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Press release: ICASA declares amend­ments to the SABC’s edi­to­r­ial poli­cies invalid

On the 8 March 2017, the Coun­cil of the Inde­pen­dent Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Author­ity of South Africa (ICASA), act­ing on the rec­om­men­da­tion of the Com­plaints and Com­pli­ance Com­mit­tee (CCC), declared the South African Broad­cast­ing Cor­po­ra­tion (SABC) Board’s 2016 amend­ment of its edi­to­r­ial poli­cies to be invalid.

 

The SOS Sup­port Broad­cast­ing Coali­tion and Media Mon­i­tor­ing Africa, rep­re­sented by the Legal Resources Cen­tre, chal­lenged the amend­ments to the SABC’s edi­to­r­ial poli­cies on the basis that the SABC had failed to pub­lish the pro­posed amend­ments to its edi­to­r­ial poli­cies for pub­lic com­ment before accept­ing the amend­ments on 25 Jan­u­ary 2016. This fail­ure, it was argued, was a breach of the SABC’s duty to engage in pub­lic par­tic­i­pa­tion in terms of sec­tion 6(6) of the Broad­cast­ing Act, 1999.

 

As noted in the rul­ing, the amend­ment to the edi­to­r­ial poli­cies con­tained a num­ber of sig­nif­i­cant revi­sions that were of con­cern to the com­plainants, includ­ing that –

-          It altered the sub­stance of the upward refer­ral pol­icy, by which the CEO would be replaced by the COO to resolve dis­putes;

-          It removed the pro­hi­bi­tion on hid­den cam­eras and sen­sa­tional report­ing in the cov­er­age of crime;

-          It removed the oblig­a­tions to exer­cise care when inter­view­ing peo­ple with­out broad­cast expe­ri­ence;

-          It removed the oblig­a­tion on staff to con­sult the office of the Chief Legal Advi­sor;

-          It removed guid­ance on pri­vacy issues.

 

The CCC ruled that, in fail­ing to pub­lish the draft amended poli­cies and invite com­ment on them, pub­lic par­tic­i­pa­tion had not taken place in terms of sec­tion 6(6) of the Broad­cast­ing Act.  The CCC described this omis­sion as “sub­stan­tial”, find­ing that the duty to engage in pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion is “an essen­tial con­di­tion” of the Broad­cast­ing Act.

 

Accord­ingly, the CCC held that the 2016 amend­ment by the SABC Board to its edi­to­r­ial poli­cies were invalid in terms of the Broad­cast­ing Act, and that the 2004 edi­to­r­ial poli­cies there­fore remain valid.

 

A copy of the rul­ing is acces­si­ble here and Annex­ure here.

 


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