South African TV’s Universal Networks apologises for airing Mandela obituary

4 Apr 2013

Former South African president Nelson Mandela. Image via Wikimedia Commons

A South African TV company has apologised and blamed a technical error for its repeatedly airing clips indicating that former South African president Nelson Mandela had died. Mandela is actually in hospital being treated for pneumonia.

Universal Networks International runs the Universal Channel on DStv.

Viewers had complained that DStv was being insensitive by repeatedly broadcasting ‘Remembering Madiba 1918-2013,’ along with facts about Mandela’s life, The Telegraph reported. Madiba is Mandela’s clan name.

Universal Networks apologised for Tuesday night’s “technical error” and said it regretted the “alarm and offence” that resulted from the gaffe.

“We unreservedly apologise to the Mandela family, to Universal Channel viewers and to DStv subscribers for the alarm and offence caused by this error,” Universal Networks said in a statement. “Our thoughts and best wishes are with Madiba and his family for a speedy and full recovery.”

Universal Networks also said it holds obituaries ready for every major statesman in the world.

Mandela (94) has been in hospital for about a week. The South African presidency has said he is responding satisfactorily to treatment.

In September 2012, NBC affiliate station WGRZ issued its own apology for broadcasting a photo of singer Seal alongside its story about the death of actor Michael Clarke Duncan. WGRZ attributed the mistake to an ‘editing error’.

Tina Costanza was a journalist and sub-editor at Silicon Republic