SABC chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng has ordered that no negative coverage of President Jacob Zuma be broadcast because he “deserves a certain degree of respect as president of the country”.
This is according to an investigation by City Press’ sister newspaper Rapport into the state of affairs at the SABC.
Motsoeneng reportedly gave the instruction to the broadcaster’s middle management team at an imbizo held three weeks ago.
Motsoeneng told City Press last night: “I don’t know what you are talking about, talk to [SABC spokesperson] Kaizer Kganyago.”
Kganyago said: “It is not true. People are just obsessed with Hlaudi.”
Rapport reported that Motsoeneng also ordered that all SABC camera operators be retrained because they “make him look shorter” than he really is.
Kganyago said the request was made so that the picture quality was “a true reflection” of the person being photographed.
The newspaper further revealed that staff at the SABC were also being brainwashed by Motsoeneng because they were forced to listen to his “rediffusion” discussions twice a week. “Rediffusion” is an internal TV broadcaast system at the SABC.
This comes after two senior editorial members of Radio Sonder Grense (RSG), an Afrikaans-language SABC radio station, and SABC business editor Thandeka Gqubule, were suspended last week after opposing Motsoeneng’s instruction not to cover an anti-censorship protest outside the broadcaster’s offices.
Rapport reported that a ban has also been placed on the reading of any newspaper headlines on RSG and that Jimi Matthews, the acting head of news, had blacklisted editors and journalists from rival publications.
“Then came the requirement that at least 80% of news coverage had to be positive. That raised a few eyebrows, but we knew there were big problems when Hlaudi suddenly banned coverage of violent protests,” the source said.
“That’s when the stories we covered started changing completely. Municipal and political stories slowly but surely began disappearing and the focus shifted to covering ceremonies rather than issues.”
An RSG journalist, who spoke to Rapport on condition of anonymity, said managers with more than 20 years of experience working at the SABC were feeling the pressure.
“I saw with my own eyes how visuals of the stadium emptying out during the president’s Youth Day address were cut out,” said one journalist. “And all of it in the name of nation building.”