UDM's presentation to the SABC Board regarding the SABC's bias in favour of the ANC statement by the UDM President (19 November 2008)

The SABC Board is meeting with the UDM at 09h00 today. The UDM delegation consists of Mr Bantu Holomisa, UDM President, and also includes the UDM Whip, Mr Madikiza, Caucus Chair, Mrs Nkabinde, and Members of Parliament Mr Bici and Mrs Sigcau.

We have taken note of the way SABC has advertised its Board's meetings with political party leaders, as well as its advertisements of how it plans to deal with election news coverage; it is not with an attitude of consultation that they are approaching us, but rather one of information. The Board is apparently suggesting that a consultant will be appointed to monitor coverage, but what will he/she monitor? Has the Board asked for meetings with political leaders to merely tell us how this consultant will monitor the continued pro-ANC bias of the SABC, or will the Board actually listen to the concerns of other political parties? If it is the latter, we would like to draw their attention to the precedent during the period directly preceding the 1994 elections, the model that was used between the political parties and the SABC was fair - let us use that as the basis from which to start our discussions.

Unfair coverage in favour of the ANC by the SABC in news in general is a historic reality. To an extent it is understandable when it is under the guise of reporting on the ANC in Government

But when the ANC outside government gets blanket coverage, and even repeated exclusive live coverage to deal with internal party matters, that is highly unfair and frankly, undemocratic.

This doesn't even begin to address the situation during the run-up to election campaigns, and the campaigns themselves, when the ANC's events get extensive live coverage, whilst other parties barely get a few minutes of edited (often badly edited) news coverage hidden in a news bulletin.

Will it be the same again with live coverage of the ANC's January 8 Statement, Manifesto launch and campaign rallies?

I challenge the SABC Board, to go to their archives; how many times do opposition party statements that make headlines elsewhere in the media, actually appear with any prominence in SABC News bulletins (especially Television news)? How do you justify a situation where the SABC has even permanently appointed a camera crew to follow Mr Zuma (the SABC's Sebeso and Mbetshe) around? Even the DA, who are the Official Opposition have not been allocated news teams to follow them around. When you compare with international news organisations, or even with local media such as eTV, it is totally unheard of that only one party receives such exclusive treatment.

Despite meeting with the Board on previous occasions, it has not made any impact. ANC conferences still get live coverage but major political events, drawing thousands of people, like our tenth anniversary are barely mentioned by the SABC, who flatly ignored our appeals beforehand for coverage. I have on numerous occasions personally written to the SABC Head of News long in advance of major UDM events to ensure that the SABC has ample warning of our events. Even the basic courtesy of acknowledging receipt of my correspondence is often not awarded, never mind actually sending a television news crew.

We have accepted this invitation to meet with the SABC Board once again, but we are convinced that we will talk to deaf ears. This is why we have not been vociferous about the attacks on the current Board. It is simply a contest between two ANC-aligned factions that will afterwards continue to oversee the unjust and undemocratic bias in favour of the ANC.

It is preposterous and blatantly deceptive of the ANC to now complain about SABC coverage; this is simply a scheme to create the impression that because all parties are complaining it must mean the SABC is not biased. A simple scientific analysis of the amount of coverage that the ANC has received year in and year out will put the lie to this absurd claim that ANC has been disadvantaged in SABC coverage. The ANC is also the only party that has been given such extensive live coverage for their party political events.

In the meanwhile whatever crumbs we receive from the so-called 'public' broadcaster we'll accept, but hopefully sanity will prevail in future and we'll be granted fair and equitable coverage.

We are highly sceptical about the SABC's commitment to democracy, when for instance we - a gathering of leaders from a whole range of political parties, busy discussing matters of national interest - are even interrupted during an interview to cross live for coverage to Mr Zuma who had nothing newsworthy to say and was given the unhindered opportunity to hurl abuse and spout hate-speech against his political opponents.

The route to a solution for this problem is not simply individual briefings to political leaders. In my capacity as Chairperson of the Interim Steering Committee of the Multi-Party Forum (MPF) I can inform you that the MPF has discussed the matter of the SABC pro-ANC bias and took a resolution that there should be a summit between the political parties, the SABC Board and Executive, the IEC and ICASA, in order to decisively once and for all settle this matter of levelling the playing fields.