Listeners are livid that the SABC gagged a current affairs show by banning phone calls to the programme until after the local government elections.
They set alight social media this week when Metro FM radio personality Rams Mabote spent his entire show interviewing ANC-linked businessman Vivian Reddy – but not one phone call was allowed to air.
Listeners questioned whether Mabote was trying to stop them from criticising the governing party and its leadership.
Mabote kept mum throughout and simply retweeted the comments. Some listeners opted to abandon the show, while others accused him of being a lackey of President Jacob Zuma.
City Press can confirm that the SABC issued instructions to censor listeners’ comments until after the elections.
“A clampdown on phone lines, so the ‘Zuptas’ have hijacked our show. You are clamping down on open lines and current affairs.
“Same happening to SAfm,” read a tweet from an angry listener.
Another asked: “You sacrificed our open line for what good reason?”
One tweeter said: “I think somebody with good relations with ANC thinks he is doing the ANC a favour. This is taking down a public radio show from public.”
The decision to not take calls was reiterated by correspondence last Friday from Metro FM programme manager Tony Soglo.
City Press has seen the written instruction and it reads, in part: “Communication has been sent to all radio stations to stop having open lines for this current period before the local government elections.
“This will mean that we will not have any more open lines until after the elections and this will be communicated through to the whole team.”
Soglo said that “this is done to protect the station and the SABC against anybody who could potentially use the platform for their own benefit and also use it for electioneering”.
Another email, this time from the general manager for radio, Leuba Ramakgolo, clarified the issue.
“It is an editorial decision the business has taken and it should not be understood as canning.”
He wrote that elections workshops were held recently “to explain to presenters and producers our approach to elections-related content”.
Mabote refused to speak to City Press on Friday and referred questions to SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago.
Kganyago said Metro FM had not closed open lines for any current affairs programme. He said people were being malicious or misunderstanding the instruction.
“We have said to people that when it is almost closer to time for elections, we don’t want programming to deal with political issues. We want political issues to be dealt with by news and current affairs because it is made out of journalists who are able to handle that. People who are presenters, some of them are not equipped to deal with those issues.”
Kganyago said presenters whose programmes were not current affairs should determine their topics and they should not accept calls outside that topic.
“We are then saying that, for this period, avoid doing open line if you are not a current affairs show. You are creating a situation where anybody can say anything and that’s when issues of politics are then sneaked in during open line.”
Kganyago said if people wanted to discuss politics they ought to call in to specific current affairs shows.
“There is nothing new about what we are doing. We have done that before. So now we are being pro-active about it to warn them against open lines during this period
“We are not talking ANC here; people are just deliberately misleading people. Politics is not ANC. It’s maliciously and deliberately trying to mislead people,” said Kganyago.
Mabote hosts Metro FM Talk on Mondays and Tuesdays from 7pm to 9pm. However, not all radio stations were affected. Other SABC talk show hosts said they were unaware of the directive.
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