SABC bans Zuma booing from news broadcasts
While TV news broadcasters across the world led their bulletins with the booing of President Jacob Zuma at the memorial for Nelson Mandela yesterday, SABC’s prime-time newscasts all but erased the incidents from history.
City Press has learnt from six independent sources at the public broadcaster’s news division that various instructions were given to ban broadcasts of the booing.
The SABC spokesperson, Kaizer Kganyago, was not immediately available to respond to questions first sent by City Press last night and again this morning. He has subsequently denied the allegations. See his full response below.
The sources – from field reporters to producers to technical crew – do not wish to be named as they do not want to jeopardise their jobs, but have filled City Press in on how news bosses handled the booing situation.
SABC broadcast the memorial live, beaming images of Zuma arriving at the FNB Stadium both on TV and on big screens inside, when elements in the crowd began to jeer and boo.
Some also gestured the soccer substitution sign.
The incidents repeated when Zuma was shown in pans of the VIPs on the big screen until the live feed was cut on the screens, which showed an image of Mandela for about half an hour. These screens are presumably not, however, controlled by the SABC but by the organisers.
The live feed on the screens recommenced during US President Barack Obama’s speech.
In the SABC news studio, the crisis was managed, according to insiders, by Nyana Molete, the national TV news editor.
Sources say he strode into the control room in Auckland Park calling: “Cut away! Cut away! Cut away!”
This, they say, was in line with the decision in a meeting before the broadcast to avoid broadcasting any incident that might embarrass the ANC leadership.
City Press believes presenters in the field complained about the control room instructions, which put them on the spot. Commentary was steered away from the booing.
Two separate sources confirmed that SABC radio reporters in the field received instructions over their cellphones when the booing happened. They were observed not commenting on or covering the crowd’s displeasure.
Another source told City Press that staff preparing the evening’s news bulletins received instructions, said to come from head of news Jimi Matthews, that the booing incidents would not be included and that booing should not be referred to, rather “unruly behaviour” by elements in the crowd.
While eNews and eNCA made the booing their headline story, SABC3’s 7pm news bulletin and prime-time 24-hour news channel coverage all but ignored it.
Media Monitoring Africa director William Bird confirmed this, saying: “There’s no mention of booing from our observation so far. Not in the SABC1 headline bulletin or the SABC3 headline bulletin. There’s not even mention of an unruly crowd.”
According to one independent monitor, the broadcasters’ websites followed suit.
By 3pm, it was the main story on the eNCA website with a clip of the booing. The first mention of it on the SABC website is four hours later just after 7pm, says the monitor. It is then only mentioned in a story about Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu’s rebuke of the crowd.
SABC news did, however, tweet about the booing, even storifying it by assembling tweeted reactions.
Observers of the SABC’s 24-hour news channel say that after prime-time, passing mentions were made to the booing and the unruly elements in the crowd.
This is not the first booing incident the SABC has had to deal with. In 2005, e.tv aired footage proving that an SABC cameraman had been present and filming when then deputy president Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka was booed on Women’s Day by Zuma supporters.
The SABC had denied this and went on to issue an apology, which blamed the freelance cameraman for failing to record the booing and accused e.tv of being “bitter”.
In October this year, a similar incident occurred at the Marikana Commission of Inquiry, when a bereaved widow shouted at national police commissioner Riah Piyega. eNCA broadcast the confrontation but the SABC did not, according to reports.