An SABC decision to move editorial control of talk shows on politics and governance to news has far-reaching implications, Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) said on Wednesday.
“Not only for the broadcaster's radio services, but most importantly, for the listeners, as it adds a new level of bureaucracy to talk show programmes,” MMA director William Bird said in a statement.
“The decision is a significant shift from existing practice in relation to talk shows and programmes, and is likely to have far-reaching implications for the operations of the SABC stations and News Division.”
On Tuesday, SABC acting chief operations officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng said this decision would allow a “centralised way” of dealing with issues of a political nature in a “coherent and systematic way” and in line with their editorial policy.
Bird said the classification used by the SABC was broad and likely to affect most talk shows that discussed political or government-related topics.
Any debate or discussion on service delivery, police brutality, government corruption, poverty, inequality, racism, teenage pregnancy, the public health system, social grants, accountability, e-tolling, transformation in sport, media, education might not happen, Bird said.
“The concern is that presenters and producers and show hosts may be tempted to shut down discussions rather than open them up if they fear violating the new process.”
There was also potential for the decision to add to concerns of editorial interference, Bird added.
He said a letter written by a group of SABC reporters, presenters and producers highlighted the fears of political interference.
“It is critical that the decision does not result in presenters feeling they have little option but to resign, or feeling they aren't able to do their jobs as freely as a result of an additional layer of bureaucracy,” he said.
“While there may be legitimate concern over balance and fairness of talk shows, it would seem the most appropriate place to raise these issues and any existing inadequacies in the SABC policies would be when the SABC conducts its editorial policy review.”
The MMA called on the SABC to revoke its decision until a full, transparent and public editorial policy review had taken place.
Bird said MMA would keep a close eye on developments. - Sapa