No one tells us what to do – Hlaudi

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The SABC will take the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa’s (Icasa) ruling on its protest coverage policy on review and defend it all the way to the Constitutional Court if it needs to, chief operations officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng declared today.

Icasa this afternoon directed the public broadcaster to withdraw its controversial policy of not showing violent protests on its television channels.

It also explicitly backdated this recommendation to 26 May – which would effectively mean that the SABC would have to also withdraw its decisions to discipline staff members who have defied the protest footage ban.

This followed a complaint by three NGOs – Media Monitoring Africa, the SOS Support Public Broadcasting Coalition and the Freedom of Expression Institute.

Shortly after Icasa made its ruling known at a press conference, the SABC held its own media conference at its Auckland Park headquarters to announce that it would not retract its policy.

“No one is going to tell us what to do. We are on track. We are not apologetic,” said Motsoeneng.

“We will not be influenced by people outside – or internally. We are challenging the ruling, even if it has to go to the Constitutional Court.”

Motsoeneng, SABC board chairperson Mbulaheni Maguvhe and board member Ndivhoniswani Tshidzumba also used the conference to dismiss a report this weekend by the Sunday Times alleging that the SABC’s finances have deteriorated to the point where it is seeking an urgent R1.5 billion debt facility from commercial banks.

They also refuted the allegation that a TV show involving President Jacob Zuma’s daughter, Gugu, was renewed by Motsoeneng despite an internal recommendation that it get canned.

The show in question, Uzalo, is actually one of the SABC’s top performing shows in terms of both revenue and audience numbers, claimed Motsoeneng.

“You cannot say that state-owned companies cannot ever do business with politicians’ families,” he said.

“We don’t look at these things, we don’t care if it is the president’s daughter.”

Maguvhe said the SABC is “sticking to its story” despite the Icasa ruling.

Instead of censorship, the policy is simply an expression of the SABC’s “editorial style”, he said.

Motsoeneng said that he frequently overruled decisions at the SABC because that is his job.

“I overrule many decisions. That is my duty as COO.”

According to Motsoeneng the “hullabaloo” about him and his policies – most recently the one on coverage of protests and the 90% local content requirement on SABC platforms – is driven by disgruntled vested interests.

Some people who have been “eating chocolate cake” were not happy to now eat “small cake”, he said.

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