ANNOUNCEMENT BY THE ACTING CHAIRPERSON OF ICASA, COUNCILLOR RUBBEN MOHLALOGA, IN RESPECT OF THE MATTER BETWEEN THE SABC AND TRUSTEES FOR THE TIME BEING OF THE MEDIA MONITORING PROJECT BENEFIT TRUST, SUPPORT PUBLIC BROADCASTING COALITION (S.O.S), AND FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION (FXI), 11 JULY 2016
Councillors and Executive members of ICASA
Our distinguished stakeholders
Members of the media
Ladies and gentlemen
The much-awaited ICASA decision on the matter between the SABC and Media Monitoring Project as well as other civil society organizations is finally being pronounced today.
This particular complaint was lodged with the Complaints and Compliance Committee (CCC) on 01 June 2016 for adjudication. The matter was lodged on an urgent basis by the complainants and the CCC treated it as such based on the uncertainty which was created from an information perspective by a statement issued by the SABC that showing the burning of public institutions as a result of service delivery protests would not be included in its television broadcasts.
The exchange of documents or affidavits between all parties took place and eventually led to a public hearing which was held at ICASA Offices on 24 June 2016.
During this public hearing, all parties were given an opportunity to present their cases before the CCC.
The complaint in short
The Complainants have based their case on the legal question whether the SABC has overstepped its powers as set out in the Broadcasting Act 4 of 1999 and its licence conditions. Of course, the powers must also, in terms of section 39(2) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, be interpreted in terms of the relevant provisions of the Constitution – and for purposes of this matter, especially sections 16 and 192.
It was argued by the Complainants’ legal representative that the policy of the SABC on this matter, which includes a resolution, is not only in conflict with the duties of the SABC in terms of the Broadcasting Act and its licences, but also with the constitutional principle of freedom of expression and freedom to receive information or ideas.
It was further argued that the SABC was actually taking South Africa back to deplorable apartheid bans on news and comment, whether by the then SABC, apartheid laws or regulations.
The SABC’s legal representatives, among others, argued that common sense dictates that where television cameras are present, protesters would go amok, and attack public institutions, set them alight or destroy them.
They further argued that from the perspective of the protection of children against scenes of violence on television and the protection of SABC journalists against violence in such situations, the decision of the SABC made sense.
As an administrative tribunal, the CCC must interpret the Broadcasting Act in a manner that “promote[s] the spirit, purport and objects of the Bill of Rights” as required by section 39(2) of the Constitution; and must give effect to section 192 of the Constitution which requires broadcasting to be regulated “in the public interest, and to ensure fairness and a diversity of views broadly representing the South African society”.
Indeed, the SABC has a number of obligations in terms of the Broadcasting Act and its licences. The Broadcasting Act imposes on the SABC an obligation to provide coverage of “significant news and public affairs programming which meets the highest standards of journalism, as well as fair and unbiased coverage, impartiality, balance and independence from government, commercial and other interests.”
This obligation is also contained in the licence conditions of the SABC.
As a legal requirement, the CCC, after hearing a matter such as this one, must make a recommendation to the ICASA Council which will then make a final decision that is binding to all parties. The CCC has therefore made its recommendation which will be available on the ICASA website in due course.
The Council of ICASA has deliberated on this recommendation and applied its mind fully on the matter, taking into account all facts before it and whether all processes were followed in the conclusion of this matter.
The CCC in its decision dated 03 July 2016 recommended the following which Council of ICASA has concurred with:Direct the SABC to withdraw its resolution as published in its statement of 26 May 2016, which states that the SABC will no longer broadcast footage of destruction of public property during protests.
The withdrawal must be done retrospectively from the date when the resolution was taken on 26 May 2016.
The Chairperson of the SABC Board must confirm in writing to Council via the Office of the CCC Coordinator within seven (7) calendar days from the date on which the order is served that the resolution as endorsed by Council of the Authority was taken as ordered.
Furthermore the Authority’s approach is to assist the licensees to comply with the existing legal and regulatory framework, to that extent we are open and willing to assist going forward.
Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to thank you for your time and I will take a few questions if there are any.
I THANK YOU
Source: The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa