Saturday, March 23, 2019

Africa's Chinese pay-TV operator StarTimes adds on-demand Fox+ Series to its StarTimes ON app in Africa and South Africa; StarSat and Fox Africa silent about the video-on-demand extension.

Africa's Chinese pay-TV operator StarTimes has added video-on-demand Fox+ Series content from the Fox Networks Group (FNG) to its StarTimes ON app in Africa and in South Africa, with StarSat and Fox Networks Group Africa (FNG Africa) that have remained silent about the VOD content deal and extension.

Since Friday 22 March, FOX+ is available as a separate section on StarTimes' StarTimes ON app in sub-Saharan Africa and South Africa with a range of drama and comedy series from FOX that are available to stream through the StarTimes ON app.

FOX+ is already available on the Cell C black subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) service in South Africa, but not on MultiChoice's DStv satellite pay-TV platform.

For more than a week before the inclusion of FOX+ on the StarTimes ON app, TVwithThinus asked On Digital Media (ODM) and StarTimes South Africa's StarSat for information and comment multiple times, but StarSat's publicist Luyanda Cele didn't respond with anything.

TVwithThinus also asked Fox Networks Group Africa for comment but FNG Africa didn't respond with anything.

Now StarTimes has added FOX+ since yesterday, where users can stream some current and library TV series ranging from The Walking Dead and Empire to 24, The X-Files, Outcast, Bones, American Dad, Modern Family, Ghosted, Chance, Star and Family Guy.

StarTimes will add more series ranging from Legion, Prison Break, Homeland, Atlanta, American Horror Story, Wayward Pines, Da Vinci's Demons, Futurama, The Americans, Sleepy Hollow, Bob's Burger, Scream Queens, Rosewood, Baskets, 24 Legacy, Son of Zorn and The Gifted to StarTimes ON in April, May and June.

"We are very happy to bring Fox+ Series to our users and I'm sure that fans of American television series will fully enjoy themselves with StarTimes ON," says Ariel Wang, StarTimes ON operation director, in a one-sentence quote in a statement issued in some other African countries.

Supernatural, seen on M-Net City and SABC2, ending after 15 seasons.

The drama series Supernatural with Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles and Misha Collins, seen in South Africa and across Africa on M-Net City (DStv 115) and in South Africa on SABC2, is ending with the upcoming 15th season that will be its last.

That makes Supernatural the longest-running fantasy American TV series in history.

Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles and Misha Collins made the announcement late on Friday on social media that the drama series shown on the CW in the United States is coming to an end.

The upcoming 15th season of Supernatural will still have 20 episodes, similar to recent seasons. M-Net City is in the 13th season while SABC2 reached the 11th season.

"Firstly, we would like to thank all the people who have been involved with the show both in front of and behind the camera. For us it has been an experience of a lifetime. The support we have had from both Warner Bros Television and The CW has been incredible," said Robert Singer and Andrew Dabb, Supernatural's executive producers, in a statement.

"We'd like to give special thanks to Jensen, Jared and Misha for making this journey so special. It is now most important to us to give these characters that we love the sendoff they deserve".

Jensen Ackles wrote "Well, it’s official. One more round for the Winchester brothers. Though nothing ever really ends in Supernatural...does it?" with a video that the three Supernatural stars posted on Friday.

In the video, Jensen Ackles says "We just told the crew that though we're very very excited about moving into our 15th season, it will be our last - 15 years of a show that has certainly changed my life, I know it's changed these two guys' life."

"And we just wanted you to hear from us that though we're excited about next year, it will be the finale. The big, grand finale of an institution. I will say this, a little word from Eric Kripke, the creator about this world and these characters, that in a show about family, it is amazing and it is the pride of his life that it became a family. So thank you guys for that."

Jared Padalecki says "We've cried some tears and we'll cry some more, but we're grateful and we're going to work all that emotion into next season."

Misha Collins says "this family is not going anywhere even though the show will come to an end".

Supernatural was created by Eric Kripke and produced by Warner Bros. Television in association with Wonderland Sound and Vision; with Robert Singer, Andrew Dabb, Phil Sgriccia, Jeremy Carver, Eugenie Ross-Leming, and Brad Buckner as executive producers. At its conclusion, it will have produced 327 episodes.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Haunting. Moving. Emotional. M-Net Movies Epic pop-up channel starts on DStv with 70 must-see battle films.

The M-Net Movies Epic (DStv 109) pop-up channel will launch at 13:00 today and run for 24 days until 14 April with more than 70 war and battle films for DStv subscribers.

The M-Net Movies Epic channel has been curated as a showcase of "the greatest war stories ever told and battles that shaped human history for more than two millennia", says M-Net. "You can almost smell the cordite of the trenches, or feel the earth move as a tank brigade rumbles towards enemy lines."

