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PowerFM reprimanded by BCCSA over right of response

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PowerFM broadcast a programme on 12 May in which several callers propagated various antisemitic conspiracy theories without being challenged by the host. The comments made were variations on the theme of Jews using their mythical financial power to start wars and revolutions and exploit their host societies. One caller opined that South African Jews had taken over “all the financial systems, banks, medical aids, but gave the black people nothing”. Predictably, reference was made to the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

After the station failed to provide us with an opportunity to respond to these defamatory allegations, we lodged a complaint to the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of SA (BCCSA). In its ruling, the BCCSA reprimanded PowerFM for having contravened Clause 13(1) of its code of conduct by failing to “make reasonable efforts to fairly present opposing points of view either in the same programme or in a subsequent programme”.

While ideally, the BCCSA should also have recognised how unacceptable the comments themselves were, its ruling has highlighted the responsibility of broadcasters to allow for a right of response in cases where people are maligned on the basis of their religion and/or ethnicity. In view of the above programme having been about the conflict then taking place between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, it will also hopefully convey the message to local broadcasters that antipathy towards Israel doesn’t amount to a license to defame and denigrate Jewish people as a whole, and particularly our own community.

The global stage

As often discussed in this column, the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) maintains solid working relationships with its international counterparts, particularly in the area of combating antisemitism.

Last week, two important meetings were held. The first took place between our senior lay and professional leadership and the world security and online hate team to address a right-wing group posting racism and antisemitism on Telegram. I’m happy to report that through our work with the World Jewish Congress, action has now been taken. The second meeting took place with Ahmed Shaheed, the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, to brief him on antisemitism in South Africa, particularly the impact of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. National Director Wendy Kahn has worked previously with Shaheed, giving input to his report on global antisemitism presented to the UN in October 2019. We are now preparing a detailed report for him on the local situation.

In conclusion, the Board also congratulates the Council for the Advancement of the SA Constitution (Casac) on its successful high court challenge to the way the interviews for Constitutional Court positions were conducted by the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) earlier this year. As will be remembered, two Jewish candidates were subjected to a barrage of irrelevant and inappropriate questions pertaining to their Jewish identity, association with the SAJBD, and views on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Other candidates were also subjected to inappropriate treatment during their interviews. Thanks to Casac, the JSC was directed to re-hold its interviews in October. This represents an important reaffirmation by our courts of the principle of judicial independence and a defeat for those, including Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions agitators, who sought to manipulate the judicial selection process for their own ideological ends.

  • Listen to Charisse Zeifert on Jewish Board Talk, 101.9 ChaiFM, every Friday from 12:00 to 13:00.

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