SABC to face wrath of parties over its 'bias'

The SABC will face a barrage of complaints when its board meets political party leaders on November 19 in Cape Town.

The SABC will face a barrage of complaints when its board meets political party leaders on November 19 in Cape Town.

Opposition parties are calling for the "playing field to be levelled" during elections so that all parties get equal coverage, while the ANC says as the largest party it should get the most airtime.

SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago said the meeting had been called for the parties to air their grievances against the SABC and for the SABC to explain its position.

The ANC recently hauled the SABC over the coals for its live broadcasts of the national convention organised by ANC dissidents led by the party's former chairman Mosiuoa Lekota and former Gauteng premier Mbhazima Shilowa.

The ANC said the convention was receiving disproportionate coverage.

ANC spokesman Brian Sokutu said that comparing Lekota's new Congress of the People party with the ANC was like "comparing apples with bananas".

"Devoting huge amounts of coverage to an unborn baby at the expense of the ruling party is of concern to the alliance and other organs of civil society," he said.

The DA's Dene Smuts said her party had a problem with the one-hour interview the SABC's Vuyo Mbuli did with Jacob Zuma last month.

"We don't have a problem with the coverage given to Shikota," Smuts said. "It is a groundbreaking development and newsworthiness dictated that it had to be covered.

"It would have been more useful for democracy had Zuma been featured as part of a debate with other political parties, instead of being given a big pedestal for himself."

UDM leader Bantu Holomisa told Sowetan he had laid an official complaint against the SABC with broadcasting authority Icasa after an SABC2 panel discussion he was taking part in was interrupted to cross live to Zuma's rally in Soweto.

Holomisa said the SABC had shown bias towards the ANC "by interrupting a discussion on a matter of national importance and involving diverse political parties in order to cross live to an ANC event planned to undermine the publicity its political opponents were receiving".

Kganyago said the fact that all the parties had different complaints against the SABC was a good sign.

"The fact that every party feels we are siding with the other shows that we are trying our level best to be fair," he told Sowetan.

Wits University journalism professor Anton Harber does not agree.

"The SABC has allowed itself to get caught up in the ANC's internal political battles and that has tainted it," Harber said.

He defended the SABC's coverage of the national convention, saying the emergence of a new party was a major national news event that needed to be covered.

He said the SABC should treat all political parties equally, otherwise they would be in breach of their mandate.