South Africa


BCCSA rules SABC did not violate code in broadcasting Ramaphosa’s address

A Broadcasting Complaints Commission Tribunal has found that the SABC did not violate clauses of the Subscription Broadcasting code when it broadcast President Cyril Ramaphosa's late-night address on 31 July announcing that the ANC was in favour of amending the Constitution to provide for EWC.

Tribunal Chair, Professor HP Viljoen, found that the broadcast of the DA’s view on the matter 10 hours after the original broadcast of President Ramaphosa’s address “was in the same news series and was done within a reasonable time”.

The complaint to the BCCSA by the Democratic Alliance’s Shadow Minister of Communications, Phumzile van Damme, was that the party had not been afforded the opportunity to fairly present its opposing point of view to that of the president of the ANC in a programme in which controversial issues of public importance were discussed.

The DA was invited onto a subsequent programme to present its views in a telephonic interview. The Complainants contended that this broadcast was qualitatively and quantitatively inferior to that of the ANC president’s address, that it was not in the same series as the original broadcast, was not done within a reasonable time and not in substantially the same time slot as required by Clause 13(1) of the Free-to-Air Code and Clause 28.3.1 of the Subscription Broadcasting Code respectively,” said Viljoen in the ruling handed down on Friday.

Viljoen said there was “no obligation on a broadcaster to afford the same airtime to opposing viewpoints” as this was part of the “editorial freedom of a broadcaster”.

The complaint was lodged by the DA after Ramaphosa’s late-night (22.10) address was broadcast on an SABC programme titled The Globe.

In this address Ramaphosa announced that the governing party was in favour of amending the Constitution of South Africa to provide for the expropriation of land without compensation and that it intended to have legislation passed by Parliament to achieve this objective.

The following morning (1 August at 8.04) on the programme Morning Live on SABC2 and simulcast on News Channel 404, after again broadcasting the address of the previous evening, Portia Adams, a spokesperson for the leader of the Democratic Alliance (DA) was invited by the Broadcaster to telephonically comment on the President’s address and to put forward the views of the DA on this topic,” reads a summary of the judgment.

Van Damme lodged a complaint with the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South that the address by Ramaphosa was ostensibly in his capacity as president of the ANC, while the impression had been created that he had done so in his capacity as President of the Republic of South Africa.

She also complained that the broadcast on 31 July had constituted a discussion of a controversial issue of public importance and therefore, in terms of Clause 13(1) of the Code of Conduct, the SABC had been obliged to fairly present opposing points of view. DM


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