The ANC has been engaging in heated exchanges with the SABC regarding the party’s election coverage this past week, according to a report in the City Press.
The party’s head of elections Fikile Mbalula reportedly accused the public broadcaster of implementing a “clampdown” and “blackout” against ANC election coverage.
He reportedly became angry with the broadcaster for not providing the ruling party with enough coverage of its rallies and events around the country.
In response, SABC editors told Mbalula that the ANC received coverage from the broadcaster on so many events leading up to its manifesto launch that journalists had to actively search for other parties’ activities to cover to prevent giving the ruling party too much coverage.
Mbalula denied allegations that he acted threateningly towards the SABC.
“I wanted to understand their approach to their coverage of political parties. We discussed things nicely, it was cordial,” Mbalula said.
“I told them that the ANC deserves fair coverage and asked how they would cover the biggest party, because the ANC is huge and campaigns everywhere.”
Opposition party leaders have previously stated that political interference from the ANC is a major problem at the SABC.
According to the report, the SABC also repeatedly faces threats from the ANC that its board will be dissolved, which has severely impacted its resilience to political maneuvering.
The SABC’s mandate when it comes to covering elections is to function as an independent media entity, covering the activities of all major political parties equally.
This means that while bigger parties may in some cases receive additional coverage due to their larger number of rallies or events, the SABC attempts to balance this saturation with additional content from other parties.
Political adverts shows on television are a different story, however, and ICASA has passed new rules which aim to ensure an equal battlefield for election advertising.
ICASA published amended regulations last month which require that broadcasting service providers make 10 time slots of 50 seconds each available for political adverts each day.
“The most important aspect for the regulations during the election period is finding the right balance between the respect for editorial independence and the need for rules to guarantee that media coverage does not disadvantage other participants,” said ICASA.
The allocation of these time slots for political advertisements must follow existing regulations, ICASA said, and each political advert must be clearly identified in a similar manner to each other when broadcast.
In addition to providing parties with an unbiased platform for political advertising, ICASA added that broadcasters are encouraged to provide unbiased and independent coverage of the elections in the interest of the general public.