SABC failing in language, news - study

2012-09-05 10:50
Cape Town – A groundbreaking new research study by Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) has found that the SABC's TV channels get a failing grade as the broadcaster is struggling to meet its language diversity mandate and the channels are awash with a massive number of repeats and soap operas.

The MMA decided to carry out the groundbreaking research as the SABC has had six CEOs in six years and three different boards, whilst being beset with massive financial problems and plagued with instability at management level since 2008.

The research, funded by the Open Society Foundation, which followed the SABC's main news bulletins and analysed all listed programmes between April and mid-May this year, found that there are high levels of repeats on SABC1, SABC2 and SABC3.


SABC1 uses 28% of its broadcasting time for repeat programming, SABC2 uses 21% of its airtime for repeats and SABC3 allocates 15% of its broadcasting time for repeats.

Furthermore only 41% of the content on SABC3 is local. That means that almost a quarter – 21% - of all broadcasting time on the SABC is devoted to rebroadcasts.

Furthermore, rebroadcasts of old TV series like MacGyver are not considered repeats (only programmes repeated within the same monitoring week) which means that the number of old and repetitive programming on the SABC which viewers have seen previously and years before are in effect actually even higher.

Local targets

According to the study carried out by Lethabo Dibetso and Thandi Smith, the SABC, besides using news, makes heavy use of repeat programming to meet local content quota targets as required in the regulations from the industry regulator, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa).

The SABC appears to meet its target of 55% local content with about 70% of local content – but only because it includes sport (which is not counted as local content) and news.

"Without news SABC channels' compliance with its requirements are no longer met on SABC3, and only just over on SABC1 and SABC2.

"Although the local content quota of the SABC is allowed to be met by including repeats, without the repeat programming it is clear that all channels across the SABC do not meet the quota," the study notes.

Struggling to meet language mandates

Although English is only spoken as a first language by 8% of the population and the SABC is required to broadcast in all official languages, English dominates SABC programming (76%).

A massive 65% of all locally produced content on the SABC is in English. The next biggest languages trailing far behind are Afrikaans at only 6%, Zulu (5%) and Xhosa, Sotho and Tshivenda (3%). Half of the Afrikaans (50%) language broadcast on the SABC is accounted for by the soap 7de Laan alone.

"As such it is obvious that the language diversity on the SABC is limited. These figures suggest that the SABC struggles to fulfil its language mandates," the study notes.

Decline in quality of news content

According to the study, when it comes to SABC News, "political parties set the agenda".

Further, marginal people are underrepresented in news coverage and provinces with large metropolitan areas are given better and more coverage. SABC news bulletins also don't explain stories in depth, the study notes.

"Gender does not seem to be a priority for SABC News," the study notes. Males sources for news account for 80%. Meanwhile, academics and experts were the least accessed sources (2%) by SABC news and political parties the most (21%).

SABC news uses spokespersons the most as sources (62%) of information which the study warns "is to the detriment of other sources of information who may provide another perspective".

SABC2's Nuus om 7 had the highest number of expert sources. SABC3's News @ 7 provided the most information containing a citizen's perspective as well as a gender perspective.

Regarding SABC news the study noted "a decline in the quality of content that viewers and listeners get from the SABC news services".

"All SABC stations seem to struggle to put out sufficient current affairs programming during primetime," says the study. "The same can be said for documentaries."

Filled with soap

SABC television is awash with soap operas with very little news, according to the study.

"The genre that is broadcast most is soap operas at 16% of all broadcasting time," notes the research, "second is educational programming (12%), followed by current affairs (10%) and drama (9%)".

News broadcasts represent only 7% of all airtime.

The study notes that the findings raise concerns as to whether SABC3 complies with its mandate to broadcast seven hours of news per week. "Additionally there's concerns that can be raised about SABC1 and SABC2's airing of documentaries: both stations are required to broadcast five hours per week, but figures suggest that both channels fall short".
Read more on:    sabc  |  tv publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.