SABC mulling over judgment on canned DA elections advert

The DA advert shows the SA flag in the background, and it is titled “This election is about survival”.

The DA advert shows the SA flag in the background, and it is titled “This election is about survival”.

Published May 27, 2024


The SABC said on Sunday that it was consulting over a judgment handed down by communications regulator Icasa on the public broadcaster’s decision to ban a DA political advert.

The Independent Communications Authority of SA ordered the broadcaster to resume flighting the advert and it recommended that the SABC be fined R500 000 for banning the ad from its public service television channels due to “prejudice caused to the DA”.

The DA advert shows the SA flag in the background, and it is titled “This election is about survival”.

As the flag burns in the background, a voice says: “The ANC will lose the majority vote for the first time in 30 years but will do anything to stay in power.”

As the flag is engulfed by flames, the voice says a coalition of the ANC, EFF and the Zuma faction will see an escalation of corruption.

The SABC subsequently wrote to Icasa and said it would no longer air the advert, as it “encourages damage to treasured national symbols”.

Judge Thokozile Masipa, who chaired Icasa’s complaints and compliance committee (CCC), questioned the SABC’s rationale for banning the advert and said the broadcaster had no legal basis for doing so.

Judge Masipa implied that the SABC might have been influenced by the public outcry, including from the government.

In a response to “The Mercury” on the way forward, the broadcaster said: “The SABC is studying the decision by Icasa and will chart a way forward once we have consulted on its implications”.

DA national spokesperson Solly Malatsi said the party welcomed the ruling and their focus now was on ensuring that they get “every DA voter to vote for the party so we can rescue SA”.

The advert created a stir on social media, with President Cyril Ramaphosa describing it as “treasonous”.

The CCC found the SABC had no legal basis for the ban, and recommended the broadcaster be fined R500 000 to be paid in full within seven days of the judgment.

It directs the SABC to comply with its duties under the Electronic Broadcasting Act and to air the DA’s advertisement.

It further directed the SABC to desist from refusing to broadcast the DA’s political advertisement.

On May 10, the DA submitted an urgent complaint against the SABC which was referred to the CCC for urgent adjudication. The DA argued that the SABC, a public broadcasting service, unlawfully rejected the DA’s political advertisement.

The SABC argued it had exercised editorial discretion in rejecting the advertisement.

“It must be noted this ground was not among the reasons that the SABC initially gave for rejecting the political advertisement,” the judgment reads.

The DA, according to the judgment, correctly pointed out that the section of the regulation used by the SABC to argue its case had two parts.

One section argues that the SABC is under no obligation to broadcast political adverts, but the second part says this right essentially falls away if the SABC gives the platform to other political parties.

“In the present case, the SABC, though not obliged, 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 ... a like opportunity.”

By refusing to broadcast the DA’s advertisement, the SABC denied the DA such “like opportunity”, it said.

The ruling said the views of the government and its officials or the public’s reception are not among the reasons for a political advertisement to be rejected.

“By allowing the views of the president, 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,” it found.

Cape Times