision to take the long-running SAFM programme “The Editors” off air

No such thing as a free lunch

The SABC makes 80 percent of its revenue from advertising and so by us reading newspaper’s content we are just giving them free publicity. They do not pay us for that exposure and we are not required to prove it.

  • SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago

If people want to read headlines they can see it on billboards.

  • Kganyago offering a helpful pointer

This is a business decision that was made this week. It is not a policy but simply a decision that we have made as an institution.

  • Kyanyago, continued

Is it just us or are you also confused?

It’s not clear how the decision will impact TV shows like SABC2’s Morning Live looking at different newspaper front pages and stories and the weekly Media Monitor show on Sundays at 09:00 on SABC News (DStv 404) discussing newspapers.

It’s also unclear how the SABC will proceed with the journalistic convention of proper attribution where a newspaper happens to be the original source of a news story and credit reference is given in reporting by using “according to the” and “as and first reported by”.

  • Channel24 journalist Thinus Ferreira

We’re sure we don’t know what you mean

As the SABC, we are very clear that we are going to cover protests that are happening and we are going to make sure that we are going to do that without fear or favour.

  • SABC press statement, 2016

90% of South Africans are very excited with the transformation at the SABC and our improved news coverage, and I don’t know where this other 10% comes from or who they represent. People are very apologetic where they have to implement equity and transformation, but not us at the SABC.

  • SABC COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng

It’s not a sin for a black man to earn a decent salary. Anyone who is able to generate revenue for the SABC should be rewarded accordingly… The only problem can be if the SABC is paying Hlaudi more than what it is suppose [sic] to be paying.

  • Hlaudi Motsoeneng on his R1 million salary increase to R3.7 million in 2015, including a bonus of R279 000 and R916 000 in expenses and allowances

Okay, explain it slowly

We need to respect the intelligence of our audience and viewers. We have to be cognisant of the context so it doesn’t promote violence. We learned through the apartheid era our job is to report on stories without fear or favour and never hold back.

  • Anton Harber, eNCA

We are dealing with people trying to dodge obligations. The appeal has not gone through yet, so Motsoeneng cannot remain in office. He is defying the courts, and this has been allowed by the board because it is compromised. He has to step aside, if not resign.

  • Political commentator Shadrack Gutto

Potato, tomato, let’s call the whole thing off

We’re not apologetic about what is happening at the SABC and people who are complaining are in the minority, those who are raising concerns are not more than 10.

  • Hlaudi Motsoeneng, June 2016

I … challenge you to go there and lodge that complaint and I can assure you that you won’t make it.

  • Motsoeneng on the charge that SABC was guilty of censorship

It is our belief that the decision by the public broadcaster not to show footage of people burning public institutions, such as schools and libraries, in any of its news bulletins, will go a long way to discourage attention-seeking anarchists.

  • Communications Minister Faith Muthambi, 2016

Put a (comment) in the social space that brings the organisation into disrepute‚ we’ll deal with it.

  • Kyanyago, clarifying that the SABC’s ban on staff making political comments or posting pictures of themselves wearing party regalia on social media is merely a reiteration of its existing policy on social media conduct, May 2016

We are not dealing with politics here, we are dealing with reality.

We will get rid of those [employees] who run to the newspapers … SABC employees are very happy but there are a few rotten potatoes; including those who leak internal information to the media.

  • Hlaudi Motsoeneng, June 2016 [Wait, aren’t you the media? – Ed]

Maybe our employees should have uniforms so that they can understand unity.

  • Hlaudi Motsoeneng, June 2016

Let’s just get one thing straight

What we have seen and learned is that once censorship starts, it never stops because those who are empowered to censor and impose blackouts, start to develop bottomless sensitivities and discover more activities that they feel should not be flighted on television.

  • Cosatu, 2016

[T]ell the South African story uncensored‚ warts and all… It is not the public broadcaster’s mandate to mask the challenges that this country is facing and gag itself from exposing people’s anger‚ including their criminality.

  • Cosatu, 2016

All employees must adhere to the editorial policy of the leadership of the SABC. We don’t need permission from our employees.

  • Hlaudi Motsoeneng, 2016

If you don’t want to work for the SABC you can go. There are many people out there looking for work.

  • Hlaudi Motsoeneng, 2016

Say what?

[This] was a slip down a very dark hole.

  • COPE spokesperson Dennis Bloem on the decision to stop broadcasting certain aspects of public protest

It’s a responsible decision; it’s responsible journalism and it’s not self-censorship. It’s a responsible one to an extent that you don’t show what is not in the good interest of nation-building.

  • ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa on the same decision

I think the DA is trying to get publicity out of the SABC‚ because if they have issues they know that they can go and report this matter to the regulators who are controlling coverage of these election periods… nobody has been given any space yet to do a political advert.

  • Kyanyago in response to the DA’s allegation that the SABC had refused to air its election advertisements

In a sworn explanatory affidavit to ICASA, in response to the DA’s complaint lodged with the independent communications authority, the SABC claimed that it had refused to air the DA’s election campaign ads because it needed time to confirm whether the DA is a registered political party and had submitted a list of candidates to the IEC. This is so outrageous that it beggars belief.

Sarcasm as a second language?

Not only a poignant symbol of the exploitative past and synonymous with the controversial mining history, these hard-wearing rubber boots would provide the perfect protection for wading through all Motsoeneng’s missives.

  • Times Live suggests gumboots might be an appropriate uniform for SABC staff.

If they [the SABC] were serious, they should really go the whole hog. The next step should be to ban all news about corruption by public servants, from politicians right down to street cleaners in far-flung municipalities. This would certainly stop newcomers to politics and the public service from realising there are alternatives to poor salaries. All they have to do now is watch the news to get all sorts of innovative ideas about enriching themselves.

  • Chris Moerdyk, June 2016 DM

Photo: SABC COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng (Photo by Steven Lang)

Gallery

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