Films will range from harrowing and disturbing yet must-see stark reality like Saving Private Ryan and Apocalypse Now, to fantasy battle stories like Independence Day and Lord of the Rings, to heroic and moving like Braveheart and Heartbreak Ridge

All of them elicit an emotional cinematic response whether you watch them for the first time or settle in for a rewatch - on some level they change you and how you see and what you want for the world.

Here is the list of titles that will be shown on M-Net Movies Epic:

  • The Longest Day
  • Red Tails
  • Elizabeth: The Golden Age
  • 300
  • Apocalypse Now
  • Platoon
  • Spartacus
  • Cutthroat Island
  • Kingdom Of Heaven
  • 300: Rise Of An Empire
  • The Deer Hunter
  • Brothers In Arms
  • Dunkirk
  • Letters From Iwo Jima
  • The Three Musketeers
  • Troy
  • Full Metal Jacket
  • The Siege Of Firebase Gloria
  • Flags Of Our Fathers
  • Master & Commander: The Far Side Of The World
  • Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl
  • Transformers
  • Spartacus
  • Band Of Brothers
  • Empire Of The Sun
  • Fury
  • Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
  • Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen
  • The Battle Of Britain
  • Zero Dark Thirty
  • Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End
  • Das Boot (Director's Cut)
  • Pearl Harbor
  • The Last Samurai
  • Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
  • Glory
  • King Arthur
  • The Hunt For Red October
  • Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
  • Transformers: The Last Knight
  • War Of The Worlds
  • Gone With The Wind
  • U-571
  • Tobruk
  • Saving Private Ryan
  • Battle Los Angeles
  • Independence Day
  • Gettysburg
  • The Battle Of The Bulge
  • Predator
  • Edge Of Tomorrow
  • Gods And Generals
  • Raid On Rommel
  • Starship Troopers
  • War Horse
  • Hobbit, The: An Unexpected Journey
  • Memphis Belle
  • Tora! Tora! Tora!
  • Pacific Rim
  • Pacific Rim: Uprising
  • The Water Diviner
  • Hobbit, The: The Desolation Of Smaug
  • Transformers: Dark Of The Moon
  • Gone With The Wind
  • Lord Of The Rings, The: The Fellowship Of The Ring
  • Hobbit, The: The Battle Of The Five Armies
  • Transformers: Age Of Extinction
  • Lord Of The Rings, The: The Return Of The King
  • The Thin Red Line
  • Hurt Locker, The
  • Lone Survivor
  • The Pacific
  • Beach Red
  • Enemy At The Gates
  • Heartbreak Ridge
  • Empire Of The Sun
  • Braveheart
  • Flags Of Our Father
  • Rob Roy
  • We Were Soldiers

Thursday, March 21, 2019

TV CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK. eNCA and SABC News' disturbing failure and hugely inadequate coverage of the humanitarian disaster of Cyclone Idai in Mozambique speak volumes about their TV news priorities and lack of capability and capacity to really cover Africa.

Where on earth is eNCA (DStv 403) and SABC News (DStv 404), their teams of correspondents that should be on-the-ground in Mozambique (Zimbabwe and Malawi) and the rolling, comprehensive and high-news agenda TV news coverage it should be doing and that viewers rightfully expect in the aftermath of Cyclone Idai?

Why after the biggest natural disaster to hit Southern Africa and the Southern Hemisphere in two decades is it barely getting coverage on eNCA and SABC News, with somewhat more and better-done coverage on international TV news channels?

That is what viewers and TV news watchers are wondering about the shockingly inadequate, superficial, limited, short duration, low-agenda and wholly inept coverage of Cyclone Idai and its terrible aftermath seen on eMedia Investments' eNCA and the South African public broadcaster's SABC News channel.

Once again South African viewers and viewers watching elsewhere in Africa and the world are getting a screen-by-screen comparison of how embarrassingly and severely truncated, underwhelming, limited and incomplete the coverage on both eNCA and SABC News are, compared with other TV news channels when it comes to televised reporting of a big disaster.

Neither eNCA nor SABC News apparently has the will, resources, skill, capability and know-how to actually cover news, dispatch teams of their own correspondents and to properly report on something like an unfolding disaster in a closeby neighbouring country.

Meanwhile the coverage on BBC World News (DStv 400 / StarSat 256 / Cell C black 501 / Openview 121), Sky News (DStv 402), Al Jazeera (DStv 406 / StarSat 257 / Cell C black 503) and CGTN  (DStv 409 / StarSat 266) - although not excellent - have been much more and much better than eNCA and SABC News.

