30/03/2017 08:56 SAST | Updated 30/03/2017 09:24 SAST

Really? What Sort Of Couch Potatoes Try To Phone A Soapie Character?

The SABC unintentionally read out a woman's real cellphone number on air during an episode of Isidingo. And viewers called her. We've no idea why.

Gallo Images/Drum/Oupa Bopape
Isidingo star Shona Ferguson

Hello is that Tyson? No, he doesn't exist.

The SABC was fined R10,000 for invasion of privacy after unintentionally giving out a woman's cellphone number on air during an episode of soapie "Isidingo".

The Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa ruled that Thapelo Diale suffered "unprecedented, extraordinary and serious negative consequences". The cast needed a cellphone number for the character Tyson Mokoena in a scene and invented one, but the number actually belonged to Diale. Mokoena is played by Shona Ferguson.

Viewers called the number.

Diale's phone rang so much that she reportedly received a warning from her employer. She said she also received verbal abuse from fans of the soapie and suffered emotional harm.

Initially, the SABC was ordered to apologise on air but Diale appealed. The SABC was also reportedly ordered to write to her employer to explain the situation and ask that the warning be rescinded.

"In applying the privacy clause, the broadcaster failed both tests mentioned in the clause," said the commission.

"Since the soap opera falls in the genre of fiction, there was obviously no public interest involved, which is the first test. The broadcaster also failed the second test, namely reasonableness of the infringement — it was grossly negligent to randomly choose a cell phone number for use in a popular soap opera. Many viewers form personal relationships with actors and therefore may continue to call the number.

"The scriptwriters and producers should have foreseen that the number could be a real (and private) number belonging to somebody."

As an aggravating factor, the situation continued despite the complaint as viewers just kept on calling.

The commission noted that the SABC should not broadcast an apology about the incident, "as the fear is that this well-intended act, may encourage more callers to start calling the appellant's number again", but the broadcaster should explain to Diale's employer and get her written warning revoked.

SABC also had to pay a R10,000 fine to the commission.