Thursday, July 9, 2015

Abysmal CNBC Africa on DStv once again shows how completely irrelevant, out of touch and ridiculously hopeless it has become as a TV channel.

On Wednesday evening and all through the night the abysmal CNBC Africa (DStv 410) embarrassingly showed just how irrelevant, out of touch and unimportant the ABN TV channel has become as a place to find actual business news the past few years for South African viewers on DStv.

On Wednesday when the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) shut down due to an unexplained glitch for almost 4 hours, the big news lured this TV critic momentarily back to that vast wasteland in the upper 400's on MultiChoice's DStv platform where CNBC Africa - which turned 8 years old in June - once did actual news and had some relevance.

I wanted to see how CNBC Africa would handle the shut down of the world's largest stock exchange, whether CNBC Africa would explain what the impact would be for South Africa and Africa, or whether CNBC Africa at the very least would switch its channel feed away from dreary pre-planned and pre-recorded panel shows to its CNBC Europe or CNBC's original American feed.

CNBC Africa did nothing.

As in completely ignored the news - as well as the further slide of China's stock exchange where several South African behemoths like Naspers for instance has exposure.

Now, its nothing new.

CNBC Africa long ago lost most of its credibility, and as one of the least watched news channels on DStv it had long ago sold the little silver ware it had in terms of actual news cache in favour of an unending litany of advertiser-funded productions.

CNBC Africa remains stock-ed with sponsor-driven drivel, branded content gone awry and inane and stale talking heads programming - all apparently done to appease and get corporate sponsors, instead of trying to do serious, incisive and relevant business news coverage.

It's money CNBC Africa is interested in - but seemingly more advertiser's money than giving viewers real news about money.

Like SABC News, it was fascinating to watch CNBC Africa stick with stale and pre-recorded, irrelevant programming like talking about private education investment opportunities and books while Bloomberg (DStv 411), CNN International (DStv 401) and other news channels did minute-by-minute coverage of the NYSE shut-down and its eventual re-opening.

CNBC Africa with its banal "business" coverage once again affirmed how its no longer - if it ever was - a platform where you're actually going to get news or breaking news and insight about big business events shaping Africa and the world as it happens.

It was ironic that CNN International would reference CNBC and say on CNN International that CNBC "just reported" that the NYSE would re-open soon for 45 minutes at the end of the business day.

How agonising must it be that another news brand references you, but that you can't even care about bringing it to your own viewers yourself.

CNBC Africa and its executives and programmers couldn't bother to switch its own channel feed to CNBC to give and bring its viewers that news directly.

Bloomberg did great coverage and CNN International did excellent coverage, while CNBC Africa limped along, out of touch with the news of the moment for more than 3 and a half hours.

Is it any wonder that CNBC Africa is the least watched news channel on DStv in South Africa, with an audience share of basically 0%, even below the 1% of BusinessDay TV?

What is the justification of this mostly marketing filled TV "news" channel on DStv where news coverage comes across as long corporate and company infomercials?

CNBC Africa wants viewers (presumably) - but doesn't care to communicate about its coverage and upcoming programming to the press, doesn't care to break into its planned programming with relevant breaking news coverage, and has a schedule filled with basically irrelevant trash.

Where is the news CNBC Africa? Why exist just to put talking heads on TV so you can plaster a Discovery logo ad in the corner?

If the shutdown of the world's biggest stock market isn't "enough" to get you to cover actual news for South African and African viewers, I doubt that anything will, unless of course its beautifully sponsored Nelson Mandela life legacy programming you managed to do the day after his death.

It's inexplicable that CNBC Africa which has the resources and channel feeds of CNBC Europe and CNBC in New York to draw upon, appears too lazy, uninformed and unwilling to switch to actual news when there's big news.

When even a TV channel like Sky News (DStv 402) ends up doing more coverage about actual business news and a business event than CNBC Africa, you should know that you've lost your reason for being and existence.

CNBC Africa has (sadly) taught viewers that they won't find actual real-time news and insight there, and viewers won't tune to that DStv channel for it, or have it as a top-of-mind "appointment television" place to check when there's breaking business news. And it's a shame.

From what it started as to how it looks now (complete with badly done, amateurly draped black curtain thingie to hide whatever in the background during cross-overs to the awful looking Kenyan "studio"), CNBC Africa looks to me like nothing more than a shrill advertisers platform, courting their money above anything else.

Like Clicks' in-store radio but with video or the Edgars Club magazine, if I wanted to see uninterrupted custom-targeted content disguised as nauseating news-o-tainment, by all means tune to CNBC Africa.

Watch CNBC Africa and see how long you can stand it before you want to poke your eyes out from sheer agony.

CNBC Africa has none of the sense of news urgency, the professional on-air appearance or incisive reporting of CNBC in America - things which would have gone a long way to make this sad channel at least appear more in touch,  although it might still lack actual substance.

Last year when I asked a pay-TV insider at MultiChoice what TV channels might be added in 2015 and how many more TV channels MultiChoice might be adding in the new year, the surprising retort was: "Isn't it perhaps time that MultiChoice starts taking channels away?"

Here's the thing for me: If DStv cuts CNBC Africa it wouldn't be a loss to me. I won't miss it and I doubt there would be the outcry like when Bloomberg was removed - and quickly brought back.

CNBC Africa is like when you page through Vanity Fair or Vogue: Way too many full page ads; far too little actual editorial content and articles.

The only way CNBC Africa can possibly improve is to actually do news and to cover business and to let people and viewers know about it. Or it should seriously just get out of the biz. Literally.