The Council of the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) has declared as invalid the 2016 amendment of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) editorial policies.
ICASA’s ruling came after 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 the Broadcasting Act.
The ruling noted that 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.
ICASA ruled that in failing to publish the draft amended policies and invite comment on them, public participation had not taken place and described this omission as “substantial”.