Wednesday, September 5, 2012
SABC awash in massive number of repeats and soap operas; struggling to meet language mandate; 'decline' in quality of news content - MMA study.
A new research study by the independent Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) has found that the South African public broadcaster's TV channels gets a failing grade, struggling to meet its language diversity mandate and with SABC television awash in a massive number of repeats and soap operas.
The MMA has decided to carry out the groundbreaking research as the SABC has had 6 CEO's in 6 years and 3 different boards with massive financial problems and instability at management level since 2008.
ALSO READ: SABC is repeats, repeats repeats - study.
The research, funded by the Open Society Foundation, which followed the SABC's main news bulletins and analysed all listed programmes between April and mid-May this year, found that there are high levels of repeats on SABC1, SABC2 and SABC3.
SABC1 uses 28% of its broadcasting time for repeat programming, SABC2 uses 21% of its airtime for repeats and SABC3 allocates 15% of its broadcasting time for repeats. Furthermore only 41% of the content on SABC3 is local. That means that almost a quarter - 21% of all broadcasting time on the SABC - is devoted to rebroadcasts.
Furthermore, rebroadcasts of old TV series like MacGyver are not considered repeats (only programmes repeated within the same monitoring week) which means that the number of old and repetitive programming on the SABC which viewers have seen previously and years before are in effect even higher.
According to the study carried out by Lethabo Dibetso and Thandi Smith, the SABC, besides using news, make heavy use of repeat programming to meet local content quota targets as required in the regulations from the industry regulator, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa).
The SABC appears to make its target of 55% local content with about 70% - but only because it includes sport (which is not counted as local content) and news. "Without news SABC channels' compliance with its requirements are no longer met on SABC3, and only just over on SABC1 and SABC2."
"Although the local content quota of the SABC is allowed to be met by including repeats, without the repeat programming it is clear that all channels across the SABC do not meet its quota," the study notes.
Struggling to meet language mandates
Although English is only spoken as a first language by 8% of the population and the SABC is required to broadcast in all official languages, English dominates in SABC programming (76%). A massive 65% of all locally produced content on the SABC is in English. The next biggest languages trailing far behind are Afrikaans at only 6% and Zulu (5%), Xhosa, Sotho and Tshivenda (3%). Half of the Afrikaans (50%) language broadcast on the SABC is accounted for by the soap 7de Laan alone.
"As such it is obvious that the language diversity on the SABC is limited. These figures suggest that the SABC struggles to fulfil its language mandates," the study notes.
Decline in quality of news content
According to the study, when it comes to SABC News, "political parties set the agenda" notes the study, saying that marginal people are underrepresented in news coverage and that provinces with large metropolitan areas are given better and more coverage. SABC news bulletins also don't explain stories in depth.
"Gender does not seem to be a priority for SABC News," the study notes. Males sources for news account for 80%. Meanwhile academics and experts were the least accessed sources (2%) by SABC news and political parties the most (21%). SABC news uses spokespersons the most as sources (62%) of information which the study warns "is to the detriment of other sources of information who may provide another perspective."
SABC2's Nuus om 7 had the highest number of expert sources. SABC3's News @ 7 provided the most information containing a citizen's perspective as well as a gender perspective.
Regarding SABC news the study notes "a decline in the quality of content that viewers and listeners get from the SABC news services". "All SABC stations seem to struggle to put out sufficient current affairs programming during primetime," says the study. "The same can be said for documentaries."
Filled with soap
SABC television is awash in soap operas with very little news, according to the study. "The genre that is broadcast most is soap operas at 16% of all broadcasting time," notes the research, "second is educational programming (12%), followed by current affairs (10%) and drama (9%)". News broadcasts represent only 7% of all airtime.
The study notes that the findings leave question marks over whether SABC3 complies with its mandate to broadcast 7 hours of news per week. "Additionally there's concerns that can be raised about SABC1 and SABC2's airing of documentaries: both stations are required to broadcast 5 hours per week, but figures suggest that both channels fall short".
According to the SABC, the broadcaster will talk with MMA about the research findings. According to spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago the SABC do not agree with many of the findings of the report.