M-Net does not want to be associated with a person who is largely perceived to be a racist, the High Court in Johannesburg heard on Tuesday in response to an application brought by axed Idols judge Gareth Cliff.
“What M-Net is saying, is that your view and conduct has received response from a large constituency that you are a poster boy for racism,” said Wim Trengove, SC, for M-Net.
“M-Net is not obliged to have someone who made a fool of himself as a judge for Idols,” said Trengove.
There was no contract with Cliff that existed for this season, he said, adding that even if there were, M-Net was allowed to cancel it with a week’s notice.
Cliff was dropped as judge after he tweeted a response to Penny Sparrow, an estate agent who caused a stir on social media when she called black people monkeys. Cliff said he tweeted to defend her right to freedom of speech, but that this did not mean he was a racist.
Trengove said Cliff’s tweet was widely understood to have defended Sparrow’s tweet.
M-Net was not obliged to have someone who had made a fool of himself as their brand ambassador.
It did not matter that Cliff claimed he was not a racist because his view on free speech made it seem as though he defended Sparrow’s act of racism, said Trengove.
M-Net wanted to avoid a situation where it held Idols auditions while protesters demonstrated outside, accusing them of employing racists.
Trengove said M-Net’s decision to drop Cliff was in response to the public’s call to boycott the show for as long as Cliff was a part of it.
Cliff wants a court order to be reinstated as judge, and if that is unsuccessful, he wants an order halting upcoming Idols auditions.