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Pirated SABC soaps sold in Africa

2013-07-22 14:41
Cape Town – Pirated weekly episodes of South African TV soaps on DVDs are now being sold illegally on street corners in Southern African cities. This comes after the SABC and's broadcasting signals from South Africa were suddenly encrypted at the beginning of the month.

Growing frustration and anger is reigning among TV viewers in several African countries surrounding South Africa, where fans of popular SA TV series are now resorting to buying pirated weekly DVD discs with episodes of South African TV soap operas.

Backyard technicians, who at the beginning of July did brisk business by asking up to $40 to restore the SABC and on imported decoders from China and Dubai such as Philibao, Wiztech and Fortec Star, have all suddenly disappeared.

Chinese decoders faulty

Desperate viewers in countries from Zimbabwe and Angola, to Swaziland, Botswana, Mozambique, Zambia, Malawi and even Madagascar who forked over money have found that the technicians who told them to pay up and wait for the signals to return are now nowhere to be found.

Frustrated TV viewers are left without their money and no available SABC or signals - but only those of moribund state-run TV stations which they say are not worth watching.

At the end of June, the South African parastatal signal distributor Sentech finally turned off the free South African television programming bonanza when it encrypted the free-to-air TV signals from South Africa's broadcasters beyond the country's borders.

The abrupt cut and encryption is the result of eBotswana's court case in which the broadcaster successfully argued that it was losing viewers and revenue through the illegal availability and distribution of South African broadcasters' TV signals outside of South Africa.

eBotswana reportedly now has plans to try and secure some of the SABC's soaps such as Generations for the broadcaster which viewers in Botswana would be able to watch on eBotswana, instead of on SABC1 which shouldn't have been freely available as a TV channel in that country.

Enthralled by SA soaps

While SABC bashing is a favourite pastime of South African television viewers who frequently and vocally criticise the public broadcaster for its shoddy and outdated programming, constant repeats and reports of mismanagement while they're forced to pay an anuual TV licence fee, viewers in other African nations look up to SABC programming which they say is far superior to what is provided in their own countries.

Millions of viewers – who for years have been daily fed on a steady diet of South Africa's glam TV soaps ranging from Generations, Muvhango, Isidingo, Rhythm City and even the Afrikaans with subtitled soap 7de Laan – as well as wider choice of TV news and current affairs programming originating from South Africa, are going through severe withdrawal.

As MultiChoice's DStv decoder sales are suddenly skyrocketing, shops which sold the now obsolete decoders have started closing down.

Shop owners, left with thousands of worthless decoders, have been inundated with calls from TV viewers who want to know why their decoders are suddenly no longer working.

Pirate DVDs

Viewers outside of South Africa are now also resorting to buying pirated DVDs with episodes of South African TV soaps. Street vendors are selling weekly "omnibus" DVDs with illegally copied episodes of the popular SA soaps -  for just $1.

Meanwhile, another debate has flared up in countries such as Swaziland where shocked viewers are left wondering why Swazi TV isn't producing their own soapies but allowed viewers to become hooked on Generations and Isidingo instead.

1st TV, a new private free-to-air TV station planned to start broadcasting on Friday on Wiztech decoders but failed to launch. It comes at the same time as Sentech and the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) are talking about how South African TV programming could possibly be shown on the ZBC in the form of a new "regional SABC channel" which could maybe offer viewers joint SABC and ZBC programming.

DStv decoders which cost $35 now sell for as much as $70 as desperate viewers cough up ever increasing prices to get access to better television and refuse to watch what public broadcasters in their countries offer up.

"A lot of people wanted the decoders after the switching off of SABC channels, so we then decided to increase the prices to get more cash. People are still coming," a shop owner told the Southern Eye newspaper in Zimbabwe, where 3 million viewers watched the SABC and on free-to-air decoders before the signals were scrambled.

Read more on:    dstv  |  etv  |  sabc  |  mozambique  |  botswana  |  zambia  |  zimbabwe  |  malawi  |  7de laan  |  rhythm city  |  muvhango  |  isidingo  |  tv  |  generations
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