Public Servant or Censor? The South African Broadcasting Corporation in the Era of Political Television Advertising

Political television advertising is becoming an important feature of democratic
elections and essential to election campaign strategies. In this article we take
a close look at the role the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) is
playing in the new era of political television advertising ushered in in 2009.
We focus our analysis on the banning by the SABC of election advertisements
by two major opposition political parties before the 2014 elections. The
country’s regulator, the Independent Communications Authority of South
Africa (Icasa) upheld the decision of the SABC when the two parties filed
complaints. The banning of the advertisements and Icasa’s decision are
assessed on two important principles for public broadcasting – editorial
independence and public accountability. We argue in this article that the
action by the public broadcaster undermines freedom of expression and
the credibility of both the SABC and Icasa, especially when contextualised
within other controversial editorial decisions taken by the broadcaster over
the years. Further, we argue that laws governing political advertising in
South Africa are constitutionally problematic and contain contradictions
in how they should be applied and implemented by both broadcasters and
Icasa. We conclude by arguing for a review of these laws.

File Type: pdf
Categories: Journal of African Elections
Tags: ANC, Cosatu, DA, DSTV, EFF, SABC, SACP, South African Broadcasting Corporation, South African Communist Party, Top TV, Tripartite Alliance
journal of african elections vol14 number 1 transparent democratic governance in africa