South Africa and Africa’s latest 24-hour television news network, ANN7, launched on the DStv platform last night, flying its colours with a glitzy event held its reported state of the art studios in Midrand, Johannesburg.
With cuts from the launch, hosted by station hire Gerry Rantseli-Elsdon, to the studio where prime time anchor Chantal Rutter Dros deftly navigated her way through a some technical issues, ANN7 promised “insightful, informative, interactive and interesting content”. The channel’s debut, as expected, did experience a number glitches.
As the clock ticked down to lift off on channel 405, the African National Congress was quick to issue a statement congratulating Africa News Network 7. “The ANC wishes the network well and trusts that it will play a constructive role in our national discourse; exercising media freedom in a balanced and objective manner that supports and enhances our thriving democracy,” said spokesman Jackson Mthembu, who was a guest at the launch later in the day.
Mthembu said the South African story remains “largely untold”. He said the story was of “20 years of delivery, of some mistakes, of progress and most importantly a story of a South Africa that is better today than it was in 1994. As during the launch of SABC News Channel earlier this month, the ANC therefore reaffirms its support for the expansion of views and opinions on the airwaves and trusts that ANN7 will bring constructive, thoughtful and insightful perspectives into the public discourse.”
Recently appointed communications minister Yunus Carrim, whose appointment coincided with the launch of the SABC’s 24-hour news channel three weeks ago, was also roped in to deliver a speech marking ANN7’s arrival on the airwaves.
“I think this broadcaster shares a lot in common with SABC,” Carrim said. “I hope they will enjoy a co-operative, competitive relationship.” Carrim said diversity of voices was essential in the South African broadcasting landscape, and that ANN7 would contribute to healthy competition in the sector which, Carrim hoped, would improve quality and deliver more South African stories.
Earlier, spokesman for the communications ministry, Siya Qoza, said the addition of a third 24-hour news channel was healthy for democracy as it would promote a wider coverage of news from a multitude of news platforms.
Nazeem Howa, CEO of The New Age newspaper and now of Infinity Media, which owns the channel, said he was “looking forward to presenting our viewers with a channel that is unique in its profile and choice of programmes. ANN7 is a strong addition to existing news channels in the media landscape of this country”.
ANN7 will focus on “constructive, nation-building stories in the interests of building a culture of unity and pride in SA”, it says in a statement. It also says it is the “most technologically advanced 24×7 news channel in South Africa. Its latest newsroom automation systems, cutting edge electronic news gathering technology and a network of sharp, young journalists and experienced editors will give a fresh perspective to the TV viewers of the country”.
So far, it has built a team of 150 journalists some of whom have experience in newsrooms at Sky and Al Jazeera, ANN7 has dedicated teams for the different segments ranging from politics, to business, sports and entertainment news. Chantal Rutter Dros will be hosting prime time shows ANN7 Headlines and ANN7 Prime. Gerry Rantseli-Elsdon will host Vuka Africa, while Kwaito pioneer Arthur Mafokate will host a weekly flagship sport show Hola Weekend. Interestingly, former cabinet spokesman, the controversial Jimmy Manyi, will be hosting a weekly hard talk show Straight Talk.
Union the Media Workers Association of South Africa (MWASA) says more choice, and another source of news and opinion, is to be welcomed “despite the limited accessibility of the platform in a country characterised by increasing socioeconomic disparities”.
General secretary Tuwani Gumani said, “It is hoped that beyond launching glitches, positive competition amongst the increasing number of news-channels on offer will encourage a genuine race towards improved product quality and an informed citizenry”.
But, Gumani said, media houses need to “improve on the dismal treatment and appreciation of their staff and employees who represent both human and intellectual property. “Newsroom management and organisational decision-making should be transformed where it is generally reserved for males with token females treated as second-grade citizens,” he said.
And what did the always-vocal Twitterati have to say about @ANN7tv?
#ANN7 Is this being broadcast from a Waterkloof Air Base hanger?
Such innovation! Most try for an agenda-setting piece when launching a new media outlet. #ANN7 seems to be going for dead air instead.
And now we watch the Guptas eat. It’s like a New Age Business Dinner #ANN7
Think #ANN7 just outdid SABC with first broadcast glitch: dead air plus background chatter
Why do new channels think they need to indulge us with idle chatter? Just tell the damn news, we don’t care about your fabulous views. #ANN7
… and in-depth profile pieces on the heroic efforts of Gedleyhlekisa to grow the economy. Can’t wait! #ANN7
The presenters are clearly nervous, control room not focused. #ANN7 early days, blips gremlins and glitches all part of broadcasting