Lessons in the Streisand effect: SABC bans EFF ad as DA’s ‘Ayisafani’ gets half a million YouTube views

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EFF, Julius Malema

The SABC has refused to air a TV advert from the Economic Freedom Fighter’s (EFF) one of South Africa’s youngest political parties.

The ban, confirmed today by party leader and former ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema, comes just days after the Democratic Alliance’s (DA) “Ayisafani” ad received the same blanket treatment.

Both bans come just weeks before South Africa’s national elections, scheduled for 7 May.

The advert touches a few contentious political nerves, featuring photographs of the bloody Marikana massacre, where 34 miners were killed by police, and the recent Bekkersdal unrest in Gauteng. But perhaps the most provocative issue of all, and the debated reason for the SABC pulling the plug, is the EFF’s threat to “destroy e-tolls physically.”

In response to the ban, the EFF tweeted a YouTube link to the advert along with a few choice words:

In a statement made today, the EFF also accused the SABC of “keep[ing] the EFF out of the public eye.”

“The SABC wrongly and illegally banned this advert because of the EFF’s decisive position shown in the advert that in an instance when it takes government it will physically destroy the undemocratically imposed eTolls on Gauteng motorists and commuters. The SABC refuses to air this advert arguing that it incites violence.

“EFF has as a result launched an urgent complaint with Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) against the SABC decision. The EFF will take legal action against the SABC and will roll mass action on 29 April, 2013 until our advert is aired as its banning is a clear violation of the freedom of expression.”

Although the ban might initially seem like a victory for the public broadcaster and the ruling ANC, the publicity gained from the banned advert may, conversely, have positive consequences for the EFF.

The DA’s “Ayisafani” advert, for example, has seen an explosion of views on YouTube since the national broadcaster banished it from its airwaves. To date, the advert has now been viewed over 554 000 times on the party’s official YouTube page. Even a ruling forcing the SABC to return the ad to its national television channels hasn’t slowed down its momentum.

Using all available social media, the DA has also made the video available for download through popular messaging service Mxit since 16 April, the party announced on Facebook.

Although the EFF’s advert is a week younger and has a mere 5 000 views to its name, the SABC’s latest decision (if “Ayisafani” is anything to go by) should give the advert a “must-see” level of desire, courtesy of the ban.

The surge in popularity rooted from a attempted cover up is known as the Streisand effect, a concept that is seemingly never too far from South African politics. The phenomenon suggests that an attempted banishment of something controversial can lead to a viral surge of interest in the public sphere and the Internet.

It was seen in effect two years ago amidst the massive public interest of “The Spear,” a painting portraying South African president Jacob Zuma in a less than ideal light. The government’s scramble to resist the painting’s media coverage inadvertently turned into a media frenzy.

Furthermore, the government’s decision to ban published pictures of the Nkandla homestead late last year is another instance in which an attempted ban led to a public backlash, this time on Twitter.

The banned adverts have symptoms of the phenomenon blotched all over them.

The DA’s ban has since been overruled but it will remain to be seen if the EFF advert ever gets its minute of fame on national television. For now, both adverts while living on the Internet, are racking up the views and reveling in their infamy.

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