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About the SABC > Frequently Asked Questions



The SABC Editorial Policies have been approved by the Board, following an extensive process of consultation and input from stakeholders and the public.

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Q: What do I do if a programme has profanity?

A: 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 films 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: Is there a watershed time for radio?

A: 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 is the watershed I keep hearing about?

A: The watershed (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: What are the various symbols we use as warnings?

A: 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 do we have to give adequate warning to viewers about content in programmes?

A: 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 policies and regulatory requirements govern our programme content?

A: We are guided by: • The Charter • The SABC's Core Editorial Values • The SABC's Editorial Code of Practice • Our obligation to comply with the industry standard, the Code of Conduct for Broadcasters, which is administered by the BCCSA • Our obligation to comply with ICASA licence conditions and regulations

Q: Does the GCEO have control over News and programming?

A: The role of Editor-in-Chief is one of many responsibilities that the GCEO assumes and should not be confused with the functions of the Heads of Radio, Television, News, Sport and Education or of the other Editors and Channel and Station Managers employed by the SABC. The GCEO's role is not to make day-to-day programming or newsroom decisions. However, the Board of the SABC delegates responsibility, and holds accountable the GCEO for the performance of all news and other programmes, broadcast and presented on all SABC radio, television, internet and other services.

Q: Are the SABC’s commercial channels and stations also part of the public broadcaster?

A: Yes. Although the SABC has commercial services which compete with private commercial services, these broadcasters are still considered to be part of the public broadcaster and must reflect the values of the public broadcaster in their programming. South Africa's broadcasting legislation provides for a three-tier licensing structure for broadcasting services: public, commercial and community. The SABC is South Africa's only public broadcaster, and for public accountability purposes consists of two separate divisions controlled by the Board: a public service division and a commercial service division, in each of which the SABC runs a number of radio stations and television channels. Each has a set of licence conditions that imposes obligations, including quotas for local content, and requirements for geographical coverage and language services. These are laid down by ICASA, which is responsible for monitoring compliance with the licence conditions and with the objectives of the Charter.

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