Friday, May 6, 2016

Hlaudi Motsoeneng tells TV producers they'll notice 'more and more repeats' on the SABC but that the public broadcaster will soon replace it with new local content.

The SABC's controversial chief operating officer (COO) Hlaudi Motsoeneng told TV producers that there's "more and more repeats on our channels" but that the public broadcaster is planning to lessen the rebroadcasts littered over its TV schedules and to replace it with more local content.

The SABC's famously matricless Hlaudi Motsoeneng took the stage on Wednesday at the public broadcaster's Auckland Park headquarters to tell existing as well as aspiring TV producers that he will be making R1 billion available for the production of new local TV content for the SABC's planned "language-based" digital terrestrial television (DTT) channels.

The limelight-loving executive, flanked on stage by the SABC's acting CEO Jimi Matthews and chief financial officer (CFO) James Aguma, told the producers crammed into the auditorium that the SABC sees no sense in continuing to broadcast American soap operas like The Bold and the Beautiful and Days of Our Lives and other international TV fare.

The producers' meeting and Hlaudi Motsoeneng's speech was relayed through video link to several of the SABC's provincial offices countrywide.

"There's no reason why we have to broadcast these American soaps and dramas he told the audience, saying that "you will notice that there's more and more repeats on the channels".

According to him the SABC wants to cut down on repeats by commissioning more local content from local producers - especially from all of the country's different provinces.

Hlaudi Motsoeneng also wants to speed up the process of commissioning local content and said the SABC has decided to ditch its Request for Proposals or so-called RFP book, in favour of hearing from producers what shows they want to make and think should be on the SABC.

"It is for you as specialists in this industry, what are the problems that you are facing? We depend on you and the day I'm going to enjoy my life is when I see all African languages are catered for in all this platforms," said Hlaudi Motsoeneng.

"We want you to talk about your townships and your township heroes," Hlaudi Motsoeneng told the crowd, while James Aguma told South African TV producers that "we need to stop bench-marking ourselves with the international market".

Hlaudi Motsoeneng said the SABC's previous commissioning guidelines are "old" and that it's been a barrier of entry for local TV producers, hindering the submission process.

The SABC will now appoint 9 content commissioning editors for each of the 9 provinces in South Africa.

While some TV producers, especially emerging producers welcomed the SABC's promise of R1 billion to be funneled into new "language-based" TV content creation, some TV producers expressed doubts and fears, especially over the SABC's decision to scrap its use of issuing a RFP book to the industry.

The acclaimed film producer Rehad Desai said scrapping the RFP will spell the end of South Africa's independent TV production sector.

"Many of us have spent many years of our lives fighting for the SABC to commission, license and co-produce independently produced local content - local content that speaks to the truths of people's lives."

"We have done so because we believe in the power of well-produced TV and we hold this is the only way to produce a diversity and plurality of voice and yes to build our democracy. No RFPs‚ however badly managed‚ will spell the end of what is left of independent production sector."

Besides its existing SABC1, SABC2 and SABC3 channels as well as the SABC News and SABC Encore channels produced for MultiChoice's DStv satellite pay-TV platform, the SABC now plans to create further new channels for its envisioned DTT bouquet.

These include a SABC Sport channel, and several language-based" TV channels including a Sotho channel, a Nguni channel, a Tsonga channel and an Afrikaans language channel.

The SABC that made a R395 million loss for its last declared financial year has not yet explained where the R1 billion is coming from to pay for new local content that the broadcaster wants to invest in new emerging and aspiring TV producers.

Insiders are also wondering why the SABC wants to expand its number of TV channels when its struggling to grow the viewership market share and reach of its existing channels, and why more is not being done to first improve the quality of programming and content as well as the profile of its existing channels.