Call me old fashioned but the only reason I pay my TV licence is because I am still naive enough to believe that the laws of the land should be obeyed, however idiotic they may be.
I pay grudgingly because I don’t ever watch SABC TV or listen to its radio stations.
I clearly don’t fall within any of its target markets. Not even vaguely. Which is strange, because I belong to a market segment that has 20% of the country’s disposable income in spite of only being6% of the population.
SABC 1 and SABC 2 are clearly not meant for me. SABC 3 used to be but it has lost the plot so badly in the past few years that it doesn’t seem to appeal to any target market at all except perhaps a few die-hard palefaces with IQs that don’t quite reach double figures.
Now, the SABC seems to be killing the goose that laid the golden egg by allowing its popular soapie, Generations, to be caught up in a controversy that has resulted in Cosatu calling for a nationwide boycott and actors spitting venom at being so badly paid.
They argue that in the United States, United Kingdom and other soapie-producing countries, actors are paid veritable fortunes. And of course they are.
But, what they, the SABC and parliament’s portfolio committee of communications has never really appreciated is that those soapies from the US, UK, Australia and so forth, cost vastly less than producing local content because they are syndicated to dozens if not hundreds if TV stations worldwide.
Here in South Africa we continue to commission soapies so steeped in local culture that most cannot be sold to foreign markets.
But, that’s only one of the reasons why local content is so expensive and as far as I am concerned, utterly unsustainable in the future.
The parochial, old school, thinking that permeates the SABC from the board down to its lowest minions, is personified by the powers that be at SABC 3 persisting in desperately trying to promote the channel as a brand. Not realising, or maybe refusing to accept, that TV viewers watch programmes not channels.
Added to this, parliament has decided to suspend the SABC chair ostensibly because she fibbed about her qualifications. Which is really strange because the COO recently avoided suspension or even mild censure in spite of that self-same sort of fibbing.
So, why is she really under suspension? My guess its probably because she hasn’t been toeing the ANC line. It’s the only argument that makes sense.
However, right now the SABC still represents one of the most powerful of all South Africa’s mass media by virtue of the fact that a massive 60%of our population have only the SABC as a source of information. But, it is also the country’s most vulnerable mass medium.
The massive increase in the ownership of smartphones along with the decrease in the cost of internet connectivity and increase in bandwidth and download speeds, should be a huge warning to the SABC that it is under threat.
MultiChoice and e.tv have made massive inroads into the SABC’s market share and now with the Times Media Group launching its Vidi online subscription service and clearly planning to expand this into something a lot wider, this pressure on the SABC will increase.
Kagiso Media is also rumoured to have something under its sleeve and while Icasa might be able to maintain a modicum of order for the moment, the time is not far off when the licencing and regulating of video services will become completely obsolete.
Already, general news and business information is available to South Africans online through services such as ZITE over which the South Africa authorities have no control whatsoever. In fact, no one really knows or cares where these online aggregation services are based or whether their content is verified.
Emails have rendered the postal services obsolete and in precisely the same way, online video content on demand will destroy the TV channel-based supply model.
So, while parliament continues to force the SABC to invest in strategies, projects and processes that are unsustainable and the ANC keeps deploying inexperienced cadres to ensure continuity in party propaganda, the internet spider will inexorable spread its web, cheaply and more efficiently with every strand, to the most far-reaching corners of the country and poorest of poor communities.
The way it is heading now, I am not sure the SABC will survive another generation or even another Generations debacle.
Follow Chris Moerdyk @chrismoerdyk
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