ICASA recommends R500,000 fine for SABC after refusing to play DA advert

ICASA’s Complaints and Compliance Committee has recommended that the SABC should be fined half a million rand for refusing to play a Democratic Alliance (DA) advertisement.

The committee’s chair, Judge Thokozile Masipa, also recommended that ICASA direct the SABC to end its refusal to broadcast the advertisement.

The DA’s advert, which depicted the national flag burning, had been labelled treasonous by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Nyiko Shibambo, SABC complaints specialist, then wrote to ICASA to tell it that the SABC would not publish the advert.

“The SABC believes that the advertisement encourages damage of treasured national symbols,” said Shibambo.

“The national flag is a national symbol, which represents diverse elements of the country and national unity.”

“The SABC has also noted the condemnation of the advertisement by the president of the Republic and other government departments.”

In response, DA leader John Steenhuisen accused the SABC of basing its decision on the opinion of the ANC president and ministers.

“The ANC deployees at the SABC are saying that, because the ANC president and because ANC ministers don’t like our advert, they’re not going to show it to South Africa,” said Steenhuisen.

“They are banning the advert because they know it tells the truth about the ANC.”

The DA said the advert was meant to show that “life will only get worse” if the ANC, EFF, and a faction of Zuma loyalists form a coalition government.

The ruling

In her ruling, Masipa disagreed with the SABC’s claim that rejecting the advert was within its editorial rights.

“The SABC, though not obliged to broadcast political advertisements, made a choice to broadcast such advertisements. Once it had made that choice, it became obliged to afford all other political parties, including the DA, which submitted its political advertisement to it, a like opportunity,” said Masipa.

Masipa also agreed with Steenhuisen that the President’s opinion of the advert was “not a legally recognised reason” to reject it.

“By allowing the views of the president and government officials or the public’s reception of the political advertisement to influence its decision in rejecting the DA’s political advertisement, the SABC discriminated against the DA, as a political party,” said Masipa.

Lastly, Masipa said that none of the the SABC’s reasons for rejecting the advert justified the advert to be perceived as “hate speech deserving of censure.”

The SABC has acknowledged the ruling in a press statement, but did not indicate how, if at all, it would respond.

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ICASA recommends R500,000 fine for SABC after refusing to play DA advert