How SABC tried and failed to snub DA conference

The SABC has once again come out with a bloodied nose in its legal battle with the DA over the live broadcast of the party’s elective congress.

Sunday World can reveal that the SABC had rejected the DA’s request to broadcast the party’s elective federal congress last weekend and was only forced to do so by a court order obtained in the Joburg High Court last week Thursday.

In the urgent application, DA federal council chairperson Helen Zille said the party had requested live free to air coverage on the SABC’s terrestrial channels or live coverage on SABC2 for two portions of the federal congress.

These were an hour on Saturday, October 31, to cover the opening ceremony and speech, and an hour’s worth of coverage for the announcement of the elected federal leaders and their acceptance speeches.

The SABC turned down the request. It was only prepared to cover the federal congress live on its SABC News Channel (channel 404 on DStv) and in excerpts in its regular news and radio news bulletins.

Zille charged that the SABC’s refusal to broadcast the portions of the DA federal congress live on SABC2 was a violation of its editorial policies and its constitutional and statutory duty to provide news and information, including coverage of events of national importance, to as many people as possible.

“Only a fraction of people have access to expensive satellite subscriptions or smart devices with sufficient access to data to livestream coverage from the SABC news channel,” she said.

Zille further argued that their elective congress, which was attended by delegates from nine provinces, was the supreme policymaking and governing body of the DA and only met once every three years as convened by the federal executive.

She said that given that the organisation was the official opposition party and the governing party in the Western Cape and multiple municipalities, the decisions taken at the federal congress would have a massive impact on the lives of millions of South Africans.

“Also, there was a longstanding practice of live terrestrial broadcasting via the SABC channel of the DA federal congresses. The SABC live terrestrial broadcast the 2015 and 2018 DA federal congresses on SABC2.

“The SABC initially declined to broadcast the DA federal congress in 2015 and was ordered to do so after the DA approached the court on urgent basis,” she said.

The court ruled in Zille’s favour and forced the public broadcaster to broadcast live the congress on SABC2.

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