Strikingly, CNN International (DStv 401) - for once - is also part of the eNCA and SABC News failure box this time.

CNN International - usually much better than this - has a lack of on-the-ground and rolling coverage of the horrific disaster in which up to a 1 000 people or more are feared dead with an area the size of Johannesburg in South Africa still flooded and underwater in Mozambique.

Where are the multiple, ongoing reports and first-person stories from reporters and correspondents in Beira? Where are the on-the-ground TV news interviews with victims and correspondents fanning out to show the extent of the devastation?

Why does eNCA and SABC News not have correspondents there and why is the story not the top story every hour with rolling special coverage?

Why do TV news viewers who want to get a (better) sense of what is actually happening in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe after the devastation of Cyclone Idai have to tune to BBC World News, Al Jazeera and other international TV channels to see and hear reporting, and first-hand reporting, of the devastation and what is happening?

Why is SABC News and eNCA doing prompter live-read and recorded voice-overs with 2-minute wire-services visuals reserved for foreign disaster stories happening a world away?

Why does SABC News and eNCA not have teams of reporters on the ground in Beira and across Mozambique? Both reporting the oncoming cyclone and knew days in advance it's approaching. What plans exactly were made to dispatch and have people there in time before the storm hit?

Why are international TV news channel correspondents once again telling Africa and the world about a big and harrowing African story as parents dig through the mud looking for their dead children; as women, children and babies are trapped in trees; and as rescuers scramble to try and save people trapped by floodwaters?

This is unacceptable. SABC News and eNCA claim that they're news services and news channels in Africa. Sadly they don't behave that way if you look at the TV news coverage they produce and put out during times where and when it really matters.

Sadly they're once again short on incisively, comprehensively and adequately telling and reporting on an African story - one happening very close to their Johannesburg news headquarters.

eNCA stands for "eNews Channel Africa". If it can't or doesn't want to do the "Africa" part, it should remove the "A" because its inclusion alludes and creates a perception that it will cover news from Africa which it doesn't really live up to.

The SABC chose to expand the footprint of its SABC News channel on DStv beyond South Africa into the rest of sub-Saharan Africa on MultiChoice's DStv satellite pay-TV platform.

That brings more viewers and exposure for the SABC and SABC News, but the bigger broadcasting footprint also means that the SABC has a bigger responsibility to actually really cover and do real news coverage from the geographical area besides South Africa where it is available in when there is big news happening.

eNCA has reporter Dasen Thathiah in Mozambique. Only him. Doing some stories. Of course as a single correspondent he can only do so much. SABC News has nobody and plays wire news agency clips as coverage.

Stories are run not top-of-the-hour, and neither is there rolling coverage and neither eNCA nor SABC News can, or seems interested in doing any type of comprehensive live coverage of the unfolding natural and humanitarian disaster happening right now.

The SABC's foreign editor Sophie Mokoena sits under studio lights in the SABC News studio to "unpack" the "damage caused by Cyclone Idai" in Mozambique while the SABC plays United Nations video clips of the devastation, while Ephert Musekiwa does phone-in's from Harare, Zimbabwe.

This is simply not good enough. South African TV news is failing their audience in doing what their news services purport to be.

Meanwhile the BBC's Pumza Fihlani in Beira, Al Jazeera's Fahmida Miller also in Beira, Sky News' Africa correspondent John Sparks also in Beira and other correspondents are telling the stories, moving around and interviewing people in Mozambique.

"The situation in Mozambique is "a major humanitarian emergency that is getting bigger by the hour", according to the World Food Programme.

Why is the coverage of Cyclone Idai's aftermath in Mozambique not getting bigger by the hour on SABC News and eNCA? And where is CNN International this time with no on-the-ground reporting in Mozambique but doing reporting from Lagos, Nigeria? Really?

More than 400 000 people have been left homeless. At least 98 people have died in Zimbabwe, 56 in Malawi, and 217 in Mozambique, with thousands missing in all three countries.

The SABC and eNCA should send correspondents - plural - there. They should have been there days ago. They should stay there. They should tell the story(ies) and not leave it to wire news service footage to provide footage for cobbled-together clips to fill a throwaway-minute with a voice-over. It's disgusting.

All of the puff press releases from TV news channels who have a presence in Africa and their verbose statements about "telling the African story" falls completely flat and means nothing when it's time to actually really show and tell the "African story" - and then there's no real showing nor any real telling.

M-Net deletes The Bachelor South Africa's first episode from YouTube after making it available for free to watch online.

M-Net (DStv 101) has abruptly deleted the first episode of The Bachelor South Africa from YouTube that it didn't need to make freely available as a pay-TV broadcaster.

