Cliff to fight Idols ax­ing

Shock jock no longer a judge on tal­ent con­test

CityPress - - News - NTOMBI­ZODWA MAKHOBA ntombi­zodwa@city­press.co.za

Idols judge Gareth Cliff is set to take le­gal ac­tion against M-Net af­ter the broad­caster fired him on Fri­day night af­ter his com­ments on Twit­ter. Cliff was axed two weeks be­fore Idols Sea­son 12 was due to kick off with coun­try­wide au­di­tions at the end of this month. M-Net CEO Yolisa Phahle told City Press yes­ter­day that if Cliff were to haul them to court, they would “deal with the mat­ter”.

Cliff was fired in line with M-Net’s new zero-tol­er­ance ap­proach to pre­sen­ters mak­ing con­tro­ver­sial state­ments. Idols SA will also be moved from M-Net to M-Net’s Mzansi Magic chan­nel, which has more black view­ers.

“With the tremen­dous growth of the Idols SA Com­pact au­di­ence it makes sense to make Mzansi Magic the home of Idols SA Sea­son 12,” said Phahle.

On Fri­day night, M-Net is­sued a state­ment say­ing Cliff would no longer be part of the judg­ing panel for the up­com­ing sea­son of Idols SA. He told City Press yes­ter­day he would pre­fer not to com­ment.

“The only thing I can say is that we are look­ing at the le­gal pos­si­bil­i­ties,” he said.

Cliff was shown the door af­ter he be­came em­broiled in con­tro­versy on Mon­day dur­ing a race de­bate around for­mer es­tate agent Penny Spar­row, who called black peo­ple “mon­keys” on Face­book.

Cliff then re-tweeted a poll that asked if racist so­cial­me­dia posts should be treated as crim­i­nal acts. He wrote: “Peo­ple re­ally don’t un­der­stand free speech at all. Free­dom of speech means hav­ing the right to hear things you don’t agree with, not just things you do ... Hate speech is very specif­i­cally de­fined in law,” he tweeted.

“Free speech is some­thing we agreed to as a mod­ern, open so­ci­ety … Free speech means you can say ‘F**k you’ to me. I can just as eas­ily dis­miss you as a mo­ron.”

Phahle, how­ever, told City Press the chan­nel felt Penny Spar­row’s com­ments did amount to hate speech.

“Hate speech is not ap­pli­ca­ble with re­gard to free­dom of speech,” she said. “Over the past few months, fol­low­ing [fel­low Idols judge] Unathi [Msen­gana]’s in­dis­cre­tions on so­cial me­dia, we have been in dis­cus­sions with our judges, pre­sen­ters and tal­ent to sen­si­tise them to the risks of us­ing so­cial me­dia,” said Phahle.

“Un­for­tu­nately we then had to deal with [fel­low Idols judge] Somizi’s in­ap­pro­pri­ate com­ments and, fol­low­ing the lat­est is­sue, we have now im­ple­mented a ze­ro­tol­er­ance pol­icy for all so­cial­me­dia posts that go against the spirit of na­tion-build­ing.

“This pol­icy will ap­ply to ev­ery­one as­so­ci­ated with our brands go­ing for­ward,” she said.

Phahle said they did not be­lieve Cliff was a racist but “his re­sponse showed a lack of em­pa­thy for our his­tory and it is im­por­tant to dif­fer­en­ti­ate be­tween free­dom of speech and hate speech”.

Cliff apol­o­gised on Tues­day, call­ing him­self “an in­sen­si­tive ass­hole”.

In a state­ment, he said: “This whole saga with the id­i­otic com­ments of Penny Spar­row has up­set me, but I must ac­knowl­edge the pain and anger of so many on Twit­ter who thought I would in any way con­done the things she said.”

He fur­ther wrote that, with re­gard to free speech and hate speech, he needed to con­tinue his ed­u­ca­tion.

PHOTO: FE­LIX DLANGA­MANDLA

Gareth Cliff

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