A HEARING into a decision by the SABC to pull radio and TV adverts by the Democratic Alliance (DA) continued late on Tuesday, where it emerged that the state broadcaster only pulled the plug on the adverts after receiving a "backlash" from viewers.

The complaints and compliance committee of the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) announced late on Monday that it would conduct public hearings into the blocking of the adverts, on the same day that the DA turned to the High Court in Johannesburg seeking an urgent application for determination on the adverts by Thursday.

The SABC pulled a TV advert called ‘Ayisafani’ as well as five radio adverts. The DA is seeking to have this decision overturned before the coming Easter weekend, saying the SABC did not have a sound basis for pulling the adverts which show DA premier candidate for Gauteng Mmusi Maimane calling on President Jacob Zuma to explain a lack of job creation, the R246m spent on his private Nkandla residence as well as showing a man dressed as a police officer holding a gun against an individual.

Complaints and compliance committee chairman Wandile Tutani opened the hearing last night by saying that he wished to dispel the notion that it was required to deal within the matter within 48 hours, saying this was an Icasa regulation which did not apply to the commission — an independent body within the regulatory authority.

The committee had the right to deem a matter urgent, which it did in this case, he said.

Steven Budlender SC for the DA argued that the advert did not incite violence against police, saying extensive coverage had been given to police violence.

Representatives of the DA argued on Tuesday that the code of conduct for the Advertising Standards Authority was "utterly irrelevant" with regards to political advertising. This code was limited to commercial advertising. Any limitations on advertising would directly limit the basic principles of freedom of speech, Mr Budlender said.

Ronnie Bokwa, for the SABC, said on Tuesday an editorial decision had been made to pull the advert after deciding that it posed an "imminent" threat to violence.

The television advert had been shown by the SABC on three occasions, after the broadcaster’s sales and marketing board had given the green light to the advert "in good faith". However after receiving numerous complaints, the advert was then reviewed, he said.

Proceedings were adjourned as members of the complaints and compliance commission asked for the correspondence from members of the public raising their concerns.

The matter continues.

With Paul Vecchiatto