Memo to the Chairperson of the SABC Board, Mr K Mkonza, regarding Levelling of the playing field - SABC Board meeting follow-up Chairperson of the Multi-Party Secretariat and UDM President (24 November 2008)

Thank you for the opportunity to address you and the Board last week.

I write this correspondence in my capacity as the Chairperson of the Steering Committee of the Multi-Party Forum (MPF).

You will recall that in our meeting I did brief you that it has been the desire of the leaders of political parties involved in the MPF to meet the SABC Board, and I got the impression from our meeting that your Board was in support of this. As I proposed in our meeting, the MPF Steering Committee and a small committee from your Board should meet in order to prepare for a summit between the SABC and the political parties with a view to levelling the playing field for political coverage on the SABC, especially during the election campaign. A pre-summit interaction will ensure that the summit is not a talk-shop and produces tangible results.

The reasons as you know for this proposed summit are well-documented; the bottom line is that the playing field is not level at the moment. I hope you saw the SABC's Asikhulume programme yesterday, as one example of the current situation. Nine political parties shared about 45 minutes which included audience questions, with each party getting only a few minutes. Your stated policy of allocating time proportionally according to the electoral size of a party is not practiced when for instance nine parties share 45 minutes.

This proposed summit is needed urgently, because if we follow what you say regarding this proportional time allocation based on electoral support it would mean that no time will be given to COPE or any other political organisation that is not represented in parliament, irrespective of their support or relevance among voters. After all, I wonder how this will work because on current performance the SABC is not practicing such a proportional coverage. To assist you on this question it would be useful to look in your archives at the coverage that was given to political parties prior to the 1994 election, because a specific model was used in that period that may be useful now.

This correspondence is copied to the IEC whom was asked earlier this year to facilitate such a meeting. I appeal to you that we want action on this summit as soon as possible, not next year.

Your cooperation will be appreciated.

Regards
Bantu Holomisa, MP
UDM President

CC. Independent Electoral Commission Chairperson - Dr B Bam

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