The SABC has refused to air a video message from DA leader Mmusi Maimane on land expropriation.
The DA had earlier given the public broadcaster a deadline of midnight on Wednesday to air their clip as a response to Ramaphosa’s message last Tuesday night on the outcomes of the ANC’s lekgotla.
They said this would balance the scales of fairness, as required by broadcasting legislation.
Ramaphosa last week used the SABC and other news channels to air his “message to the nation”, which the DA has claimed was an abuse of his power to further a party political agenda.
They reported the SABC to the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of SA (BCCSA).
SABC chairperson Bongumusa Makhathini, however, told the party last week that the DA had already been given the opportunity to respond to the governing party’s message on Morning Live the next day.
The DA felt this was far from good enough, and nowhere near equal treatment, though.
DA shadow minister of communications Phumzile Van Damme said in a statement that it had been “not just about the content of the broadcast but the principle that the public broadcaster must uphold”.
She reiterated the DA’s view that Ramaphosa’s message had been “irregular” and it was “unacceptable” for the public broadcaster to air his message uncritically and without balance while denying opposition parties the opportunity to do the same.
“The explanation that this [Ramaphosa] package was intrinsically newsworthy is dishonest because, had that been the reason, they would have aired it as part of a news bulletin and not a special broadcast,” Van Damme said.
She said this was proof that the SABC had become the ANC’s mouthpiece once again.
“Major political parties should enjoy equitable coverage on the SABC, particularly when it comes to matters of national importance,” Van Damme said.
The party also alleged that they had evidence the ANC-specific message had been prepacked by the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS), another alleged abuse of state resources.
She claimed the GCIS had distributed the video to a number of media houses.
On Thursday morning, Van Damme said they had received confirmation from the SABC’s group executive for news and current affairs, Phathiswa Magopeni, that the public broadcaster would not be airing Maimane’s statement on the economy and land expropriation without compensation, and they had no interest in doing so.
She said: “This was the new SABC management and board’s first opportunity to truly display its independence, and it has failed miserably and balked to Luthuli House by denying opposition parties airtime as is required by s31(1) of the BCCSA Code of Conduct.”
She said Magopeni had told them that since the DA had already reported the matter to the BCCSA its obligations in terms of s13(1) were “rendered moot”.
“This is disingenuous,” Van Damme responded.
“The DA reporting the matter to the BCCSA did not in any way absolve the SABC from fulfilling its obligation in terms of the Code of Conduct. It had the opportunity to act in good faith, and resolve the matter by giving the DA, and indeed, other political parties represented in parliament, the opportunity to state its views like it did for the president of the ANC.
“Instead it has chosen the Hlaudi Motsoeneng-esque route of engaging in litigation at the BCCSA, an independent judicial tribunal, no doubt spending money on lawyers that it could have otherwise used to pay the producers it owes money.”
She said the DA would wait for the BCCSA to make its ruling.
“We trust that the BCCSA will rule in a manner that will set a precedent for broadcasters that willingly disobey its code of conduct.”