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SABC may face hefty fine over protest footage ruling

Politics
Cape Town – The SABC could be fined as much as R1million for failing to implement the ruling of the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa to lift the ban on the broadcast of violent protests.

Icasa told Parliament on Tuesday it had lodged criminal charges with the Hawks against the SABC for failing to lift the ban. It has been more than six months since Icasa ordered the SABC to lift the ban.

Icasa councillor Nomvuyiso Batyi, who was briefing the portfolio committee on communications on the SABC’s non-compliance with the order, said the contravention of the Icasa Act has a number of penalties.

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A person found guilty of the offences was liable for a fine of R1m.

Batyi said despite numerous letters of demand to the SABC the public broadcaster had failed to implement its decision.

But SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago denied this on Tuesday, saying the broadcaster had fully complied with the decision. He said it even went public to announce that it had overturned the decision to ban violent protests.

“The fact of the matter is that we went public that we are rescinding that decision and we accept the ruling of Icasa. If anybody has issues they must raise issues,” said Kganyago.

Batyi said they had been asking the SABC to comply with the ruling for months – to no avail.

They opened a case with the Hawks and the matter was out of their hands now.

But MPs questioned whether Icasa had teeth to implement its decisions. Mondli Gungubele, of the ANC, said Icasa was not effective in its job and executing its mandate.

“Icasa goes to the police and now the Hawks; we don’t know when the Hawks will investigate,” said Gungubele.

He added that the status of Icasa was not that of a regulator with powers to enforce its decisions.

“When you are a regulator you must act on those you are regulating. How effective are they. The SABC alone demonstrates there are serious problems,” said the ANC MP.

He was supported by Phumzile van Damme of the DA who said Icasa needed to be more decisive.

“Notwithstanding the point raised by Gungubele, we need Icasa with teeth,” she said.

The Icasa Act was clear that failing to comply with its decision the guilty party was liable to a fine of R1m.

This could be the fine imposed on the SABC if found guilty in a court of law.

Batyi said despite the ruling being made last year the SABC has not implemented it.

The worse case scenario was for Icasa to revoke the licence of the SABC, but that would be at the expense of the public.

This was done to repeat offenders that violated Icasa rules and regulations, and the terms and conditions of their licence.

Political Bureau

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