M-Net facing class action case in Film Academy race row

2015-11-30 11:55

Cape Town – M-Net is facing a class action complaint over alleged racial discrimination and excluding white students from its Magic in Motion Academy, while the pay-TV broadcaster says its rules are not breaking the law.

M-Net has become embroiled in a growing race row at the start of the second year of its Magic in Motion Academy (MiM Academy).

The MiM Academy started as a brand-new corporate social investment (CSI) initiative this year and has done terrific work in 2015 to expose South African film students, working as interns, to the South African television business by getting hands-on experience across a range of M-Net, kykNET and Mzansi Magic channels' productions.

The MiM Academy is overseen by the veteran producer and director Bobby Heaney as the academy's director.

M-Net is allegedly excluding white students from applying for one of the 20 internships for 2016 - up from 12 positions this year – specifying that applications are "strictly EE (Employment Equity) qualifying candidates only – black, coloured and Indian". Applications close on 11 December.

Trade union Solidarity announced that it will now file a class complaint with the South African Human Rights Commission (HRC) about what it says is "M-Net's discriminating Magic in Motion internship" programme.

"M-Net indicated that only black, coloured and Indian persons would be considered for an internship opportunity. This opportunity excludes all white persons,” says Dirk Groenewald, the head of Solidarity's Centre for fair labour practices.

“Our complaint to the HRC is based on the prohibition by law of quotas and absolute limitations as well as the reservation of jobs.”

"The explanation M-Net offered to Solidarity is unacceptable and serves as confirmation that they are excluding all white persons, and therefore, they are acting in breach of the law."

"It is totally unacceptable that M-Net supports and implements such discriminating practices. We will request the HRC to give its urgent attention to the matter and will also argue that M-Net should do away with those practices," says Groenewald. "We also have a social obligation to stand up against those racist practices".

'M-Net isn't breaking the law'

In a statement M-Net CEO Yolisa Phahle says M-Net is not breaking the law and that M-Net "rejects Solidary's claim that out internship programme does not comply with the Employment Equity Act".

Phahle says M-Net's Magic in Motion Academy initiative is in line with the Employment Equity Act "which requires us to remove barriers to employment – which is exactly what Magic in Motion does".

"Magic in Motion is one of several interventions we are making to transform the sector, including significant investments in local content and the development of local film production companies."

"We will continue to play a role in building an electronic media sector which is truly representative of all South Africans," says Phahle.

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