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AND: Opportunities that the current political climate offers developmental journalism and the SABC By Guy Berger, 22 November, 2009.

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Presentation on theme: "AND: Opportunities that the current political climate offers developmental journalism and the SABC By Guy Berger, 22 November, 2009."— Presentation transcript:

1 AND: Opportunities that the current political climate offers developmental journalism and the SABC By Guy Berger, 22 November, 2009

2 Broadcasting during elections is a testing time for SABC. A time when commitment to objectivity, accuracy, fairness, impartiality and balance is scrutinised closely. Also a trying time for staff who may feel pressure from parties. (Editorial Policies)

3 1. History 2. The stakes 3. Your guidelines 4. The opportunities


5 Historical conundrum: ANC didnt trust Nats over SABC pre-election, Nats didnt trust ANC over SABC post-election.

6 Two parties + civil society Consensus: take SABC out of political spheres of influence. (Note: SABC was passive in all this). Restructuring: New board Independent Monitoring Commission IBA and broadcast pluralism

7 1994: separate meetings with parties just involved SABC being lambasted. 1996: joint meeting (in KZN) set limits: Minority parties would get coverage Not every function would be covered Not short notice Ground rules for debates Complaints would be dealt with asap Parties would give up-to-date contacts

8 ... FOR POLITICIANS 12 parties signed in June 1996 Bishops, editor-in-chief, Electoral Code of Conduct Commission as monitors. The text reads: To ensure a free, independent news media, commitment is needed from all the main players: Journalists and editors to professional codes; Politicians to the following code:

9 understand the role To wholeheartedly help party members understand the role of the media in a democratic society. We agree that the rights of working journalists should be respected at all times while engaged in news-gathering. We undertake to respect and promote the physical safety of journalists to the best of our ability, including:

10 Not inciting attacks on media reps. Not naming individual journalists at public events. Not verbally or physically interfering with reporters. Not restricting access to news sources. Not having no-go zones, but rather letting journalists operate without fear of intimidation.

11 Not to pressure presenters while on air to do ad hoc interviews. Not to try and bribe journalists. Discourage party members and others from making abusive or threatening anonymous phone calls to media. Using existing mechanisms to channel complaints. TODAY: PARTIES CODE OF CONDUCT

12 2. STAKES

13 Licence a new gang to get a chance to grab hold of the goodies? Elect a government to govern in the public interest based on mass mandate? Register public sentiment on policies? Channel social culture into non-violent conflict resolution? Promote citizenship for post-poll participation in political life.

14 Pre-condition for a free & fair election: = a free and fair media – incl. the SABC. Free: Free: Citizens feel free to speak out (& have platform) SABC is free from interference SABC is free to provide diversity and access. Fair: Fair: Fairness by SABC Fairness to SABC

15 Building an unassailable PSB over democratic transition. Setting a role model for the continent. Giving South Africans the best possible outcome from the poll – not least vis-a-vis 2010.


17 SABC CHARTER confirms: Your duty to give a plurality of views and news. Within this, your right to freedom of expression and journalistic independence.

18 Fair = equitable, not equal. Fair = low differential between old and new parties, not pure proportionality based on past and present. Letting conflicting views be heard does not translate into all parties being heard on any subject. Right to reply is not to mild or even robust discourse. Assessment can only be done over time.

19 Avoid giving policies of governing party greater legitimacy than if the party were not in government. (Icasa) Avoid the danger of being seen as a Civil Service broadcaster – i.e. loyal to the government of the day (it was TM, now KM, tomorrow JZ). Keep an autonomous identity. Learn from MPs who bent with pressure!

20 Violations of ICASA code: Distortion, exaggeration, misrepresentation? Material omissions? Summarisation? Or that opinions or allegations were presented as fact? Or a controversy ignored a key view? Or there was no reasonable right to reply.


22 Media as a negative factor in an election. Toxic treatment of media in an election. Media used as a scapegoat. Media kicked around as a political football. Media losing credibility.

23 1. Forum role – what? Platform for parties – incl debate ALSO: Platform for parties and public interaction.

24 Phone in and discussion programmes should not be presented as scientific reflections of public opinion. (Editorial Policies)

25 Broadcasters should not rely on political parties to bring information to them, but should actively seek out information. Failure to do so will give parties with greater resources inequitable amounts of news coverage. (Icasa regulations)

26 2. Watchdog – what? Scrutinise parties, expose intolerance, irregularities, follow-up on law enforcement.

27 3. Enabling role - what? Educating audiences (rights, responsibilities) Involving audiences and 3 rd parties Informing about parties and about results.

28 4. Setting the Agenda – what? Being proactive, doing research. Political conduct (democracy) Development – the key issue. Also: Media issues and Access to Info.

29 Agendas & intolerance: Licensees are reminded generally of the possible dangers of some people imitating violence details of which they see, hear or read about. (Icasa, revised code of conduct).

30 Make development & democracy the main agenda. Put the focus on policies, rather than on the political people and emotion. Educate the public on the poll system.

31 Educate the citizens on the poll system. Encourage them to assert their rights. Put pressure on those who dont exercise their responsibilities as citizens Build respect for independent SABC.

32 Combine all four roles: 1. Forum (pluralistic fairness) 2. Watchdog (SABC active agent) 3. Enabler (educator, accessible) 4. Agenda-setting (leading)

33 5. IN SUM...

34 History – seize a window of opportunity, an interregnum between powers. Dont be on defensive, dont be a football. The stakes are the SABC, and public broadcasting in Africa... And standards for a free and fair election.

35 Follow, and quote, your Bibles Roles: agenda-setter, forum, watchdog, enabler (AFEW) Empower people for the best possible government of, for and by the citizens.


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