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Wed Sep 02 02:21:50 SAST 2015

SABC still rolls over when told to by his master's voice

Editorial | 06 December, 2012 00:46

THE SABC is like a leopard - it just cannot change its spots.

On Tuesday evening, three journalists arrived at Metro FM's studios to discuss the manner in which print media have covered the run-up to the ANC's elective conference next week.

But they were kept waiting until they were eventually told they would no longer participate in the radio show. Instead, their segment had been scrapped after a telephone call had been received.

Now why does this sound so pathetically familiar? It is part of the SABC's DNA to shut out those who they do not want on their programmes, and to silence those who they believe will place them in an invidious, uncomfortable position with the government of the day.

Blacklisting and interference are well-known tricks of the public broadcaster's trade. A recent inquiry found the SABC guilty of drawing up lists of commentators and analysts whom they deemed unsuitable to speak on political matters.

Last month, head of news Jimi Matthews banned the use of certain words, such as "compound", to describe President Jacob Zuma's rural home in Nkandla.

Matthews said it was about using language that was correct and recognises sensitivities in the new South Africa.

But the blunt, heavy-footed manoeuvres at Metro on Tuesday and the subsequent press conference yesterday smack of something far more sinister and disturbing - especially given the reassurances by SABC's management that they are serious about transforming the broadcaster.

The events of this week are a clear indication of the huge gap between stated intentions and reality. Some of the new staff at SABC management might truly believe they can change this leopard. Unfortunately, the broadcaster cannot but help to revert to its original DNA - that of assuming it must serve the government in power.

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