SABC News scraps Afrikaans news, other African languages

2015-03-27 08:28

Cape Town – SABC News (DStv 404) will dump the Afrikaans TV news bulletin as well as the additional TV news bulletins in other indigenous South African languages on the channel from 1 April.

The South African public broadcaster's 24-hour TV news channel is apparently also doing away from April with its regular weekly half hour magazine shows like Health Talk, Film SA, Bophelong, Afroshowbiz News, Rights & Recourse, The Journal and Kaleidoscope which are not to be found on the April schedule of SABC News.

Question Time will remain past April, while the future of some of the other programming on SABC News remains unclear.

SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago didn't respond to multiple media enquiries and calls Channel24 made since last week about the upcoming SABC News schedule changes and why the SABC is cutting news in all vernacular languages on the channel and getting rid of the other magazine programming.

From April, SABC News as the public broadcaster's news channel will run only in English while the additional daily half hour news bulletins in South Africa's other official languages - Afrikaans, Zulu, Siswati, Tsonga, Xhosa, isiNdelebe, Sotho and Venda – are scrapped.

In its place SABC News is adding a new show from April, The State of Our Nation, weekdays at 21:00, a programme that will give "well-rounded coverage of our provinces, rural areas and well as big picture municipal issues", according to the new SABC News schedule.

On its website and in marketing material the SABC says "a unique selling point is SABC News Channel's multilingual programming" and that SABC News is delivered "to audiences in all 11 South African official languages".

When the channel launched, the SABC's chief operating officer, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, said the SABC News channel will be an opportunity for the SABC to "enhance its public service mandate and extend its focus on provincial stories and the different official languages".

The SABC News channel launched in August 2013 which replaced the SABC's first struggling attempt at a 24-hour news channel, SABC News International. SABC News International was shut down after just three years at the end of March 2010 after bleeding millions of rands.

An SABC staff member at the news channel told Channel24 last week in regard to SABC News' drastic line-up change and the termination of the existing magazine programming from April that there is "consternation among the employees".

Another SABC staff member said the SABC News channel is also planning "a bulletin with Africa news to compete with the international TV news channels".

SABC News, now running for a year and a half, is part of a controversial deal worth millions of rand Hlaudi Motsoeneng signed with MultiChoice's DStv platform.

It makes SABC News exclusively available to DStv only, keeping it off On Digital Media (ODM) and China's StarTimes Media SA's StarSat, as well as Sabido and Platco Digital's OpenView HD satellite TV platforms.

SABC News channel ‘a pilot project’

The SABC News channel is supposed to become available as a TV channel from the SABC's new bouquet of digital TV channels once the South African government's long-delayed switch-on happens of digital terrestrial television (DTT) as part of the country's digital migration process.

As part of the deal, the SABC is also supposed to supply a general entertainment TV channel, SABC Entertainment, largely sourced from SABC archive content, to MultiChoice's DStv but that 5th SABC TV channel has not launched yet.

Earlier this month in an interview on SABC2, Hlaudi Motsoeneng said "the channel that is sitting on the MultiChoice bouquet, the news channel, it is a SABC channel".

"When we migrate to DTT, that channel will be migrated to our own platforms. It is an SABC channel. It is sitting there as a pilot project."

"There's this 'must carry' regulations, where all content of the SABC, it should be carried by pay-TV, because government want to access all citizen in different platforms, including pay-TV."

"That is the reason why you have the 'must carry' regulations, where, when our content sit there, we are not getting paid from those pay-TV's."

"But we've been engaging MultiChoice to say to them, 'No, look, you benefit because of the SABC. And when you look the channels, the most watched channels in the MultiChoice bouquet is SABC channels. We said, 'Put money in the SABC because you are also benefitting from SABC'. That is the reason why they are investing in the SABC," said Hlaudi Motsoeneng.

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