M-Net removing the free content that lured hundreds of thousands of views and terrific sampling of the new localised version produced by Rapid Blue of the Warner Bros. International Television Production (WBITP) format show, has people wondering why M-Net deleted something it didn't have to make available in the first place but chose to share freely and now took away.

Gone with The Bachelor SA episode that pulled over 322 000 views on YouTube is the entire public record for history of viewers who chose to engage and gave their time to engage with M-Net and the show and to type comments and share reactions.

M-Net unexpectedly yanking The Bachelor SA episode also leaves a destructive score of dead text hyperlinks in its wake across the internet on a range of sites in the stories and reports of various publications on the internet that reported on the episode being made available and linked readers to it, doing so in the belief that the content would be permanently available and therefore made the effort to direct readers to it.

Besides dead links sites now also sit with gaping black holes where the YouTube video was embedded that no longer works or play.

M-Net's deletion of The Bachelor SA episode damages the credibility of sites and articles about it including links ranging from All4Women, 2OceansVibe, GoodThingsGuy and The Citizen to StageAndScreen, TVwithThinus, Yahoo News and many more - even M-Net's own website where M-Net encourages people to "watch the first episode on YouTube here" leading to YouTube now saying "that video is unavailable".

Readers think that it's a publication or site that is at fault and that made a link or video embed coding error while it's actually the underlying content it directs to that has been scrubbed from the internet.

M-Net never said that The Bachelor SA debut episode would only be made available on YouTube for a limited period in a press release, and neither did the episode's YouTube description underneath the full-length video.

After removing the episode M-Net made no announcement as to why people would now find a black block on YouTube, and has nothing redirecting them to where to actually find and discover the content they went looking for.

M-Net in response to a media enquiry from TVwithThinus about the episode's sudden removal now says that "due to a format restriction we could only make the first episode available on YouTube for 28 days".

"There will still be short clips and other highlights from all the episodes on YouTube."

It's not clear whether M-Net will also remove this other The Bachelor SA clips and content after a certain time period.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Convicted fraudster Rubben Mohlaloga finally fired as chairperson of South Africa's broadcasting regulator, Icasa.

The convicted fraudster Rubben Mohlaloga has finally been fired from South Africa's broadcasting regulator where he has been the chairperson of the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa).

Rubben Mohlaloga has been kept on and served as chairperson of Icasa for months and got paid although he's been convicted and sentenced for fraud.

Rubben Mohlaloga was convicted of fraud and money laundering on 15 January 2018. He was sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment by the Pretoria Specialised Commercial Crimes Court on 14 February 2019 for money laundering and defrauding the Land of R6 million.

Last week South Africa's parliament finally decided to suspend Rubben Mohlaloga after months of being kept on in his position since his conviction and since he was appointed in December 2017, with his suspension that became effective from 15 March.

Stella-Ndabeni-Abrahams, South Africa's current minister of communications finally fired Rubben Mohlaloga by removing him from his position.

Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams' decision follows a resolution on Wednesday by the Nasional Assembly in South Africa's parliament. Icasa will now choose a new chairperson for the Icasa council.

South Africa's ministry of communications in a statement on Wednesday said that Stella-Ndabeni Abrahams "has, in accordance with section 8(3)(b) of the Icasa Act, No. 13 of 2002 given effect to the National Assembly resolution and removed Rubben Mohlaloga from office".

"In terms of section 6(1)(j) of the Icasa Act, a councillor who is convicted of, amongst others, fraud; is disqualified from holding office," said Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams in the statement, echoing what the TV industry, opposition political parties, industry experts and public broadcasting and media watchdog organisations have told the department of communications for months.

The NBA starts a YouTube channel, NBA Africa, for sub-Saharan Africa; will work with Google to produce original basketball content.

America's National Basketball Association (NBA) is launching a YouTube channel, NBA Africa, for sub-Saharan Africa, that will stream basketball games as well as magazine show content and NBA documentaries in partnership with Google's streaming service.

The NBA that has struggled to get its content on South and Southern African TV screens since ESPN dumped South Africa and Africa and went dark om MultiChoice's DStv satellite pay-TV platform doesn't have a big following in South Africa or sub-Saharan Africa but is trying to get more exposure for the game on the continent since it opened a regional office in Johannesburg a few years ago.

The NBA in Africa apparently started some type of Africa league with 12 club teams in February. An NBA Academy Africa opened in May 2017.

The NBA's NBA Africa YouTube channel will stream 2 live NBA games per week in sub-Saharan Africa of what's left of the 2018/2019 basketball championship season starting on 24 March, that will include playoffs, conference finals and the finals.

The first live games shown will be on 24 March with the Charlotte Hornets against the Boston Celtics at 12:00, followed by the L.A. Clippers against the New York Knicks at 18:00.

