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The politics of discourse and the discourse of politics : images of violence and reform on the South African Broadcasting Corporation's television news bulletins, July 1985-November 1986.

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The thesis begins with an examination of the literature on television news, taking particular note of the arguments for and against the 'dominant ideology thesis'. It is the contention of the work that the notion of 'professionalization' is a two sided one: while creating patterns and strategies of repetition and formulaic responses, during the emergency it was conversely used protect the integrity of a cadre of working journalists. In South Africa a State of Emergency was declared on 17 July, 1985, and successively renewed until 2 February 1990. An important element of the Emergency legislation were the stringent media restrictions placed on print and televisual journalists. This thesis examines the content and application of these restrictions, as well as the part played by the Bureau for Information in providing a bureaucratic base for the policy of media containment. The thesis argues that the restrictions, as well as the State of Emergency as a whole, was predicated on the South African Government's understanding that the country was facing a 'Total Onslaught', which could only be countered by a 'Total Strategy'. The empirical section of the thesis examines the manner in which the processes of political violence and reform were imaged on the televisual news broadcasts of South African Broadcasting Corporation, in the period July 1985 to November 1986. Under the discussion of 'Reform' particular attention is paid to P.W. Botha's opening speech to the Federal Congress of the National Party in Durban, 17 August, 1985; as well his opening address to Parliament the following year; followed by an examination of the communication of reforms concerning influx control and urbanisation. In defining political violence a distinction is made between the government's use of the word 'unrest' and 'terrorism', which is contrasted with the critical concepts of 'mass action' and 'insurgency'. The narration of the declaration of the State of Emergency, and some of the main thematic motifs which accompanied reporting in this period, specifically the insistence that the security forces, and through them, the government, was in constant control; and the concept of 'black-on-black' violence as a driving force in the political upheavals, are dissected. This is followed by an analysis of the television coverage of political violence in Durban (August 1985); Crossroads (June 1986) and the contracted 'Unrest Reports' which were regularly broadcast throughout the State of Emergency. In the final chapter, the portrayal of the ANC as a terrorist organisation is examined, together with the attitudes of those who were believed to support them. The thesis concludes with a re-examination of the dominant ideology thesis, specifically as it can be said to have applied to the television news broadcasts discussed in this project.


Thesis (Ph.D.)-University of Natal, Durban, 1992.


Theses--Culture, communication and media studies., Television broadcasting of news--South Africa., South Africa--Politics and government--1961-1989., South Africa--History--1961-1989.