The South African Broadcasting Corporation has been fined R10,000 for a bungle that sent hundreds‚ if not thousands‚ of infuriating telephone calls to an unsuspecting woman in Johannesburg.
Thapelo Diale’s world was turned upside down when her mobile phone started ringing non-stop and she was subjected to a torrent of verbal abuse from television soap opera fans.
The origin of her woes was traced back to the filming of an episode of Isigingo last year when Shona Fergusons‚ who plays the character Tyson Mokoena ‚ was asked by a director to come up with a cellphone number for another character.
There was no number in the script‚ so a random number was chosen – and read out during the episode that aired in November 2016.
But in reality‚ that random number belonged to Diale who works for a railway consortium.
The consequences were “unprecedented‚ extraordinary and serious‚” according to the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa (BCCSA).
Her cellphone rang so much that it caused serious disruptions at work and eventually her employer served her with a letter of warning.
Diale complained to the commission‚ saying that she had suffered emotional harm and verbal abuse from Isidingo fans.
“It was grossly negligent to randomly choose a cell phone number for use in a popular soap opera. Many viewers form personal relationships with actors and therefore may continue to call the number. The scriptwriters and producers should have foreseen that the number could be a real (and private) number belonging to somebody‚” said the BCCSA.
The SABC was initially ordered to broadcast an apology but Diale lodged an appeal‚ saying that the broadcaster was getting away “with just a slap on the wrist”.
“I feel that they (Isidingo) seem to be getting away with just a slap on the wrist whereas we don’t even know if the apology will actually stop the consequence of their negligence; not forgetting the irreparable dent to my employment record by way of a warning letter. It needs to hit them in the pocket so as to appreciate the magnitude of the inconvenience caused‚” she argued.
The SABC told the commission that an apology would suffice. “Human beings drive the SABC and mistakes like these are bound to happen at some point‚” was the thrust of their defence‚ according to the BCCSA.
In its final judgment‚ the BCCSA found that the SABC should refrain from broadcasting an apology‚ as this might encourage Isidingo fans to start calling Diale again.
Instead‚ SABC lawyers were instructed to write to Diale’s employer and “explain the sequence of events and how this affected (her) work life” and request that her warning be rescinded.
Lastly‚ the SABC was slapped with a fine of R10,000 that must be paid before April 20.