IN A bid to put off another controversial blacklisting scandal, the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) on Wednesday said a scheduled discussion on Metro FM about Mangaung was cancelled at the last minute because the African National Congress (ANC) had not been invited to participate.

In 2007, ahead of the ANC Polokwane conference, the SABC had blacklisted several prominent journalists and commentators, including Business Day’s then political editor Karima Brown.

Last month, following a negotiated settlement, the Freedom of Expression Institute withdrew a complaint with the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa over the matter. The SABC acknowledged that national broadcasting codes had been contravened.

"In this case, you know the issue was the discussion about the ANC. Our view is simple: you need the ANC to be part of that discussion. We are not banning anyone," SABC chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng told reporters in Johannesburg.

However, media critic Anton Harber disagreed, saying there was no ethical requirement for the ANC to participate in every discussion that involved Mangaung.

"I don’t think you can say that you could never discuss Mangaung without the ANC," said Mr Harber.

Three political journalists had been scheduled to appear on Metro FM’s Talk with Sakina, presented by Sakina Kamwendo, to discuss media coverage of Mangaung. The talk was cancelled at the last minute.

Sunday Times political editor S’thembiso Msomi, Business Day political editor Sam Mkokeli and Financial Times Southern African bureau chief Andrew England were reportedly already at the SABC studios when the interview was cancelled.

Group radio executive Leslie Ntloko said management received the list of guests for the cancelled segment late. When management learned the ANC was not participating, the plug was pulled.

"We looked at (the briefing) and asked whether there was fairness and balance. We took the decision because there was no fairness," Mr Ntloko said.

He cited SABC rules that when an issue involved an event of national importance, and a political party, that party had to be invited to participate.

"I think that decision (to cancel) was made in view of the fact that some of these things I have just mentioned were not followed. Our normal processes were not followed," he said.