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Tue May 03 10:47:01 SAST 2016

Public broadcaster or state broadcaster? SABC must tell us

Editorial | 13 December, 2012 00:09

ANOTHER day at the SABC, another show canned because of sensitivities about the mere possibility of criticism of President Jacob Zuma, ahead of his bid for re-election in Mangaung.

First there was the debacle around the public broadcaster's decision not to run a lucrative - and completely harmless - advertisement for reasonably priced fish and chips.

The cartoon-like ad fell foul of the mandarins at Auckland Park, who deemed it demeaning of the president and his rather large family.

Then came the Metro FM debacle, when a talkshow that was to feature three respected - and independent - journalists discussing media coverage of the run-up to Mangaung was pulled, literally at the last minute, after the producers received a mysterious phone call.

Yesterday it emerged that the SABC had canned a pre-recorded interview with cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro (Zapiro) that was to have been screened on the SABC3 programme Interface.

Some of Zapiro's caricatures of Zuma have provoked the president into suing the cartoonist.

Fears that the powers that be at the public broadcaster are going to inordinate lengths to prop up Zuma's image ahead of Mangaung appear to be shared by some journalists at the SABC.

They have written to the corporation's board claiming that current affairs producers and presenters had been taken to task for being too negative about the government, for not showing enough visual footage of Zuma and for failing to defend him as strongly as they might.

Earlier this week the SABC said it would centralise control of talkshows on all its 18 radio stations as a way of ''dealing with issues of a political and governance nature in a coherent and systematic way, and in line with our editorial policy".

It is surely time for an independent investigation into the news practices at the SABC, which are starting to resemble those of some state broadcasters north of the border.


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