Déjà vu on SA Bootlicking Corporation TV
On Thursday November 2 1978, amid protestations from minister Owen Horwood and new prime minister PW Botha, Justice Mostert convened a press conference to divulge details of the (Info) “scandal”. The next day the press called this the most shocking and disturbing news of the century *1.” Les de Villiers, Secret Information, Tafelberg Publishers, 1980.
“Botha’s response was swift and, as later events were to show, typical. Within hours of Mostert’s evidence being released, the government, through the South African Press Association, advised all newspapers that publication of the revelations would be in contravention of the Commissions Act.
“All media ignored the advice and published with the natural exception of the government-controlled South African Broadcasting Corporation.” Brian Pottinger, The Imperial Presidency PW Botha, the First 10 Years, Southern Book Publishers, 1988.
I anchor this column with these quotations for two reasons. Firstly, because I hate paying television licence fees and in return being force-fed blatant African National Congress (ANC) propaganda dressed up as news.
Secondly, because of what many would see as history repeating itself in the light of the recent call by the Freedom of Expression Institute for a judicial commission of inquiry into the SABC.
The institute made the call after two analytical surveys found that, in contrast to the news programmes of rival e.tv, SABC news coverage was grossly biased in favour of the ANC. Other political parties just do not exist as far as the SABC is concerned.
What concerns me is that while the institute has highlighted what The Citizen recently described as “taxpayer-funded propaganda in favour of the ANC”, nobody seems to be analysing the news that the SABC is deliberately suppressing.
As one example of many, I would refer to the documents recently obtained by Richard Young who, in support of his contention that the arms deal is hugely corrupt, has fought a long, arduous and expensive court battle against government to acquire documents that it is clearly determined to keep secret.
On January 7 the most recent batch of documents released to him in terms of a court order were the subject of front-page leads in Business Day and the Mail & Guardian.
If these articles are factually correct and they have not been challenged then the documents Young obtained compromise not only the office of the auditor-general, but the presidency as well.
Considering the implications of these revelations, it would have been unthinkable in any first-world democracy for the story not to have been the lead on the evening’s television news bulletins. Accordingly, e.tv led with the story.
What Independent Newspaper group columnist William Saunderson-Meyer calls the “South African Bootlicking Corporation” ignored the story in its SABC 3 news bulletin at 7pm.
I see no difference in principle between the National Party-controlled state broadcaster’s suppression of news in 1978 and the identical violation of news ethics by the ANC-controlled state broadcaster this year.
The SABC’s constant promotion of the ANC on its evening television news bulletins and its constant suppression of any news seen as inimical to its political masters is both illegal and illicit.
It is illegal in terms of chapter three, section 10 (d) of the Broadcasting Act of 1999, which obligates the SABC to “provide 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”.
It is illicit in terms of the SABC’s own code of news ethics, which compels it to report in a neutral and objective way. The SABC’s media code was further defined and refined recently in an extensive and expensive country-wide and much-trumpeted public participation exercise.
The SABC’s failure to broadcast the revelations in the documents obtained by Young in its SABC 3 news bulletin on January 7 shows that, unlike e.tv, its coverage is characterised by both fear and favour. And if those who sought to make a contribution through the public participation exercise now see it as a deeply cynical scam, would anyone be able to blame them?
- Kadalie is a human rights activist in Cape Town.
With acknowledgements to Rhoda Kadalie and Business Day.
*1 That was the 20th century. So far the South East Asian Tsunami disaster has been the most most shocking and disturbing international news of this 21st century, but the Arms Deal Corruption *2 and Arms Deal Cover-Up must have been the most shocking and disturbing national news of this 21st century.
*2 International defence companies paying money into Mandela Trust Fund, Mbeki Trust Fund, Hadiba Trust Fund, Jacob Zuma Education Trust, MK Veterans Trust, ANC History Writing Trust, inter alia.
Vi Va - Kadalie, eTV, M&G and BDay