Sandile Memela
Sandile Memela

Nothing unusual about SABC…er, censorship

Since the ANC took political power and governance from white minority rule 18 years ago, the SABC has been a highly contested terrain.

What I have noticed is that the wise guys in the so-called private-owned media and their networks have the same predictable attitude to attack its integrity at every opportunity, even for the silliest mistake.

Maybe acting chief operations officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng had a legitimate reason to cancel the show of three so-called independent journalists discussing the ANC without any representation from the organisation. Or maybe he was mistaken. Or it is something that has not been done before but he was trying to do things differently. But the more I read commentary on the alleged banning of wise political editors the more I see how everything done to defend the SABCs choices will not be allowed to see the light of day.

And let the record show, I am neither an apologist for the SABC nor a defender of the ANC. But the wise guys in the so-called independent press — and their cohorts in academia and civil society — are going overboard in attacking the SABC’s choices. They are always going on about independence and objectivity as if these concepts are not subjective or a myth.

A critical reading of the press reveals neither balance nor objectivity in how the wise guys cover stories on the ANC, especially in the build up towards Mangaung. The wise guys in the press may be exquisite in their defence of freedom of expression and the media but they are delusional to think that anyone believes they are fair, correct, truth and objective when it comes to covering or speaking about the ANC.

Their fundamental belief is that anything that is done by the SABC leadership is always to protect the ANC. In fact, deep down they believe for journalists and radio talk-shows in the SABC to be regarded as independent they must not only expose the foolishness of the ANC leadership but fight for their freedom from political control.

It would seem that some journalists in the SABC ranks are beginning to buy into this false notion. What worsens the situation is the political naivety of its young producers. They seem to, now, believe that to be honourable they must do like former SAfm talk-show host John Perlman who snitched on some decision taken at the highest level. Anyone who believes in absolute freedom of the media must see a psychiatrist. The wise guys in the press know that if they do not please their profit-driven bosses they will be pressured or fired. So, they toe the line, too.

Maybe it is the same at the SABC. So, the biggest sin that has been committed by Motsoeneng is to require balance in how the ANC is covered. On the matter of balance, there will be no agreement. The guys at the SABC may seek for ANC’s participation on issues relating to the organisation. In contrast, the wise guys in the press may believe that covering stories on the ANC means shutting it out completely and giving it no space to breath. There is no right or wrong in this matter. But the wise guys in the press will attack anything and anybody that desires to make the ANC smell like roses. Their agenda is to undermine and, ultimately, destroy the oldest liberation movement in the continent.

You don’t have to trust me when I say the media is neither balanced nor objective. It always has an agenda, what they call an angle. Also, it suffers from a herd mentality. Why does the press condemn every decision of the SABC, for instance? Where is the diversity of opinion? And the freedom of expression, especially of the SABC top dogs, for instance? I believe freedom of expression happens only when we defend the right of those we disagree with. Motsoeneng is entitled to his opinion. But nobody is defending his and the SABC’s right to look at things differently. The wise guys in the press only want to shut them up so that courage, independence and fearless in the media always means being against the ANC.

What I know is that it is odd that the political party with the greatest support in the country has no media that supports or affirms its views. I have been an insider in the newspaper business and I know what is required for a journalist to rise in the ranks: not only be anti-ANC but make 1000% profits for money-worshiping shareholders.
So, what the hell is going on with this alleged SABC debacle? I think it is about time that someone stood up to challenge the wise guys in the press, especially their one-dimensional view of the ANC and herd mentality that does not promote diversity of views.

As I understand, it was journalists who were going to be referees on how the ANC is covered in the media. But these are the same guys who are players in the media game. I don’t understand why the Freedom of Expression Institute or some professors in ivory towers, for instance, are not questioning that.

But I believe the matter is not just about the alleged SABC banning of a talk show. They have explained themselves and people are free to differ. What Motsoeneng is perhaps pointing out is that those who accuse the SABC of bias cannot deny that they, too, are biased. In the opinion of the wise press guys there is nothing good that can come out of the SABC or ANC.

Maybe we should thank Motsoeneng for his guts to stand up to the wise guys in the press. Finally, there is someone who has a different understanding of balance that does not always mean an oppositional role of the media to the ANC. Who knows, we may have to thank him one day for bringing a different understanding and interpretation of balance. In a democratic society there should always be those who support the ANC and those who are opposed to the ANC.

The media – including the SABC – may need to be more introspective, keep an open mind when critics point out examples of bias and systematically work to stop getting caught up in commercial enterprise or political partisanship. After all, the role of the media is to inform and educate. Unfortunately, journalists and editors often give us their opinions rather than discourse that is fair, factual, accurate, correct and truthful.

Okay, maybe it is too harsh to ban a talk show. But let us engage Motsoeneng and the SABC to debate the meaning of balance to agree that objectivity is a myth. Neither the wise guys nor the SABC are innocent!

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  • 9 Responses to “Nothing unusual about SABC…er, censorship”

    1. Benzo #

      SABC management has been largely (directly or indirectly) appointed by the state. There is by definition a certain frorm of dependency.
      As the saying goes: don’t bite the hand that feeds you.

      In this case, management has taken the route of preventing a potential (or expected) embarrasment for their masters.They have shown where their loyalties lie. Just confirming what many people already think anyway.

