Issue # 3- 19 November 2008

by Bantu Holomisa, MP – UDM President

Issue #2 (28 October 2008)

We reminded them that during the period directly preceding the 1994 elections, the model that was used between the political parties and the SABC was fair and elicited no complaints.

However since then unfair coverage in favour of the ANC by the SABC has been 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 then it 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. Whilst ANC events get extensive live coverage, 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 in the upcoming election?

I challenged the SABC Board to look in their archives to count the number of times that opposition party statements which made headlines elsewhere in the media, actually appeared 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 this situation 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 were 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 with 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.

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 informed the SABC Board that the MPF had discussed the matter of the SABC's 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.

The SABC Board responded positively to this suggestion, so now we wait to see whether this time round we will have a media environment that is geared towards multi-party democracy, as opposed to one-party dominance.

Let's talk!
Write to me (at bholomisa@udm.org.za) and tell me what you think
Bantu Holomisa

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