eNCA is closing down its Africa division, retrenching “about 30” staff members. Glenda Nevill reports.
Patrick Conroy, managing director of news, told The Media Online the company had had to make an “agonising decision” to shut eNCA Africa, including the Africa 360 show. The closure will not affect eNCA, news on e.tv or the eNCA.com team. It impacts on journalists, management, production and technical operations. He stressed, however, that the channel still have staff dedicated to coverage of Africa online.
“The number of those affected currently stands at around 30. The reason I cannot be more specific is that we have prioritised these staff for vacancies as they occur elsewhere in the business. As late as last week we received two resignations in other divisions and so interviews are taking place as we speak to accommodate those we can. We aim to keep the number of staff affected as low as possible,” Conroy said.
Conroy said a number of factors led to the decision, but that the main reason for shutting the TV news wing was that ultimately, “we had no clients able or willing to pay for Africa news content” and that “there was essentially no operational need for the TV news feed any longer as clients cut back on costs or went out of business themselves”.
He said that although the business looked promising initially “the economic squeeze in North America and Europe saw networks cut back and focused on domestic markets. Those taking our news feeds in Africa, and even the UK, began to run into financial difficulty. Advertisers too cutback globally”.
Editorially, the channel was “happy with the product” and its improvement year-on-year. “Our coverage of the Westgate Mall attacks in Nairobi saw us compete admirably against established international players. However without a client base any longer for the division it became clear that we had to wind up the TV operations,” Conroy said.
He said the company had a good stringer network and could still deploy teams out of South Africa if necessary.
“Regrettably Africa 360 will be discontinued. The show relies on the bureaus and ability to travel throughout Africa in order to sustain itself,” said Conroy.
eNCA made news a few years ago when it launched an international channel on the Sky News platform. This closed last year in October. “The costs of being on the platform would have been worth it if we could secure syndication deals and licensing agreements but demand dried up as the global economy took a downturn and regrettably the SKY offering was no longer financially sensible,” Conroy explained, adding that, “Al Jazeera, CNN and particularly the BBC have increasingly focused on Africa too which made this market a tough one to compete in”.
“The BBC and Al Jazeera don’t have the same commercial pressures we do and they have strong international currencies to write cheques with,” said Conroy.
Conroy said that like any news organisation around the world, eNCA is rethinking the business model around news. He said, “This will vary depending on the market you are in but there is little doubt that the internet is a disruptor and that telecommunications companies are increasingly wanting to enter the content game. It is changing all the time.”
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