NBA documentaries that will be shown for instance profiling players like Nigeria's Hakeem Olajuwon and Dikembe Mutombo from the Democratic Republic of Congo. The NBA is working with Google's YouTube to provide original basketball content.

"The NBA Africa YouTube channel is yet another important milestone for the NBA in Africa and will allow more fans to access our games, live and on-demand, across the continent," says Amadou Gallo Fall, NBA managing director for Africa.

"As we enter the home stretch of the NBA season and teams fight for playoff positioning, we look forward to bringing the excitement of the NBA to more fans in sub-Saharan Africa while celebrating the NBA's rich history and bright future in Africa."

Dayo Olopade, the manager of YouTube partnerships in Africa at Google, says "From inception, YouTube has been a hub for fans to catch up on moments and coverage from their favourite sports. We are delighted to be partnering with the NBA to bring the action and inspiration of basketball to our audience in Africa."

"We hope NBA fans on the continent enjoy watching the live games and commentaries on YouTube."

It's 1985 ... and almost feeding time: Netflix drops the first, full-length teaser trailer for the 3rd season of Stranger Things.

It's 1985 and Netflix just dropped the first full-length teaser trailer for the upcoming third season of its teen horror-thriller series Stranger Things, promising a new monster, new characters and a return to the evil of the Upside Down.

In classic mid-eighties movie style, Stranger Things' tagline reads: "One summer can change everything" for the latest season that will debut globally on 4 July - America's Independence Day. Along with scurrying rats, it then suddenly gets ominously scarier: "It's almost feeding time."

Besides the almost 3-minute long teaser trailer with The Who song "Baba O'Riley", Netflix also released 7 episodic publicity images of the ongoing scary adventures of the kids in the small town of Hawkins.

This time Starcourt Mall will feature prominently as the latest (scary) setting and contains several thematic American pop culture touchstones ranging from The Terminator to Mallrats.

Besides romance, celebrations, and rats, echoeing the series finale of The Wonder Years, Mike (Finn Wolfhard) says "We're not kids anymore. I mean, what did you think? We were just going to sit in my basement all day? Play games for the rest of our lives?"

The second season of Stranger Things ended with Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), Will (Noah Scnapp) and the rest of the group managing to escape from The Upside Down and the vicious Demogorgons and Mind-Flayers.

Along with them Joyce (Winona Ryder), Chief Hopper (David Harbour), Nancy (Natalia Dryer), Jonathan (Charlie Heaton), Max (Sadie Sink), Billy (Dacre Montgomery) and Steve (Joe Keery) will all return.

Cary Elwes as the mayor and Jake Busey as a local reporter for The Hawkins Post will appear in new roles, alongside Maya Hawke who works in the Starcourt Mall's ice cream shop.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

SABC3 adds McMafia, House of Cards, a food waste documentary series, and gives a new starting date for taking over the 14th season of NCIS.

SABC3 is adding the British drama series McMafia, the American drama series House of Cards, a must-see food waste documentary series, and has a new starting date for the 14th season of NCIS.

SABC3 is adding McMafia as a territory-first series for South Africa from Thursday 4 April at 21:30.

The series is based on Misha Glenny's bestselling book McMafia: A Journey Through the Global Criminal Underworld, and focuses on an organised crime family and Alex Godman (James Norton), the privileged British-raised son of an exiled Russian mafia boss.

Having resisted his family's dark ties to organised crime, Alex is eventually drawn deeper into the crime world in this gritty-glamorous drama spanning money launderers in Dubai, cyber criminals in India, Russian oligarchs in London and Bedouin smugglers in the Negev desert.

McMafia is created by Hossein Amini and James Watkins, directed by James Watkins and produced by Paul Ritchie. The first season of this BBC-series has 8 episodes and it was recommissioned for a second season.

SABC3 is also adding the American drama series from Netflix, House of Cards, that just finished its 6-season run on M-Net. The first season's 13-episodes will start on SABC3 on Monday 1 April at 21:30 with two episodes per weeks that will be shown on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Produced by Media Rights Capital, House of Cards follows the greed, corruption, political plotting and ambition of Francis Underwood (Kevin Spacey) as a politician in Washington D.C. and his equally ambitious and ruthless wife Claire (Robin Wright).

SABC3 is also adding a fascinating 2-part documentary series, Wasted: The Story of Food Waste on 7 and 14 April at 19:30.

With 40% of food produced in America going to waste while human hunger remains a global problem, food activists, including chefs, discuss the issues.

SABC3 is giving a new starting date for the new season of the American drama series NCIS that was moved from SABC2 to SABC3 but that didn't start because of payment problems and tape delivery delay.

