The DA has slammed the public broadcaster SABC for the millions spent on covering the governing ANC’s January 8 statement since 2014.
The DA’s Phumzile Van Damme said the SABC has spent R2.2 million on covering the ANC’s January 8 statement since 2014, a figure which she said came “second only to the state of the nation address in terms of event coverage expenditure”.
Van Damme said the figure was revealed in a reply to a DA parliamentary question to the minister of communications requesting the amount the SABC had spent on broadcasting events of national importance.
She said the money spent on the ANC’s annual January 8 statement was more than what was spent covering the budget speech (R2 million), World Aids Day (R1.2 million), and Human Rights Day coverage with R1.3 million spent on coverage.
“While we acknowledge the relevance of broadcasting the January 8 statement, the SABC classifying this as an event of national importance is improper,” Van Damme said.
“Nor is the speech delivered by the state president, in his capacity as ANC president at the event. Thus, the SABC’s expenditure covering this event as one of national importance is in violation of its own editorial policy.”
She said according to the public broadcaster’s editorial policy, events of national importance are events that “may include the opening of parliament, the budget speech, state occasions such as visits by foreign dignitaries and state funerals, major commemorative occasions, and the proceedings of national commissions of inquiry. Other events that may warrant live coverage and involve scheduling and programming changes include major parliamentary debates, the opening of provincial legislatures, and significant conferences of the major political parties”.
“The [SABC’s] editorial policy clearly does not mention party-political birthday parties as events of national importance.
“In a democracy, it is crucial that the public broadcaster provide coverage to political party events, however, the broadcaster should also provide equal exposure to significant events of all major political parties.”
She said this prompted the DA to make submissions on the review of the SABC’s editorial policy.
The DA submitted that the list of what was considered an event of national importance should be tightened and be limited to the state of the nation address, the debate on the state of the nation address, the budget speech, state funerals, state commemorative events, proceedings of national commissions of inquiry, significant conferences of major political parties, and major announcements by the state president.
“We look forward to the publication of the SABC’s editorial policy taking into consideration the submissions [the DA has made]. We also look forward to an undertaking from the SABC that it will not again willingly violate its own editorial policy by giving [a] live broadcast to the ANC’s birthday party in 2019 as an event of national importance.”
Previously, the DA took issue with the SABC broadcasting President Cyril Ramaphosa’s late-night feedback on the ANC’s two-day legkotla in Gauteng earlier this year in his capacity as the head of the governing party.