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SABC withdraws controversial documentary for second time

(FXI/IFEX) - The following is an FXI statement:

FXI statement on SABC's second withdrawal of Thabo Mbeki documentary

Now you see it, now you don't, now you see it, now you don't: such is the farcical situation with the controversial documentary on President Thabo Mbeki, which the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) had scheduled for screening on Sunday.

The FXI is disturbed that, once again, the documentary has been withdrawn, and will not be screened on Sunday. Why it changed its mind once again when it had decided to screen it, is beyond understanding. This is yet another indication of chaos inside the broadcaster, where different units of the same organisation talk past one another, and then land up working against one another.

We do not buy the argument by SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago, that the booking on the SABC's programming schedule was provisional. This shows an unacceptably cavalier approach towards its own schedule. As the FXI has noted recently, the SABC has withdrawn other controversial programmes at the eleventh hour: something that the Corporation appears to do all too easily, and without public accountability. The latest withdrawal of the Mbeki documentary confirms the impression that the public cannot trust the scheduling information the SABC puts out, and should treat its contents with a pinch of salt.

The comment that the SABC is still in discussion with the producers about changes to the documentary is astonishing, given the fact that the broadcaster has had a year to sort out these matters.

In fact, it is our understanding that only once the producers had cancelled the contract with the SABC, and signalled their intention to show the documentary elsewhere, did the SABC finally respond and agree to its broadcast, subject to agreed-on changes being made. If the SABC is not satisfied that the necessary groundwork has been done to warrant the showing of the documentary on Sunday, then it has only itself to blame.

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