The SABC office in Auckland Park, Johannesburg. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
The SABC office in Auckland Park, Johannesburg. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

The DA maintains that the SABC did not afford it the "superior" opportunity it gave the ANC to air its views on land reform. This is despite the DA’s message reaching more than 500,000 more viewers than the ANC’s did.

This transpired during arguments presented to the tribunal of the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of SA (BCCSA) on Wednesday.

SABC group executive for news and current affairs Phathiswa Magopeni said President Cyril Ramaphosa’s broadcast had an average of 27‚000 viewers, while the response from the DA‚ which was simulcast on SABC TV show Morning Live and channel 404‚ averaged 527‚000 and 66‚200 viewers, respectively.

The dispute follows a grievance lodged by the DA against the SABC. The DA complained that the public broadcaster infringed on section 13(1) of the BCCSA code of conduct when it aired a pre-recorded statement by ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa. In the video‚ Ramaphosa announced the party’s decision to push for an amendment of the constitution in support of land expropriation without compensation.

The public broadcaster later refused to air a message by DA leader Mmusi Maimane on land expropriation‚ a decision that the DA said displayed a lack of independence from political interference.

Representing the DA‚ advocate Nick Ferreira argued that the right of reply afforded to the DA‚ where Maimane’s spokesperson‚ Portia Adams‚ articulated the DA’s position on land expropriation‚ did not amount to fair opportunity.

"Ramaphosa had a opportunity to present his case‚ in a prepared‚ polished‚ professional manner in six minutes and 45 seconds. The SABC refused to broadcast the equivalent from the DA, and the DA was afforded an opportunity to phone into a live show‚ which is far inferior in terms of time (1min 43sec) and was of low professional quality‚" Ferreira said.

By doing this‚ the DA believes that the SABC contravened section 13(1) of the BCCSA code of conduct, which states that in presenting a programme in which a controversial issue of public importance is discussed‚ a broadcaster must make reasonable efforts to fairly present opposing points.

Ferreira argued that failure to adhere to this rule could easily deteriorate the message into propaganda.

Nyiko Shibambo from the SABC’s policy and regulatory affairs department, said the DA’s complaint should be dismissed as viewers were given a balanced view of opposing points by Kallie Kriel of Afriforum‚ including an interview with political analyst Angelo Flick and Bulelwa Mabasa‚ a land claims expert, right after Ramaphosa’s address.

"To [the DA], opposing points of view means opposition party‚ but opposing views may come from different interested parties — analysts‚ bloggers‚ anybody‚" he said.

Shibambo added that it was normal procedure to give a right of reply via telephone‚ as the SABC had done with the DA‚ and that Adams was not given a time limit.

"The DA gave their reaction to the president’s address‚ Adams was not interjected‚ she was not stopped until she completed; nobody from the SABC restricted her in terms of time‚" he said.

To remedy the situation‚ the DA has requested that the BCCSA reprimand the public broadcaster‚ give the DA the same opportunity it gave the ANC and that the SABC air the BCCSA’s ruling.

Chair of the tribunal Prof Henning Viljoen said the BCCSA would give its judgment within two or three weeks.