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On 28 October 2013, 50/50 broadcast a feature on SABC 2 regarding Rhino Force, a commercial company that donates a percentage of profit from the sale of beaded bracelets to rhino conservation. Attorney Andrew Boerner of Jurgens Bekker Attorneys lodged a complaint against SABC 2 with the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa (BCCSA) on behalf of Rhino Force. The BCCSA ruled that SABC 2 was in contravention of Clause 12 and 13 of the BCCSA Free to Air Code stating in the judgment that:

  1. Whilst the original reason for the programme was reasonable and justified, and certainly dealt with a controversial issue of public importance, the programme itself was neither reasonable nor justified. The errors of fact, together with the omission of relevant material, eliminates any justification for such a programme within the ambit of the BCCSA Code.
  2. The programme included facts and opinions that were not based on the truth, or on a reasonable perception of the truth.
  3. Although there were instances of facts fairly indicated by the Respondent, not all such facts were fairly indicated, or they were simply omitted. Therefore, it was not possible for the SABC 2 to claim that it had a reasonable conviction that all the statements it made were true.
  4. Furthermore, the programme created an impression of dishonesty and/or lack of transparency on the part of RhinoForce – an impression which was not based on the facts.
  5. Moreover, the programme referred to facts, or opinion stated as facts, to which RhinoForce was not given a substantively fair right of reply, and in so doing it did not provide sufficient balance to afford audiences the opportunity to form their own opinions.
  6. In the result the complaint was upheld and the SABC reprimanded for its contravention of the Broadcasting Code.

Boerner stated, “The programme portrayed our client as dishonest. It was always our opinion that 50|50 were in breach of the BCCSA’s Code of Conduct. They presented a programme in which controversial issues were discussed, without making reasonable efforts to fairly present all the facts and our clients’ opposing points of view. They also created an impression of dishonesty that was not based on facts. It is most pleasing that the BCCSA has vindicated our client and the complaint against 50/50, SABC 2 has been reprimanded and the complaint upheld. 50|50, despite being an environmental programme, entered into the world of investigative journalism without thoroughly investigating. They were found to be in breach of the Code of Conduct and have been reprimanded accordingly. We trust that lessons have been learnt by 50|50 and its producers and that they will exercise caution in their future reporting. The errors of fact, together with the omission of relevant material, meant that the SABC 2 and 50|50 had no justification for such a programme within the ambit of the BCCSA Code. Dwindling viewership is no excuse for incorrect reporting and irresponsible journalism.” Joanne Lapin Thorpe, CEO of The Bead Coalition, owner of the Rhino Force brand says, “The rhino issue is highly emotive, and stirs the hearts and minds of millions. The scrutiny and investigation of commercial organizations donating millions to rhino conservation should be handled honestly, respectfully and responsibly.” In this instance rhino conservation should have superseded 50|50’s hidden agendas and ill-intended sensationalism. 50|50’s factually incorrect and defamatory broadcast regarding Rhino Force has threatened rhinos greatest hope, the consumer. With 419 rhinos already lost to illegal poaching this year, Rhino Force will fiercely accelerate efforts to save rhinos with their iconic red, black and white beaded bracelet, a simple accessory that has become a world best-seller and a global symbol of rhino conservation. Over 700,000 people proudly wear the bracelet, including HRH Prince Harry. A massive R5,264,690.21 has been raised and donated to rhino conservation by Rhino Force, including the facilitation of R1,080,000.00 for rhino relocation to Botswana. We thank the BCCSA for our vindication.” To learn more you can  read the Rhino Force BCCSA Tribunal’s Judgement here.

About The Bead Coalition

The Bead Coalition [Pty] Ltd is a commercial business based in Johannesburg. The organization’s bespoke accessory range include beaded items hand made by previously unemployed communities in rural South Africa and sold to the world. Cause-themed accessories such as the rhino bracelet raise awareness and funds, making significant environmental, conservational change. Other bracelets include OCEAN, CYCLE, LITERACY, HERITAGE, MOTOR NEURON DISEASE and HIV.