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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
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

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree were established in 1986....

Recruitment Genius: SAGE Bookkeeper & PA to Directors

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Executive

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An On-line Sales & Customer Ser...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map