Org holds S. Africa net’s feet to fire

Watchdog investigates pubcaster's political broadcast

JOHANNESBURG — In an about-face, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) has ordered the South African Broadcasting Co. to explain its decision to air a live broadcast last Sunday of the election manifesto of the ruling African National Congress. Opposition parties complained that the SABC contravened its public broadcasting mandate to provide balanced, unbiased political coverage. They lodged an official complaint with Icasa, which initially refused to act, saying the matter was not under its control since the coverage did not fall in an election period.

The ANC has indicated that an election will be held in March or April; it has started campaigning but not set a date.

But Icasa said Wednesday that it’s concluded the SABC has a case to answer about the 90-minute live broadcast. It gave the pubcaster until today to respond, after which the regulator will decide whether to take further action.

“We believe the matter is urgent,” Icasa chairman Mandla Langa said. “The charge is that the SABC has contravened sections of the Broadcasting Act and sections of its editorial policy.”

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