M-Net still at liberty to cancel Gareth Cliff's contract

The broadcaster can cancel employment at any time, provided it pays out for the full season.

Gareth Cliff has won is urgent application to have him reinstated as 'Idols' judge. Picture :Kgothatso Mogale/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - The High Court in Johannesburg said through his reinstatement, Gareth Cliff will have to accept his Idols contract "warts and all".

This means M-Net is still at liberty to cancel its contract with the radio personality, who was dismissed earlier this month for drawing negative public attention.

The broadcaster fired Cliff after he weighed in on a racist Facebook post by Penny Sparrow.

Judge Carolin Nicholls has ordered M-Net reinstate Cliff under the same conditions the two parties had agreed to before their fallout.

M-Net had opposed this reinstatement, saying it was a long-term solution which forces it to keep Cliff employed for the full duration of the new idols season.

But according to previous contracts with Idols judges, the broadcaster can cancel employment at any time, provided it pays out for the full season.

Cliff and his lawyers have expressed excitement at the court's ruling but it's not yet clear what action M-Net will take now.

The broadcaster and Cliff may have to return to court again to have the constitutionality of his dismissal brought into question.

Cliff's lawyer, Eric Mabuza, said the outcome of court judgement, in favour of his reinstatement as an Idols judge, is a reminder that human rights should be upheld regardless of race.

LISTEN: Cliff wins his case against M-Net.

CLIFF'S CONTROVERSIAL PERSONALITY

The High Court in Johannesburg says M-Net has always been aware of Cliff's controversial personality and seems to have supported it until now.

Judge Nicholls says there is no merit to M-Nets claims that Cliff's temporary reinstatement will damage its brand as it's survived many other controversies surrounding him.

There was public outrage when the Idols judge tweeted that people don't understand free speech in response to Sparrow's Facebook post.

M-Net claims the tweet created an image of Cliff as a poster boy for racism

The broadcaster's lawyer, Wim Trengove, told the court on Tuesday that Idols judges are meant to entertain viewers not shock and offend them.

However, Advocate Dali Mpofu for Cliff, argued that it's precisely because of Cliff's sometimes shocking character that M-Net hired him.

He told the court that M-Net and Idols producers have on multiple occasions chosen to ride the wave of the controversy and shouldn't.

At the same time, questions have been raised about what impact, if any, does Cliff's racial law suit will have on Idols.

The Media Shop's Chris Botha predicts that more people will now watch the show.

"The most likely thing that will happen with the programme is the old 'no publicity is bad publicity', where there is now a lot of hype and a whole lot of noise being made about the programme. So those people who didn't know about Idols… now they do, and are quite likely to watch it. I think the audience for Idols will increase because of the noise."