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JJ Tabane show canned for giving Malema 'too much' airplay

Talkshow host JJ Tabane
Talkshow host JJ Tabane
Image: FILE

In February this year I had the trauma of producing a new show, Frankly Speaking, for SABC3, anchored by renowned political commentator and author Onkgopotse JJ Tabane.

The SABC's approach to Tabane, who is known to hold no brief for no one, was very strange especially after an era where the likes of the SABC 8 spoke of harrowing tales of censorship and interference.

The leadership of the news division had promised not to interfere with how the show was to be run. However, it was not to be as we were constantly pressured to water down what was initially meant to be a robust show.

The flighting of the show was truly a tokenistic move by the SABC to be seen to be bringing in critical voices into the corporation meanwhile restraining the show.

From the first episode evidence emerged that the show couldn't be effective in 24 minutes. Comments on social media were very critical on the time aspect of the show.

For that reason we decided to do the show in two parts on a few occasions, such as when we had Pravin Gordhan as a guest or when we had other major guests or debates that were impossible to complete in 24 minutes.

We had to improvise that way after the request for the show to be given an hour was rejected.

In June, when the studio was not available, we proposed to do a roadshow, whereby the programme would have travelled to provinces to talk to people on the ground.

This proposal was also rejected without any good reason.

And then the cane that broke the camel's back was the Julius Malema interview that was also recorded in two parts. The leadership of news was furious that Malema was flighted two Sundays in a row.

Suddenly there was amnesia about why this was ever done in the first place. We got a distinct impression that the SABC was under pressure to explain why the ANC was not afforded the same courtesy when its head of elections was on the show.

For an independent production, this matter was a no brainer. Malema, like Ghordan, was so popular with the viewers, judging from social media commentary prior and during the shows, so the executive producer decided on two shows.

It was clear on the Monday following part one that someone had complained and lied that Malema had instructed the presenter Tabane to give him more time, which was far from the truth.

A few weeks after this incident the SABC wrote a one-liner letter to say the show would be removed due to "non-performance" and "lack of contesting content".

The reality is in fact different - the audience ratings show that more than 25% of all viewers of the SABC 3 watched the show, and close to half watch the repeat of the show on Friday afternoons.

Now that a new show with the same content has replaced it also shows that the reason given is a blatant lie. The SABC must account for this.

But what will the Redi show do that Frankly Speaking failed to achieve?

The truth is that the slogan of "independence and impartiality" is a matter of mere advertising.

The SABC is still very much under the influence of politicians who just won't let it thrive. This is why it is losing credible talent.

The likes of the SABC 8 who try to do their work independently have to constantly look over their shoulders while they make sure not to criticise the ruling party.

It is clear that as we get closer to elections in 2019, voices such as Tabane's are unwelcome at the SABC, but one day the tales of interference will be revealed once and for all. 

- Keswa was the producer of Frankly Speaking on SABC 3. She writes in her personal capacity. 

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