The 14th season of the forensic drama procedural NCIS will now start on Wednesday 3 April at 21:30 following the investigations and cases of NCIS special agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon) and his team.

SABC3 is also adding an anniversary British edition of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? from Saturday 6 April at 19:00 with Jeremy Clarkson as the host to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the quiz show.

Produced by Stellify Media, the classic game show is back and adds an additional lifeline option for contestants: Ask the Host!

Netflix adds interactive adventure series, You vs. Wild, with Bear Grylls; viewers to decide whether he succeeds of fails in various adventure quests around the world in 8-episode series.

Netflix is adding another interactive series, this time an adventure show, You vs. Wild, with Bear Grylls that will become available from 10 April on the global video streaming service and allow viewers to choose how his adventures unfold and whether he succeeds or fails.

You vs. Wild follows after the interactive Bandersnatch episode of Black Mirror that became available over December on Netflix.

You vs. Wild is an 8-episode series with the survival expert Bear Grylls as presenter, with viewers who will be presented with several multiple choice decisions in each episode as part of an interactive viewing experience.

In You vs. Wild, a play on the Bear Grylls series Man vs. Wild he presented on the Discovery Channel for 7 seasons, the viewer makes all the decisions to see whether Bear Grylls ultimately succeeds or fails in his quests around the world. Viewers decide what Bear Grylls eats, encounters, and experiences.

"Dense jungles, towering mountains, brutal deserts, and mysterious forests await, with tough decisions around every corner," says Netflix in a statement.

"I'm so proud to deliver this first-of-its-kind live-action interactive series, really giving viewers an all-access pass to explore the world and its landscapes in my boots. The stakes are high in this one!" says Bear Grylls.

You vs Wild is executive produced by Bear Grylls, Chris Grant, Drew Buckley, Ben Silverman, Howard Owens, Rob Buchta, and Delbert Shoopman, with director Ben Simms and Electus, A Propagate Company, and Bear Grylls Ventures as the production companies.

BBC Studios Africa commissions First Dates SA for BBC Lifestyle on DStv; filming starting in July.

Another localised reality dating format show is being made for South Africa with BBC Studios Africa that commissioned First Dates South Africa for BBC Lifestyle (DStv 174) that is showing First Dates Australia, followed by the British version.

Rapid Blue will be producing First Dates SA that joing the flurry of current and planned dating reality shows on South African television stretching from The Bachelor South Africa and Finding the One on M-Net to Date My Family on Mzansi Magic, The Longest Date on SABC3, and One Night with my Ex on 1Magic. 

South Africans over 18 will be able to enter for First Dates SA from 25 March with cameras that will roll during July in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban, showing viewers the "intimate experience of the world of first dates" as people look for love.

After a date in the show that is a Warner Bros. format, singletons enter the First Dates booth where people reveal what they really thought and viewers find out if there's a possibility of love.

Joel Churcher, general manager and vice president of BBC Studios in Africa says "I am a huge First Dates fan, so am thrilled that not only are we bringing BBC Lifestyle audiences the very popular Australian and UK editions, but that we can partner once again with Rapid Blue to produce the South African version of this global hit".

"Dating here in South Africa is serious business with couples really pulling out all the stops, so I cannot wait to see how fun local personalities demonstrate how dating should be done."

Ed Worster, Rapid Blue's executive producer of First Dates South Africa says "We love the authenticity of the First Dates format. Our job is to find the perfect match for each of our daters and we really hope that true love might follow their first encounter".

"Once we've set them up it's over to the couples to see if there's any chemistry or a spark between them. We'll be looking for big characters, the unexpected, the novice daters and the players, eligible guys and ladies, the beautiful and the quirky, the young and the old."

"Hopefully sparks will fly in the First Dates South Africa restaurant and showcase a hugely entertaining experience that will resonate with all our viewers."

Andrew Zein, senior vice president for creative, format development & sales at Warner Bros. International Television Production (WBITP), says "We are thrilled to see the format travel to South Africa for what promises to be a brilliant local adaptation".

"The First Dates franchise continues to grow globally and this is yet another exciting opportunity for more of the world to fall in love with the show."

Monday, March 18, 2019

BREAKING. Kwesé Free TV licensed as South Africa's first new, commercial, free-to-air TV service in 21 years by the broadcasting regulator with a big 5 TV channels plan to compete against the SABC and

South African TV viewers will finally get more choice and the country's lethargic free-to-air TV industry massive new competition and content for the first time in 21 years, with South Africa's broadcasting regulator that approved a TV licence for Kwesé Free TV to start 5 freely-available TV channels.

Kwesé Free TV will bring much-needed competition and a new TV destination option besides the SABC and, after the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) decided to grant it a licence.

