ANC wants answers on SABC's editorial decisions

The ANC’s Jackson Mthembu says the party can't support editorial decisions that threaten media freedom.

Jackson Mthembu at media briefing on the SABC in Johannesburg on 5 July 2016. Picture: Dineo Bendile/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - The African National Congress (ANC) says it wants answers about the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC)'s controversial editorial decisions and will hold a meeting with Communications Minister Faith Muthambi on Monday.

The party held a briefing at Luthuli House yesterday, where it said changes in the SABC's editorial policy were unfortunate and could not be allowed to continue.

In May, the broadcaster announced that it would no longer broadcast violent images of protests, a decision which the ANC had welcomed at the time.

The ANC now says it wants to know the reasons behind the SABC's decision not to broadcast violent images at protests and why the South African public wasn't consulted before the changes.

The ANC's Jackson Mthembu said the party believed issues at the SABC would have been resolved by now.

"We still believe it's not too late for them to do so."

He said a meeting would be held with Muthambi to receive clarity on decisions made at the SABC.

"The first issue that we need to clear with the minister is this policy change of the SABC, is it in keeping with the ANC policy? Is it also in keeping with our Constitution?"

Mthembu also said on Tuesday that the ANC would never support any editorial decisions that threatened media freedom.

"Editorial decisions by the SABC, that in anyway limit these freedoms, can never be sanctioned by the ANC."

He apologised on behalf of the party if earlier statements caused confusion.

"If indeed there's been some crossing of lines in-between and amongst ourselves, well, let's apologise for that. But this is the ANC's statement."

The ANC said it had always fought for a free South African media with a public mandate, and would not allow the SABC to decay.

The SABC says while it did make a call not to broadcast violent images during protests, the decision doesn't amount to a policy change.

Muthambi has always backed SABC COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng in public and at any of the SABC dealings.

But Mthembu has clashed in public with Muthambi in the past over the issue of digital terrestrial television.

That clash was almost unprecedented in the ANC and Mthembu's comments could be a further signal that Luthuli House is deeply unhappy with Muthambi.

But she seems to have the strong support of President Jacob Zuma.

Voters in Gauteng will have seen the SABC's coverage of the recent violence in Tshwane and been able to compare it to the coverage of other media outlets.

The ANC may feel that Motsoneng's behaviour actually sends the wrong signal to those voters.

SABC REACTS

The SABC says it takes serious exception to the ANC's claims that its top management is inadequately skilled to run the broadcaster.

In a detailed response sent last night, the broadcaster says its current leaders have managed to deliver the SABC from a dire situation it found itself in in 2009.

Mthembu said the party was not happy with the quality of top management at the SABC.

"Ensure that we've got people who know how to run an institution as big as the SABC. You can't bring any Tom, Dick and Harry."

But the SABC disagrees, saying its current board and management have delivered the public broadcaster's mandate with little financial assistance from government, doubling its revenue between 2009 and 2015.

The broadcaster also says the fact that none of its top managers have appeared before Parliament's standing committee on public accounts indicates a level of trust in their abilities.