DA warns on SABC ‘happy news’
Opposition MP Marian Shinn has claimed that the SABC is gearing up to be “government’s praise singer” in the 2014 general election.
Democratic Alliance MP Marian Shinn on Friday said she plans to write to SABC interim chair Ellen Tshabalala asking that she intervene to stop acting chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng from implementing a policy that 70% of the broadcasters bulletins consist of “happy news”.
She also said she wants Tshabalala to revoke the instruction of her predecessor, Ben Ngubane, that gave Motsoeneng the authority to oversee news coverage at the SABC.
Shinn’s decision to write to Tshabalala follows a Mail & Guardian interview with Motsoeneng in which he said he plans to introduce a policy that ensures 70% of SABC’s news bulletins are “happy news”.
“This is a clear indication that he plans to be government’s praise singer in the run-up to the 2014 general election,” Shinn said in a statement.
“This ‘policy’, should it be implemented, is in clear breach of the SABC’s editorial policy, the SABC’s charter and the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa’s code of conduct for free-to-air broadcasters, which all, broadly speaking, require high standards of journalistic integrity, fairness and solid news values to determine – without fear or favour — what is newsworthy.”
The commission’s code requires the SABC to report news truthfully, accurately and fairly, and to do so in the correct context and in a fair manner, without intentional or negligent departure from the facts, she said.
“Truthfulness, accuracy and fairness are what the SABC should be aspiring to, not some artificial construct of ‘happiness’.”
Shinn added that Motsoeneng’s proposal “follows comments made last week by ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu and former government spin doctor Jimmy Manyi that the news should be more positive”.
“With an election around the corner, it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out why key ANC communicators are pushing for more positive news content on the SABC.” — (c) 2013 NewsCentral Media