Ban on sale of TV shows to South Africa lifted: Anti-apartheid blockade by actors' union dropped following reform of broadcasting, but opposition to touring remains

EQUITY, the actors' union, has voted to end its controversial ban on the sale of British television programmes to South Africa, it announced yesterday.

But the union said it would continue to advise its members not to perform in South Africa because its sister union there, POWE, was not recognised by the theatres and was unable to provide proper financial and contractual protection.

Equity's ban on programme sales was introduced in 1976 because of fears that South African broadcasters would discriminate against black and Asian actors by refusing to buy programmes in which they featured. It was thought this could influence British casting directors against choosing such actors.

The boycott was supported by Glenda Jackson, the actress, who said it should stay 'until the South African regime was dismantled in deed rather than words'. But the veteran actor Marius Goring, who unsuccessfully took Equity to court over the decision, has argued cultural infiltration would be a more effective anti-apartheid weapon.

Last Friday, 5,264 of Equity's 43,000 members voted to lift the ban and 1,735 voted against. Ian McGarry, general secretary, said the numbers were 'representative'.

Agreements with the BBC, ITV, independent producers and advertising agencies would still have to be reworked to implement the new policy, Mr McGarry said.

The union expects South Africa to be particularly keen on educational, drama, situation comedy and children's programmes and says the market could rival Australia - which has also lifted an identical ban on programme sales to South Africa - as an outlet for British programme sales. Viewers are said to be desperate for a change from their constant diet of often-violent American imports.

In 1990 Channel 4 was said by Equity to have breached the boycott by selling Brookside to Bophuthatswana, which C4 had not regarded as part of South Africa. Other breaches have allegedly included the sale of How Green Was My Valley, the BBC drama serial, sold by a distributor.

'The changes in South Africa in recent months are the reason why the issue was put back to a referendum,' Mr McGarry said. He added that the board of the South African Broadcasting Corporation used to be appointed by the South African government and was answerable to it. 'The new board is broadly representative of the inter-racial community . . . and is recognised as such by the ANC and POWE.'

Further support for the referendum, which follows others in 1991 and 1986, came after Nelson Mandela this year agreed that the ban should be lifted.

Yesterday theatre companies said Equity's stance against tours should also be reviewed. The policy prevented the English Shakespeare Company from touring townships with its multi-cultural production of Macbeth last year.

An ESC spokeswoman said: 'Equity should support people who want to perform in South Africa. It's as if the English cultural establishment are happy to have exciting tours from South Africa but we are not allowed to go there in return.'

Adrian Noble, the artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, said: 'For Equity to be so moralistic about this after Nelson Mandela has toured the world encouraging people to open their doors to South Africa seems to me pompous and small-minded.'

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
peopleHere's what Stephen Fry would say
News
i100
Sport
Serena Williams holds the Australian Open title
sportAustralia Open 2015 final report
Sport
footballLive: All the latest from today's Premier League matches
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 6 Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 6 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Recruitment Genius: Transport Administrator / Planner

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Associate - London

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - HIGHEST QUALITY INTERNATIONAL FIRM - A...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Law Costs - London City

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - EXCELLENT FIRM - We have an outstandin...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee