MEDIA STATEMENT BY THE
INKATHA FREEDOM PARTY


Joint Statement - COPE, IFP Request Urgent Action Against
Hlaudi Motsoeneng

5th September 2013    

 

Following more disconcerting statements made by the SABC's Acting Chief Operations Officer, Mr Hlaudi Motsoeneng, this week, COPE and the IFP have requested urgent intervention by the interim SABC Board to safeguard the credibility of the SABC.

 

The Acting COO's recent pronouncement that news programmes should be "balanced with 70% good news and 30% bad news" is without a doubt his latest attempt to influence editorial content of news and public affairs programming.

 

Both parties are of the opinion that in order to protect the editorial independence of the SABC, the interim Board must act now and act decisively to prevent any proposed editorial interference. A failure to do so will send the message that Mr Motsoeneng has the interim Board's consent in his endeavours to curtail the editorial independence of the SABC.

 

Below is a copy of the letter that has been sent by the two parties to the Acting Interim Board Chairperson, Ms Ellen Tshabalala.

 

Issued by:

Ms Juli Killian, MP (COPE) and Ms Liezl van der Merwe, MP (IFP).

 

For more information contact: Ms Juli Killian, MP, on 082 8247 459.

 

 

 

 

5 September 2013

 

SUBMITTED BY EMAIL Ms Z E Tshabalala

 

Chairperson: SABC Board 

SABC 

Private Bag X1 

Auckland Park

 

URGENT

 

Dear Ms Tshabalala,

 

NON-COMPLIANCE WITH BROADCASTING ACT AND LICENSING CONDITIONS

 

The Acting Chief Operations Officer of the SABC, Mr Hlaudi Motsoeneng, has made several public pronouncements which point to attempts to influence news and public affairs programming content, raising fundamental questions about the SABC's editorial independence. After a public outcry, he was apparently reprimanded by the previous SABC Board.

 

The Acting COO's recent pronouncement that news programmes should be "balanced with 70% good news and 30% bad news" is his latest attempt to influence editorial content of news and public affairs programming.  He advanced this idea again yesterday and used the public broadcaster as his platform. These remarks should have been publicly repudiated by the current Board, which is by law the custodian of the values and principles guiding the public broadcaster.

 

The core ethical principles of journalism, broadly reflected within the SABC's editorial policies, focus on the truth, independence and accountability.

 

Fairness is crucial here, not whether or not stories have a positive or negative spin. Mr Motsoeneng's utterances amount to a form of censorship, which is in clear contravention of the SABC's editorial codes.

 

Crucially, the issue of the SABC's editorial independence is again sharply drawn into focus by the fact that it is the Acting COO making these calls. There is no mention of the role of the Executive in the SABC's editorial policies. It is therefore abundantly clear that Mr Motsoeneng has aspirations to control the SABC's news processes.

 

As stated before, this is not the first time that Mr Motsoeneng has attempted to influence news and current affairs programme content. Previously, he unilaterally decided to gag a Metro FM talk show in the run-up to the ANC's elective conference in Mangaung and blocked the broadcasting of a humorous fish and chips advertisement that played on President Jacob Zuma's large family.

 

He subsequently launched what staff called a "witch hunt" in an attempt to find out who was leaking unfavourable information about him to the media.

 

Mr Motsoeneng now appears to abuse his acting position to advance his permanent appointment through personal profiling on TV and radio news bulletins. The main TV news bulletins on 3 and 4 September 2013 showcased Mr Motsoeneng. On 4 September, it was reported that Mr Motsoeneng received support for his permanent appointment from the Free State Provincial Government. Apart from influencing news content, he now also appears to hijack the news bulletins of the public broadcaster for his personal advancement. That is clearly unacceptable conduct and is viewed in a very serious light.

 

We believe that in order to protect the editorial independence of the SABC, the interim Board must act now and act decisively to prevent any proposed editorial interference. A failure to do so will send the message that Mr Motsoeneng has the interim Board's consent in his endeavours to curtail the editorial independence of the SABC.

 

We therefore request you to inform us of immediate steps taken to discipline the Acting COO, and to repudiate the statements he has made, failing which we will consider lodging a formal complaint with ICASA for non-compliance with the public broadcaster's licensing conditions and the Authority's Code of Conduct.

 

We are keenly awaiting your written response.

 

Yours faithfully,

 

Ms J Kilian, MP & Ms L van der Merwe, MP

 

Members of the Communication Portfolio Committee

 

(Transmitted electronically therefore not signed)

 

Cc Chairperson: Communications PC