The whole idea of a 24-hour SABC news channel is brilliant.
It was something I had been waiting for – the opportunity for the first time, probably since the inception of TV in this country, to say something really positive about our national broadcaster.
So, I will say it again. The idea of a 24-hour news channel on SABC is brilliant.
Well, it would have been brilliant if what was launched last week had been allowed to be a 24 hour ‘news’ channel and not a 24 hour ‘propaganda and useless information channel’.
Because that’s what it has turned out to be so far.
It really pains me to have to complain about what the SABC is doing all the time, but they are not helping. It’s a though the decision-makers at Auckland Park are all purposely trying to goad me into a nervous breakdown as result of severe frustration at seeing what could be a great broadcaster, consistently behaving like a spoilt child demanding wads of pocket money and then spending it on frivolous, knee-jerk escapades.
For a start, I cannot understand why the SABC has chosen to place its 24 hour news channel on the DStv platform where the only people who will be able to watch it will be a minority of haves while the have not’s have been completely and utterly excluded.
Of course, one assumes that once the SABC migrates to a digital platform, then far more have-nots will be able to watch what is laughingly described as ‘news’.
But even then, many millions of South Africans who still own TV sets dating back to the 1970s and use old coat hangars as aerials to watch SABC 1, 2 and 3 as well as e.tv – even they will not be able to afford the wherewithal needed to pick up digital TV.
Then of course, there is the completely insane notion that regularly during a period of 24 hours there will be broadcasts in all 11 official languages.
While that is praiseworthy, it is going to annoy a lot of people. Television and radio programmes that switch between languages don’t work. They never have and never will.
After all, the objective of any channel is to hang on to its audiences all the time and not do anything that will chase them away.
That’s why presenters always give an idea of what will follow a commercial break and say, “don’t go away”. But our national broadcaster knows better than accepted global best practice. So, hour after hour, the SABC will desperately be trying to get the attention of viewers in a specific language group and then blatantly tell them to piss off and come back when its their turn again.
It would be like me writing this column in one language en dan oor te skakel na ‘n ander και αφού έχω κάνει αυτό για λίγο und durch die Zeit, ich habe elf von ihnen getan. I am quite sure you will be highly irritated and never read anything I write ever again.
Something else that the brains behind this 24 hour news channel seem to have completely overlooked is the fact that the kind of content they intend producing is clearly content that they have dreamed up and not content that the viewers actually want to see.
From what we have been told about programming, this is not going to be just any 24 hour news channel but a mix of multi-lingual sunshine journalism, government propaganda and old style Soviet claptrap consisting mainly of long documentaries on tractor spares and washing your hands after having used an excuse for a lavatory in the Western Cape.
On the very first night, while all the other 24-hour news channels were concentrating on breaking local and world news − which, you have to admit, is pretty dramatic these days − the SABC was indulging in a gratuitous prime time ‘business’ feature about the Eastern Cape that was so enshrouded in superlatives that it could well have found a very comfortable home on the Disney channel.
What really amused me, among all the hype of the launch and explanations by SABC top brass about how great this channel was going to be, was a comment by one such brass top that the plan was simply to launch the channel as soon as possible to that it could attract advertising and sponsorship and become self-sustaining.
Well, I’m not so sure it’s as easy as that. Starting yet another channel in order to get more advertising and sponsorship when one is actually not getting enough to sustain all the other channels is a bit like a fisherman making bigger and bigger holes in a net to try and catch more fish.
I find it most distressing to see what could be a successful national broadcaster, clearly pandering to political demands and political correctness, continuously heading off on expensive tangents that always end up having to be bailed out by the taxpayers.
Just listening to the rationale behind this channel at the time of its launch, it should have been abundantly clear to anyone with even a single figure IQ that the SABC’s 24 hour news channel was born out of the dictates of a political party and its national broadcaster both under severe pressure to deliver what they have been promising for so long.
History has shown that when politicians are unable to keep election promises and unable to supply basic services, a last desperate measure is to try and control the media to persuade the masses that everything is actually hunky dory. The Nats did it very well and the ANC are looking to be no different.
Actually, I shouldn’t be too hard on the politicians because in both cases many decisions taken at the SABC have been based on what top management believes their political masters might want from them.
The SABC is like watching our national soccer team battling to win a game but succeeding only in scoring own goals, one after the other.