Honourable Maridadi vs. Star FM (May 2017)

 

Mabvuku-Tafara Member of Parliament James Maridadi filed his complaint with the VMCZ over a radio programme aired on Star FM on Monday 25 April 2017 in which he participated as a guest.

The complainant states that he participated as a guest in a pre-recorded programme on Star FM alongside ZANU PF Harare East Legislator Terence Mukupe but that when the programme eventually aired approximately 75% of his (Maridadi’s) contribution had been edited out. He says as a result the aired programme ended up sounding like an engagement between Honourable Mukupe and the presenter George Msumba.

The complainant also indicated that his efforts to engage the station had not been fruitful and as a result he was seeking VMCZ’s assistance in facilitating dialogue on the matter between the two parties.

 

Status: Resolved

The station in its response submitted both versions of the programme to the MCC in the interest of transparency and for the Complaints Committee’s independent assessment. The station also raised the following aspects:

·         That expectations and ground rules are discussed with guests before going on air to take into account issues around editorial policy, potentially libel and other relevant ethical considerations and that the participating guests were therefore accordingly briefed before the programme.

The station also disputed the allegation that approximately 75% of the complainant’s contribution to the debate had been edited out, noting that the original programme was too long and was  ·         resultantly edited from 1hour 12minutes to the allotted 58minutes 12seconds.

·         The station also noted that further editing was done to ensure smooth flow of the programme and certain aspects considered to be ‘offensive’ and irrelevant to the discussion

·         That the complainant agreed to participate in the programme fully aware of the station’s editorial policy and that they cannot allow the airing of information that might be potentially prejudicial to their licensing conditions and that ultimately they believe their editing was done professionally in line with professional and ethical considerations.

The MCC’s assessment and determination:

Based on the written and audio submissions, the MCC in its independent assessment made the following observations and remarks which were accepted by both parties concerned:

The MCC’s considerations:

·         The MCC acknowledged the submission of both the original and edited versions of the programme to the Committee in the interests of fairness and transparency by Star FM

·         The MCC acknowledged and noted the effort by Star FM  to ensure balance and diversity by finding voices from both sides of the political divide with regard to the major political parties

·         The MCC noted and accepted the argument that Star FM is guided by an editorial policy in its programming and that the station also has a duty and responsibility to abide by its licensing conditions as stipulated in the Broadcasting Services Act and through the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe.

·         The MCC recognised that journalism, by its very purpose, is selective and is guided by professional standards and it is not the role of the media to report on everything. The MCC therefore accepted that the station was not duty-bound to broadcast such programmes as the one under consideration word for word.

The MCC also acknowledged that robust discussions on matters of public interest should  not be curtailed unless it amounts to one of the recognised limitations to the right to Freedom of Expression, such as hate speech.

 

Further Observations and Remarks by the MCC:

·         Ground Rules:

The MCC noted that while the presenterbriefed Honourable Terence Mukupe and Honourable Maridadi on the ground rules, it was important for these ground rules to have been shared publicly during the programme so as to create public awareness on the stations’ procedures and guidelines. The audience would then also assess the programme based on these guidelines and procedures/ground rules 

·         Fair Editing:

While editing is standard procedure for such pre-recorded programmes as acknowledged in the preceding section, the MCC sought to determine whether the editing was done in such a manner that the broadcast programme eventually reflects reportage that is still balanced and fair. The MCC argued that the programme, construed as a whole, resulted in an unfair, unbalanced representation of the complainant.  For example, Honourable Maridadi was not given adequate opportunity to make his closing remarks in contrast to his co-guest who was given ample, uninterrupted opportunity to make his closing remarks. In some instances Honourable Mukupe was allowed to respond to Honourable Maridadi’s comments which had been edited out of the broadcast programme.

·         Consistency:

The MCC conceded that, ethically, broadcast platforms cannot be platforms for hate speech but it highlighted the need for consistency if the station sought to protect the dignity of people discussed in the programme. There was therefore need to strike a balance between protection of reputation and dignity, while allowing robust political debate. Therefore edited broadcast material, except for defamation and libel, should be as much as possible be a reflection of the original programme as possible. However, in this instance there was no consistency in editing as Honourable Mukupe was allowed to use certain terms, language and descriptions that are defamatory or abusive to describe his political party’s rivals. Similar descriptions and terms were, however, heavily edited from Honourable Maridadi’s contributions. There was also need to ensure consistency in according the guests their appropriate honorifics, given their equal designations as Members of Parliament. There are instances in the programme in which the complainant was referred to as “Mr” in contrast to his co-guest who was consistently referenced as “Honourable”or “Cde”.

·         Interview procedures

Without penalising the initiative displayed by the presenter George Musumba in asking pertinent questions or seeking to stifle spirited discussion, the MCC is of the view that it was necessary for the producer to avoid loaded and highly opinionated questions and emotive tones.

 

The MCC made the appropriate recommendations in light of the observations noted.