      The old SABC was very similar. Many wil remember the interrupted interview with mr Hendriks after he had publicly visited a “white only” beach. PW Botha stopped the interview.
      Early morning radio was often a tool to explain why the Nats were being so great in a patronising lecture.
      SABC and “free press” are not easy bed fellows.

      During WW2 the Germans ordered all radio’s to be handed in and replaced them with wired radio. Their military successes were happilty reported, later to be replaced by “succesfull strategic re-grouping”. My father had kept his radio (naughty boy) and could compare the news given by “Radio Oranje” based in the UK.

      Today most of us have many radio and TV stations to tune in to. Over and above that…..there is the internet. Many governments in the world hate it with a passion.
      Luckily, there are enough hackers who can outsmart governments.
      The game of “cat and mouse”.

      December 7, 2012 at 2:07 pm
    2. Len #

      I find myself reading different newspapers, and differing opinions from all South Africans in order to get balance for myself. The most difficult task I have is moving my moral compass.
      I find that in order to try and find something positive from the ANC, I have to tell myself that I have to ignore the very dark cloud around Zuma, ignore the militant nature of the ANC/ANCYL democratic processes, ignore the acceptance of very bad execution of ministerial duties, the procession of corrupt leaders of police, the unsound appointments in the NPA, etc tec
      None of these occurred because of biased reporting – these were all taken through a process where these allegations were either proved true or the case dismissed under very dubious circumstances.
      Put the DA one side, they are not leading the country and if they did, I know they will get the same scrutiny as the ANC is getting now.
      I CANNOT as an intelligent South African accept that our leaders are so morally bankrupt – there is absolutely no integrity when it comes to dealing with incompetence, corruption, mismanagement, etc etc
      Against the backdrop of all of this, the problem is not balanced reporting, it is the inability to lead by example and the inability to accept responsibility and accountability for the job they were chosen to do. Get this right and maybe there will be some positives in the press – right now they have no material to go with.

      December 8, 2012 at 5:19 am
    3. Peter L #

      Sandile,
      The SABC – especially SABC TV News and SABC English Service radio (now termed SAfm) has always been used a a tool to dissemanate government propaganda.
      First the nats did so, now the ANC do so.

      TV viewers – including ANC supporters, who are in the majority – are voting with their remote controls when it comes to the News – viewership of SABC News on TV is at the lowest levels ever, and the declining trend continues (source: AMPS).

      Your assertion that the media are all out to denigrate / “get” the ANC, is not supported by the facts.

      To suggest that the (print only?) media, civil society and academia are involved in some kind of unholy trinity to put down the ANC at every turn is ridiculous.

      All the media have to do to make the ANC look incompetent, corrupt and foolish is to report the facts.

      Like you, I like to hear all sides of the story — various opinions and interpretations of what the facts mean – what the implications are, and then make up my own mind.

      The SABC does not do this – they report one side – the ANC’s take on matters..

      Where is the Obama versus Romney robust style live TV debate between Zuma and Zille or Zuma and Lekota?
      We all know why this will never happen on SABC TV.

      Do you make room for the possibility that your own choice of language – ie “wise guys in the media” “Professors in Ivory towers” raises the possibility of something less than total objectivity on the matter, on your own part?

      December 8, 2012 at 11:36 am
    4. nguni #

      ‘wise guys of the media’, ‘herd mentality’, again and again ad absurdum.
      Memela you remain an ANC apologist, defending the indefensible.
      We should thank Motsoeneng for standing up to the ‘wise guys’ of the press?
      No, we would be amazed to see him have the BALLS to stand up to his ANC masters..

      December 9, 2012 at 1:30 am
    5. “And let the record show, I am neither an apologist for the SABC nor a defender of the ANC.”

      And let the record show that Sandile is a bare-faced liar.

      December 9, 2012 at 6:26 pm
    6. jandr0 #

      @Sandile: “But the wise guys in the press will attack anything and anybody that desires to make the ANC smell like roses. Their agenda is to undermine and, ultimately, destroy the oldest liberation movement in the continent.”

      I enjoy debating issues. Debating requires logical reasoning, and its two key aspect of sound and valid arguments. The above two statements fly in the face of logic reasoning. They are completely subjective. They have no basis in fact.

      I don’t even see the reason to debate such statements. Therefore, my reaction:

      Hogwash. Absolute, utter hogwash.

      For Sandile, please research the three necessary conditions for causation.

      December 9, 2012 at 6:52 pm
    7. khoisan #

      “ but they are delusional to think that anyone believes they are fair, correct, truth and objective when it comes to covering or speaking about the ANC.”

      Sadly more true than ever…

      December 18, 2012 at 12:27 pm
    8. khoisan #

      @jandr#
      News flash… its a BLOG.. not a white paper (no pun intended)…. or thesis

      December 18, 2012 at 12:30 pm
    9. khoisan #

      “The wise guys in the press know that if they do not please their profit-driven bosses they will be pressured or fired. So, they toe the line, too.”

      And there lies the weakness in your thinking, all profit is not based on greed. Methinks this is the Marx voice in you? I must make one wonder, why would news sell that depicts the ANC as a corrupt, morally bankrupt organisation… is this because the buying public have already caught on to this notion without much effort, media-wise or other?

      December 18, 2012 at 12:39 pm

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