Icasa rules as invalid the 2016 amendment of SABC editorial policies

12 Mar 2017

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”.

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