Current Policies: Programming
Q: What policies and regulatory requirements govern the SABC programme content?
• The Charter
• The SABC’s Core Editorial Values
• The SABC’s Editorial Code of Practice
• The SABC’s obligation to comply with the industry standard, the Code of Conduct for Broadcasters, which is administered by the BCCSA
• The SABC’s obligation to comply with ICASA licence conditions and regulations
Q: Are there any principles that guide the SABC’s programming?
The SABC’s approach to programming is guided by the following principles:
The programmes are underpinned by the SABC’s core editorial values. These in uence the production, commissioning and acquisition of all its programmes The SABC endeavours to offer a wide range of information, education and entertainment in a variety of genres and formats, in which everyone should nd something of interest some of the time
As the national public broadcaster it is the SABC’s duty to encourage the development of South African expression. It therefore showcases South African talent, supports South African culture, and aims to develop programmes that are identi ably South African.
The SABC aim is to contextualise for South Africans their life as global citizens, and to bring them the very best of programmes the world has to offer
Given our history, and that South Africa is part of Africa, the SABC deems it its responsibility to endeavour to represent Africa and African stories fairly and diversely Freedom of expression is at the heart of SABC programmes.
Q: Why do we have to give adequate warning to viewers about content in programmes?
Careful scheduling and appropriate warning or advice allows our public to make informed choices about what they want to see and hear. This practice does not detract from the SABC’s editorial responsibilities in any way, but actually entrenches the culture of respect for freedom of expression, and the right to receive and impart information.
Q: What are the various symbols we use as warnings?
The Code of Conduct for Broadcasters requires us to give audience advisories that are clear to audiences so that they can make informed choices about what they would like to see or hear; or allow their children to see or hear. These include age indicators (13, 16, 18), and symbols for content – violence (V); explicit sexual conduct (S); nudity (N); bad language, including profanity (L); and prejudice (P).
Q: Why are programmes dealing with adult themes broadcast late at night?
The watershed period (21:00 – 05:00) is the time after which progressively more adult material may be shown on television. Before the watershed, material which is not suitable for children may not be shown. The watershed is regulated by the Code of Conduct for Broadcasters and infringements are dealt with by the BCCSA.
Q: Is there a watershed time for radio?
Although the Code of Conduct for Broadcasters does not specify a watershed period for radio, the SABC abides by the dictum that stations do not broadcast material that is unsuitable for children at times when they are likely to form a large part of the audience. For instance, stations should be aware that children are likely to be listening to the radio while travelling to and from school.
Q: What do I do if a programme has profanity?
The Code says that bad language, including profanity and other religiously insensitive material, should not be used in programmes that are specially designed for children. Further, that no excessively or grossly offensive language should be used before the watershed on television, or at times when large numbers of children may be expected to be in the audience. The SABC’s Programming policy acknowledges that although profanity has become a part of daily expression and hence is frequently used on television, it is offensive to many viewers. The SABC therefore endeavours to apply the “L” warning symbol rigorously when profanity is concerned, in order to minimize distress to those audiences who may be offended. The following BCCSA guidelines should also apply: • In the case of a drama or documentary unless particularly aggravating circumstances are present, taking in vain of the Lord’s Name may be used in post-watershed feature lms by characters or persons portrayed in broadcasts, subject to due warning as to language, and with an appropriate age restriction. • In family time the words have to be removed insofar as it is possible to do so. High frequency is not allowed. • Where presenters use such language in a derogatory manner towards listeners – even after the watershed – it amounts to a contravention of the Code.
Q: What does the policy say on our role in terms of language usage in programmes?
A public broadcaster is an important source of information and culture, and could in uence standards and values through its use of language. The SABC has therefore to maintain high standards of integrity with regard to language usage. Guidelines are as follows: • Not to use language simply for its shock value • Never to use profanity gratuitously • Not to ban the use of bad language in programmes, but to permit it only when it is defensible in terms of context and authenticity/credibility • That language usage should take religious sensitivities into account.
Q: What is the SABC’s policy on discrimination in respect of disability?
The SABC recognises that groups with disabilities often feel marginalized, and that it is a duty of the public broadcaster to promote access by these audience segments to its services and programmes and to ensure that the presentation of people with disabilities in our programming is fair. The SABC therefore treats people with disabilities respectfully in its programming, and we are committed to re ecting issues of disability in a way that does not perpetuate harmful negative stereotypes of the disabled. We are also committed to exploring mechanisms for enhancing our delivery to people with disabilities. Where possible, we also strive to involve disabled persons in such initiatives.
