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Shopsteward Volume 27: Special Bulletin

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Media Centre  |  Letters

Open letter to Heart FM - Why COSATU is going to war against censoring

10 October 2014

Dear Colleagues and Comrades

Please receive correspondence from our offices in relation to the developments at Heart FM and the way that it negatively reinforces the battle for hegemony in the City of Cape Town and the Western Cape. We had hoped to negotiate a fair and amicable solution, but in spite of various attempts, the Stationís attitude seems to be regressing.

COSATU has had an ongoing dispute with Heart Fm in respect of the attempts by them to censor COSATU in relation to what COSATU may say on air about Provincial Government and the City of Cape Town, on the Heart Labour Programme. COSATU is constrained from commenting on facts about the DA, but the DA can say what they please about any other social partner, in opposition. The attitude of Heart fm is further reflected in the fact that they do not give the COSATU spokesperson in the Western Cape any interviews, since the dispute on censorship between Heart FM and COSATU.

A case in point this week: COSATU had a press conference on the farm evictions that was carried by all of the national television stations, all of the daily newspapers and all of the bigger radio stations. The only Heart FM mention, that had not reflected the proper context, was on two of the news reports, but Ehrenreich was not interviewed to clarify COSATUís stance.

They however carried an extensive FEDUSA story about electricity pricing and interviewed Koos from FEDUSA extensively on various segments. Then on Wednesday night on the 20h00 show, they claimed that the COSATU person [Coleman] could not make the debate on the minimum wage, knowing that they only sent him an sms at 18h22 to ask him if he can do a telephone link up to the show. At that point Coleman advised them that he was not available on the day, giving them sufficient time to get an alternate COSATU person. I even sent the presenter an sms at 20h30 to offer to debate with them on the programme, on the minimum wage matter. They however continued with their one sided propaganda, that an underpaid job is better than no job, that market forces must be the main consideration and unions who oppose that logic, really have leaders who cannot see the bigger picture.

They are entitled to their view, but should at least give the listening public the benefit of the other view also, especially when COSATU representative offers to participate, even if this may expose them. Then there was the morning debate on the Post Office workers strike, also presenting an anti-worker bias and making no attempts to get a balanced view from COSATU, as they would have done in the past.

This attitude of the radio station in promoting the Free Market Foundationís ideas and quoting Adcorp, is much like the DA in this respect. This is the ideological orientation that is promoted by the DA for the Western Cape and that is why engineering companies in the Western Cape refuse to give workers a decent increase and try to destroy the Engineering Bargaining Council. Workers and working class are under attack by this Provincial Government and their business allies and now Heart FM is used to give the biased ideological justification, for the farm evictions and retrenchments and slave wage model.

Why is Heart FM suddenly taking this stance when historically they were progressive, through their wonderful presenters who at the very least gave all sides an equal chance to state their points of view? This change has happened since the DA, through the City of Cape Town and Provincial Government, has taken out a huge R1 million advertising space with Heart FM. You hear it in the Mayor and Premierís show, which is plain silly and cost a few hundred thousand rand per month, plus the various repeats of My Citi Bus advertisements. We now also see a new phenomenon where news stories and actuality programmes are from time paid by the DA Government here. The funding for those shows could have bought many computers and sport facilities for the poorer schools who the Government has neglected, to improve the prospects of working class learners.

I am reliably advised that this new attitude from Heart FM is driven by the new Managing Director, Gary Petersen, whose arrival signalled this sale of the radio stationís soul to this anti working family attitude. A deal was done between Heart FM and the Provincial Government to over-expose the DA and under-expose progressive COSATU Provincial voices. The Heart FM has always been a favourite progressive voice in Cape Town as P4, that we promoted amongst the working class, but clearly things have changed and they are now reinforcing the ideas of the anti working families lobby in the Western Cape. Why do they not want to have the contest of ideas in the media, which gives all the key role players in the economy a chance to state the different views?

We must defend the independence of the media and the insistence that they tell both sides of the story, lest our people continue to be deceived by this spin that is part of the broader R50 million advertising budget that the DA is spending in the Province, to deceive working families in respect of delivery. R50 Million that could have computerised all our township schools, who suffer a chronic disadvantage in relation to the schools in Claremont and Constantia.

We dare not let this censoring attack on COSATU and the working families go unchallenged and we must fight for transparency and accountability of all our democratic institutions, even in business. People, who have become extravagantly rich through Black Economic Empowerment Companies like Heart FM, are now forgetting about the workers whose struggles made their advancement possible.

We are proposing that if there is not an agreement to change the anti-worker attitude of the Director, that we get all our companies where we are organised to stop advertising with Heart FM for the month of November. This symbolic gesture is to ensure that we do not threaten the jobs of the many progressive presenters that are at Heart FM, but that we change the attitude of the Managing Director, who is driving the anti-working class agenda.

We will be putting in place the details of the programme of action over the next week and remain available to find fair and equitable exposure for COSATU, that ends this attempt at censoring the COSATU workers voice.

Yours Comradely

Tony Ehrenreich
Provincial Secretary