Case: Media Monitoring Africa v eNCA and eTV (09/2020)
Complaints mechanism: Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa
Date of finding: 30 October 2020
Status: On appeal before the Appeal Tribunal of the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa
Date of appeal hearing: 3 May 2021
Complaint overview: On 22 July 2020, eNCA broadcast an interview with David Icke, described as a conspiracy theorist, on a programme called “So what now?”. In the interview, Mr Icke denied the existence of COVID-19, describing it as a “scam” and a “hoax”, and claimed that “there is no virus”. The interview was subsequently re-broadcast on eTV on 23 July 2020.
Media Monitoring Africa (MMA), represented by Power Singh Inc., lodged a complaint with the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa (BCCSA), arguing that the interview constituted disinformation and was harmful to the public health efforts in the context of the pandemic. Specifically, it was argued that the broadcasts were in breach of clause 28.2.2 of the Subscription Broadcasting Code and clause 12.2 of the Free-To-Air Code, which requires that comment must be made on facts truly stated or fairly indicated and referred to.
As noted by the BCCSA: “When this programme was broadcast on 22 and 23 July 2020, South Africa was already 4 months into the various phases of lockdown and people were becoming restless on account of their freedoms being curtailed. If someone could convince them that there was “no virus” and that the whole thing was a “pandemic hoax”, people would probably disobey all the regulations. That in turn would have caused a new outbreak of the pandemic and many more people could have died.”
In upholding the complaint, the BCCSA ordered the broadcasters to pay a fine of R10 000, and to broadcast an apology in line with the wording proposed by MMA.
The ruling can be downloaded here.
Subsequent to the ruling, the matter has been taken on appeal and will be heard by the Appeal Tribunal of the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa on Monday, 3 May 2021.
Note: The Appeal Tribunal hearing will be via ZOOM and members of the public who are interested in observing the hearing are required to submit their details to the Registrar by 12:00 on Friday, 30 April 2020.