THE Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) announced on Thursday that it would be investigating the South African Broadcasting Commission (SABC) over the alleged blacklisting of certain political journalists on Metro FM.
The decision by Icasa to probe the SABC is likely raise eyebrows after the authority was seen to take a softer stance on the broadcaster when it investigated similar allegations which surfaced in 2007.
A planned live radio show on Tuesday featuring political journalists discussing issues around the African National Congress’s (ANC’s) upcoming elective conference in Mangaung, was canned shortly before it was due to go on air.
The SABC has been dogged by allegations of political interference for some time and it is understood that the broadcaster’s suspended head of news and current affairs, Phil Molefe, will on Friday approach the Johannesburg high court to argue political interference over his suspension. Mr Molefe was suspended by CEO Lulama Mokhobo earlier this year after public fall-out over editorial policies.
Claims at the time were that Mr Molefe had refused Ms Mokhobo’s request to access the daily news diary. The ANC Youth League later claimed that Mr Molefe’s suspension was politically motivated and meant to advance President Jacob Zuma’s re-election campaign
SABC’s move to can Tuesday’s show on Metro FM, a few days before the ANC’s Managung conference, had similarities with the decision ahead of the party’s Polokwane conference in 2007, when the broadcaster blacklisted several prominent journalists, including Business Day’s then political editor Karima Brown, for apparently being too critical of former president Thabo Mbeki.
The SABC’s acting chief operations officer, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, on Wednesday justified the decision to can the show on Metro FM saying "proper channels were not followed that support the SABC’s editorial policy … There had to be someone from the ANC to present their views".
However, Icasa has decided to probe the matter further to establish whether the incident violated the SABC’s licence terms and editorial policy.
"The authority has requested the SABC to provide facts related to this incident with the purpose of determining whether the incident referred to constitutes a violation of its licence terms and conditions as well as the SABC editorial policy," Icasa spokesman Paseka Maleka said.
"In addition, the authority has requested the SABC to provide the recordings of the Metro FM programme concerned, subsequent to which the authority will apply its mind to determine its next course of action".
The broadcaster has been given until next week Tuesday to respond to the matter, Mr Maleka said.
The SABC has been in the headlines in recent years, mostly for the wrong reasons. Earlier this year, SABC chairman Ben Ngubane told Parliament that the board had become dysfunctional.
He called on Parliament to remove Cawekazi Mahlati from the board. Ms Mahlati was said to be a "disruptive" influence, amongst other allegations. She in turn alleged that the "campaign" to remove her from the board was part of strategy by Mr Ngubane to hide corruption and malpractice at the broadcaster.