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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 is the ASA?

A: The Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa (ASA) is an independent body set up and paid for by the marketing communications industry to regulate advertising in the public interest through a system of self-regulation. The ASA works closely with government, statutory bodies, consumer organisations and the industry to ensure that the content of advertising meets the requirements of the Code of Advertising Practice.

Q: What is the BCCSA?

A: The Broadcasting and Complaints Commission of South Africa (BCCSA) is the body which receives and adjudicates complaints about broadcasting which are alleged to contravene the Broadcasting Code of Conduct. The SABC channels/stations provide copies of the material complained about and their comments to the BCCSA via the Office of the Manager: Broadcast Compliance. The BCCSA considers this and makes relevant judgments. In the extreme case, a Tribunal may consider a complaint. Complainants may attend and make submissions at Tribunal hearings. The BCCSA can fine a broadcaster found guilty of an infringement of the Code.

Q: How do we deal with complaints from the public about our broadcasts?

A: 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: I have heard that censoring a film is illegal. Is this true and how does the SABC handle it?

A: 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: Who decides what children see or hear?

A: 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 fulfil our obligation to air appropriate advisories which allow them to make this decision.

Q: Does the Editorial Policy protect the right to dignity and privacy?

A: 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: When is it acceptable to broadcast scenes of violence on television?

A: 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: What is the SABC doing in terms of discouraging violence against women?

A: The Editorial Policies of the SABC specifically 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: What is the SABC’s policy on discrimination in respect of disability?

A: 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 reflecting 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 does the policy say on our role in terms of language usage in programmes?

A: A public broadcaster is an important source of information and culture, and could influence 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

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