SABC and election coverage

The SABC now says that it is basing its sharing out of election coverage on the number of Parliamentary seats held by a party, and will not therefore be covering the manifesto launch of the new party, Cope.

The SABC’s attempt to base a political decision on numbers (in this case of parliamentary seats) is so ludicrous, it is laughable. It takes no account of reality and of standard news values: that the most interesting and important political battle of the election will be between Cope and the ANC, and secondarily Cope and the other opposition parties, and Cope cannot have any parliamentary seats because it is a brand new party. Surely, the SABC cannot be entirely serious about excluding Cope on this basis.

What it shows is an SABC that is not applying normal news values, nor is it prepared to assert true independence. Instead, it flows in the political winds. It blew with Mbeki pre-Polokwane winds, and then with a short spell with the Zuma hurricane; the rise of Cope bent it in that direction, but now that Cope is facing a harsh reality, it is bending back towards the ANC. The ANC have been making a fuss about Cope coverate, and the SABC is responding.

This is what happens when decisions are made by people who take political orders form political parties, rather than try assert the independence of news decisions. The SABC is suffering from a lack of strong journalistic and managerial leadership more than anything else.

But it is good to see the SABC being the site of struggle between parties. Previously, the SABC largely ignored the opposition; but now a split ANC means a split in the SABC and it means that these battles can be played out more healthily than before. At least, the SABC is not as complacent as it used to be.

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