e.tv and eNCA fined R10k by BCCSA for episode of Gareth Cliff's 'So What Now?'

Gareth Cliff

Gareth Cliff. Picture: Instagram

Published Nov 3, 2020

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In an official Broadcasting Complaints Commission of SA (BCCSA) ruling e.tv and eNCA have been fined R10 000 for broadcasting a specific episode of Gareth Cliff’s show, “So What Now?” that aired on July 22 during the height of the Covid-19 global pandemic.

In the episode Cliff interviewed conspiracy theorist David Icke.

At the crux of the interview with Icke was the assertion that Covid-19 does not exist, and that the concerns regarding the pandemic are a scam who viewed the Covid-19 pandemic as a hoax and who said that “there was no virus”.

Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) submitted their complaint to the BCCSA after the show aired stating that the contents of the broadcast were unlawful, harmful, and in breach of the provisions of both the Subscription Broadcast Code of Conduct and the Free to Air Code of Conduct.

In official documents MMA said: “MMA submits that the broadcast was harmful for at least three key reasons: (i) first, the broadcast intentionally disseminated disinformation based on facts that were untrue; (ii) second, the broadcast promoted unlawful conduct that was in violation of the regulations issued under the Disaster Management Act; and (iii) third, by denying the existence of Covid-19 and claiming it to be a scam, the consequence of the broadcast may result in people not following appropriate precautionary and health measures in line with the advice of the relevant authorities”.

The BCCSA tribunal which consisted of Professor HP Viljoen (chairperson), Nokubonga Fakude (commissioner) and Edwin Naidu (commissioner) found that comments made during the interview were not justifiable nor reasonable because the misinformation spread by the interviewee could cause harm to the people of South Africa.

They also found that the interview did not constitute a discussion of controversial issues of public importance.

And that the material unsuitable for children was not contravened because the broadcast on eNCA, although broadcast at 8.30pm, was after the watershed. They also said that the BCCSA has no jurisdiction to order the removal of a programme from a website of the broadcaster.

The BCCSA fined the broadcasters R10 000 which is to be paid by November 15 to the Registrar of the BCCSA.

And the broadcasting of an apology by both broadcasters at the start of the programme “So what now?” the first episode after publication of this judgement.

The apology written by the BCCSA is as follows:

“On 22 and 23 July 2020, eNCA and eTV broadcast an interview with Mr David Icke, known as a conspiracy theorist, on the show titled “So what now?”.

“In that interview, Mr Icke set forth his theories about the Covid-19 pandemic, which included false information claiming the pandemic to be a hoax and a scam and that there was no virus.

“Media Monitoring Africa complained that the show breached the relevant broadcasting codes in a series of respects.

“Its complaint has now been upheld by the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa, which has held that the show breached the codes.

“This was because the show contained views expressed which were not based on any facts truly stated or fairly indicated and referred to and thus exceeded the limits of freedom of expression.

“Both eNCA and e.tv do not agree with or support the views expressed by Mr Icke relating to the existence of Covid-19 which continues to be a pandemic affecting the citizens of South Africa.

“Both eNCA and e.tv apologise for the fact that it did not protect the people of South Africa from the potential harm and misinformation contained in the interview.”

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