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A blow for Afrikaans TV as SABC 2 culls even more shows

2014-06-26 08:29

Cape Town – The SABC is getting ready to dump almost all of the remaining Afrikaans language shows still left on SABC2 and will move this Afrikaans programming to SABC3 – a channel with a much smaller footprint.

It's the result of a TV programming language battle at the SABC which has "become unsustainable" for the public broadcaster's SABC2 channel.

Channel24 can reveal that the SABC will permanently move its sole terrestrial, daily, Afrikaans language TV news bulletin, Nuus om 7, from SABC2 to SABC3 once the SABC's coverage of the 2014 FIFA World Cup concludes.

Channel24 can also reveal that for the first time in 38 years there won't be any Afrikaans TV drama on SABC2 (the former TV1) any more – the end of Afrikaans drama on this widely available TV channel since television began in South Africa in 1976.

The Afrikaans drama slot, when that content is commissioned by the SABC, will play out on the much smaller SABC3 where fewer viewers are able to see it.

Viewer anger flared up this week when the SABC canned its sole Afrikaans TV news bulletin entirely since Sunday for this week with no forewarning to viewers who couldn't find it on SABC2 or SABC3 because it doesn't exist.

The Nuus om 7 has become a "hurdle" for SABC2 – although it remains a huge viewership and ratings getter.

Doing both Sotho, Afrikaans on SABC2 ‘has become unsustainable’

The move is part of a broader language shift of Afrikaans away from SABC2 since the SABC says that trying to do both Sotho and Afrikaans on SABC2 has "become unsustainable".

Shows like the current affairs program Fokus, TV drama Swartwater, magazine show 50/50 (which also contains other languages) will all be repositioned from SABC2 to SABC3 permanently.

The upcoming move will leave only soap 7de Laan and game show Noot vir Noot as the last vestiges of predominantly Afrikaans language programming on SABC2.

SABC3 has the smallest terrestrial broadcasting signal footprint of the SABC's three terrestrial TV channels.

It means that Afrikaans language programming – already a fraction of what it was on the SABC and SABC2 almost two decades ago in 1996 when the public broadcaster relaunched TV1, CCV and NNTV as SABC1, SABC2 and SABC3 – is being further marginalised.

Since SABC3 cannot be received by as many South African viewers as SABC2 and SABC1 – especially in the vast areas further away from big metropolitan areas and cities – it means that less potential viewers who would want to, would be able to tune in for the daily Afrikaans news bulletin, Fokus, 50/50 or Swartwater simply because they simply don't get the signal.

Only Afrikaans language shows are moved away from SABC2. SABC3's English language current affairs interview show Interface will be moving to SABC2.

Dramatic new SABC TV channel’s schedule structure

It's part of a "network" approach between the three SABC TV channels with firstly a dramatic new schedule structure coming to SABC1 from immediately after the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

SABC2 will slowly change to let the SABC1 changes happen first and then have its major schedule changes in September.

SABC3 will follow after that and could be doing away with its recognisable blue look when it gets a new on-air look as early as from the beginning of July.

Where the Afrikaans language Nuus om 7 and Fokus are both perenially making the list of top 10 most watched programmes on SABC2 every week at around 1.5 million and 1.3 million viewers respectively, these viewership ratings are set to plunge when these programmes move to SABC3 which as a channel is available in less TV households.

Nuus om 7 will get the 19:30 timeslot on SABC3, while the hour long English news bulletin which has not been performing well, will be cut back down to only half an hour again, starting at 18:30.

"The Afrikaans news as we have it at the moment will be moving to SABC3 permanently," Jacqui Hlongwane, SABC2's acting programme manager told TV critics and advertisers this week.

SABC2: ‘A schizophrenic TV channel

"What that does for us on the SABC2 schedule is that it opens it up, so that we're able to flow better. It's been quite a challenge for SABC2 in the past. We really have been like a schizophrenic TV channel."

"We've been serving two markets now – the Sesotho audience as well as the Afrikaans audience – and it's really been quite a struggle to try and serve both those important audiences," said Jacqui Hlongwane. "In one channel that kind of positioning has become unsustainable".

"In terms of our family proposition, we want content that speaks to South African families. So language should not be what defines us".

‘We won’t be having Afrikaans dramas anymore’

"We will still have all the languages on our channel, including Afrikaan but we do feel that it's about family viewing, that it's about family values and all the good things that we need to build this country," said Hlongwane.

"At 18:30 on SABC2 we have 7de Laan. That stays on the channel from Monday to Friday. And then after that where we had the Afrikaans news we will start introducing things like family game shows and reality and factual content".

"After that we will put some sitcoms in – both foreign and local sitcoms – as well as a new telenovela that we want to introduce".

"Obviously it takes time to produce that kind of local content but hopefully by July next year we have a telenovela. So there's a lot of local content investment going on at SABC2 because viewers said that they want to see themselves. They want their lives reflected on screen," said Hlongwane.

"Swartwater, basically the Afrikaans drama slot, is moving to SABC3. So SABC2 won't be having Afrikaans dramas anymore, it moves to SABC3," said Hlongwane.

"It is a challenge with three TV channels to try and accommodate and speak to, and be relevant to 34 million TV households in this country, but we do it, and we try and do it to the best of our ability," said Leo Manne, the general manager for TV channels at the SABC.


READ IT HERE: SABC not 'marginalising' Afrikaans

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