Q: What is the SABC doing in terms of discouraging violence against women?
The Editorial Policies of the SABC speci cally state that its programming content, when judged within context, does not promote violence against women depict women as passive victims of violence and abuse degrade women and undermine their role and position in society promote sexism and gender inequality reinforce gender oppression and stereotypes.
Q: When is it acceptable to broadcast scenes of violence on television?
The Code of Conduct lays down very stringent requirements of when violence can be broadcast or not. To supplement this, the Programming Policy of the SABC states that scenes containing images of violence may only be broadcast if they are needed in order to portray legitimate information or context.
The SABC therefore has a duty not to glamorise any type of violence, nor to promote it, and to depict it only when it could help to portray a story, evoke compassion, prompt help, or simply be an accurate representation of real events. If used at all, audience advisories are essential. The SABC’s aim is not to see how much violence will be tolerated, but how little is needed to achieve honest ends without undue dramatic or editorial compromise.
Q: Does the Editorial Policy protect the right to dignity and privacy?
The Code requires the electronic media to exercise exceptional care and consideration in matters involving the private lives and private concerns of individuals, bearing in mind that the right to privacy may be overridden by legitimate public interest. The SABC expects decisions of this kind to be taken with due consideration of the Corporation’s values.
Q: Who decides what children see or hear?
Broadcasters may not transmit material that is unsuitable for children at times when large numbers of them may be expected to be in the audience. Despite this, the onus is on parents to take decisions on what their children may or may not watch, as long as we ful l our obligation to air appropriate advisories which allow them to make this decision.
Q: I have heard that censoring a lm is illegal. Is this true and how does the SABC handle it?
Censorship as it existed in the old era, where only the interests of a few were taken into account, is no longer sanctioned by South Africa’s new Constitutional environment in which there are very few limitations on freedom of expression. In order to allow audiences to make their own choices, the preference is to provide warnings on air to enable them to make such choices. It remains then the right of every individual to decide what to watch and regulate what children may watch.
Q: How do we deal with complaints from the public about our broadcasts?
Complaints from members of the public that are received at the SABC and relate to matters of policy, or compliance with the Code, are dealt with by the office of the Manager: Broadcast Compliance. When such complaints are received by the channels or stations, or in any other department, they should be referred to that office without delay. The SABC’s policy is to deal with every such complaint. The response is either prepared in consultation with, or communicated immediately to, the management of the channel/station concerned, or the relevant head of SABC News. The services are required to take ownership of complaints about their services.
Q: Does the SABC control what may be advertised on its services?
Yes, to the extent that the SABC complies with the rules prescribed by the Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa. The Sales and Marketing Division also reserves the right to accept or reject advertisements which are not deemed to be in the public interest or which are contrary to the SABC’s own Editorial Policies.
Q: What are the guidelines on stereotyping?
We undertake to include in our programming non-stereotypical representations of the disabled, women, black and homosexual people, and of any other South Africans who have often been marginalised by the mainstream media, or represented in narrow and stereotypical terms. The SABC’s policy is as follows: 1. To treat every part of society with respect 2. Not to identify people solely by ethnic origin, and to mention colour only when it is relevant to the topic under discussion 3. To avoid any unnecessary reference to disability, as it is often seen as insulting or implying de ciency, and not to use language that could add to such an impression: eg “deaf” or “hard of hearing” should be used, and “a person who has a disability” instead of “invalid” or “cripple” or “retarded” 4. To use non-sexist language so as to avoid giving offence, or creating the impression – through repetition – that certain activities are associated with only one sex.
Are the above still relevant, are there instances where a more (or less restrictive or proscriptive approach should be adopted?
In a number of instances – such as the policies regarding violence and sex & nudity are essentially lifted from the Broadcast Complaints Commission of SA Code. Should these be included in the policy and, in those instances where it is, which takes precedence should a change be made to the code from which the clause/s comes from?
What relevance does this section have for on-line or other non-traditional services?
In this section, as well as News & Current Affairs, there is a commitment to achieving gender representivity – however, neither of these commitments de nes the concept nor do they provide guidance on how it can be achieved.
Much of the programming section is about restrictions – should there be a greater focus on what should be done and how it should be done?