This is the first new, individual, commercial free-to-air TV licence awarded since launched in 1998.

As a new digital terrestrial television (DTT) commercial TV station, Kwesé Free TV was granted capacity to start one high definition (HD) TV channel and another 4 standard definition channels as part of a "multi-channel" service, somewhat similar to what eMedia Investments is doing with its Openview service.

Kwesé Free TV plans to launch a so-called "multi-channel" offering that is dramatic and that could steal viewers away from the struggling SABC and, with the broadcaster that plans to grab 2.1 million weekly viewers by its first year after launch.

Kwesé Free TV plans to broadcast Kwesé Free Sports as its HD channel, in addition to Kwesé Brave, Kwesé Focus, Kwesé Stories and Kwesé Vibes as 4 SD channels for a bouquet that will span across sports content, general entertainment, lifestyle, music and drama including soaps, telenovelas and talk shows.

Each of the 5 TV channels from Kwesé Free TV will broadcast for 24 hours per day.

Kwesé Free Sports will offer sports programming and new sports competitions and will broadcast soccer, rugby, cricket and athletics, giving viewers more and a better free-to-see sports offering targeting those who don't have access to SuperSport and who are not getting much from the SABC and in terms of sports coverage and content.

Kwesé Free Sports promises to introduce and highlight new local and community sports such as street basketball, running, skate-boarding, and car races in South Africa. The channel will carry sports bulletins. At launch 10% of programming during prime time will be local.

The Kwesé Brave channel will be dedicated to action, adventure and adrenalin targeting male viewers between 15 and 45. Most of the content on this channel will be from international acquisitions, in particular movies and series. The channel will carry entertainment news. At launch 5% of prime time programming will be local.

Kwes√© Focus that could also be branded Kwes√© Now, will be a type of documentary channel, providing education and information through entertaining yet "smart content", and cover technology, nature and wildlife, current affairs, history, science and business. At launch 5% of prime time programming will be local.

The Kwes√© Stories channel that could also be branded Kwes√© Drama, will have telenovelas, talk shows, soaps and reality shows and will promote the diversity of the South African audience. The channel will also carry entertainment news. At launch 5% of prime time programming will be locally sourced or commissioned and will include a drama series, a telenovela, talk shows and daily personality-driven stories.

Kwesé Vibes will be a lifestyle channel targeting predominantly female viewers with programming around food, art and music - a so-called "trendy channel which promotes the diversity of the young generation". This channel will have a balance between international and local content. At launch 5% of prime time programming will be locally sourced or commissioned.

Kwesé Free TV must start within two years meaning that its TV service must launch and be up and running by early-2021.

It would be able to apply for one extension, and will also have the option to apply for a delay due to special circumstances, such as further delays with South Africa's already extremely delayed switch to digital terrestrial television (DTT).

"New technologies are deeply transforming the television broadcasting industry and consumers require content that is appealing to their needs," Adv. Dimakatso Qocha of the Icasa council said when the regulator decided to open applications again.

Icasa said it was necessary to introduce more competition in South Africa's television broadcasting market.

Kwesé Free TV will have to put its own branded DTT set-top box (STB) in the market for South African viewers to get the free signals - a decoder that's able to receive the signals - or piggyback on existing STBs for TV viewers who don't have new TV sets that have built-in digital receivers and tuners.

Out of the four applications, Kwesé Free TV is the only one deemed to have a realistic expectation of actually starting a real commercial TV service that would be able to compete with and the SABC, with the others applications who were rejected for various reasons.

Icasa rejected the applications of Free to Air TV, as well as Mzwanele Manyi's Infinity Media Networks that used to run the controversial ANN7 and later rebranded Afro Worldview on DStv that was shut down.

Icasa also rejected the application of Tshwaranang Media from Sekunjalo Independent Media (SIM) that is controlled by Iqbal Surv√© who owns 55% of the Independent Media Group.

Icasa last looked at licensing a new free-to-air commercial TV station for South Africa in 2016 but rejected all 5 applications.

The stakeholder breakdown in Kwes√© Free TV is Royal Bafokeng Holdings (through Royal Bafokeng Metix) 45%, Mosong Capital 35% and Econet 20%. The Econet Group already runs a Kwes√© pay-TV and video streaming business across several countries in Sub-Saharan Africa with existing infrastructure and content licensing deals.

Kwesé Free TV in response to a media enquiry from TVwithThinus responded with a statement.

"On behalf of its shareholders Royal Bafokeng Metix, Mosong Capital and Econet Media Limited, Kwes√© Free TV is proud to have been awarded the FTA broadcasting license in South Africa," says Zolile Ntukwana, the group executive for regulatory affairs for Econet Media.

"The introduction of Kwesé Free TV into the South African market will significantly contribute towards growing the production industry, providing an additional platform to showcase local content as well as create a new avenue for local production houses to tell South African stories."

"The ultimate winner, in the end, is of course the South African viewer who will soon enjoy more choice and access to a wider variety of programming for the entire household to enjoy."

'We also wish to thank Icasa for affording us the opportunity to apply, the thorough process through which applications were handled and of course for awarding us with the licence."

Kwes√© Free TV will be different from Econet's Kwes√© TV (it's failed satellite pay-TV service that shut down in November 2018), as well as its Kwes√© Play Roku and its Kwes√© iflix  (subscription video-on-demand services).

Econet and Kwes√© already built some experience within the South African TV market through content deals like sub-licensing some of its sports rights - for instance the NBA to community TV channels like SowetoTV and 1KZN - as well as the carriage agreement of Kwes√© Free Sports, a TV channel that is carried on eMedia Investments' Openview free-to-air satellite-TV service.

It's also Econet and Kwesé that again sub-licensed international soccer rights with the SABC in August 2018, making the live broadcast of some English Premier League (EPL) matches on SABC3 possible.

Kwese Free TV plans
Kwesé said that by entering the South African market at this point, it can exploit its broadcasting expertise in a market where the audiences are increasingly becoming discerning in their television content choices" and that with the shareholders' "combined knowledge, experience and expertise, will be able to offer a credible and sustainable free-to-air service to the South African audience".

"By way of a free-to-air premium sports channel, broadcast in high definition, after intensive market analysis [we] believe that it will attract a desirable market share in the relevant market. Supplementing this with carefully-selected thematic-based channels, the overall offering will be attractive to all members of any households," Kwesé Free TV says.

"Pay-TV services in South Africa are still by and large not accessible to the average TV viewer, whilst terrestrial free-to-air (FTA) platforms on offer provide a limited range of content. There is, therefore, a definite need for South Africans to have access to a rich base of free quality programming, historically only available on pay-TV platforms."

Kwesé Free TV wants to grab 10% of South Africa's free-to-view TV market, estimated at a total audience of 21 million viewers within its first year of operation - a weekly audience of 2.1 million viewers, driven primarily by the Kwesé Free Sports channel.

Local content and language plans
To make and adhere to the strict local content quotas Kwesé Free TV will initially source TV content from existing suppliers to ensure that it makes launch dates, through licensing and commissioning agreements.

Kwesé Free TV says each of its 5 channels will "progressively produce and commission original content over time to meet the required local content quotas by its second year of operation".

At launch Kwesé Free TV's programming will be 100% English, but it says that over time its intention is to commission programming content in various of the official South African languages besides English, and to meet the required local content quotas by its second year of operation.

Kwesé Free TV says its "committed to the development of local content" but that "this is not possible to achieve over 5 channels at launch. Local content will be increased over time to ensure compliance".

Not a TV licence to print money
The licence to Kwesé Free TV is not one to make money - at least not for the first number of years.

Starting a TV station, especially a free-to-air one is extremely capital intensive - requiring both physical and technological infrastructure besides content costs - both in terms of licensing and creating original TV content, as well as human resources. Also, add signal distribution costs.

For several years after it launched as a startup that kept sucking up millions from investors, was dogged by reports of imminent collapse and shutdown with the terrestrial TV station that was eventually able to move out of the red but only scraped by for quite a number of years despite luring some top talent at the time from the SABC to help run it.

Cell C black is simplifying its streaming service subscription plans to black TV Premium and black TV Access.

Cell C is simplifying the subscription plans of its confusing Cell C black streaming service and is structuring it into an inclusive black TV Premium and a limited and cheaper black TV Access.

It'snot yet known when these new packages will replace the exciting offerings and how it will affect exciting subscribers to Cell C's subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) service.

black TV Premium as the more expensive package will cost R99 per month and will give access to 40 linear TV channels, including series, live sport, kids' entertainment, as well as series-on-demand.

black TV Access as the cheaper but more limited package will cost R69 per month with only 20 linear TV channels and more focused on African entertainment without the international TV channels and will include channels like CNBC Africa, Trace Sport Stars, CBS Reality and the Africa Movie Channel. black TV Access will include content ranging from telenovelas and African movies, series and kids' entertainment.

Cell C black users will still be able to access content from FOX Networks Group with the FOX+ and National Geographic+ on-demand content that will be available at R69 per month. With the FOX+ and NatGeo+ bundle viewers can binge-watch shows ranging from The Walking Dead and Empire to documentaries.

black Movies offer the latest films off their cinema window run for rent at R25 per movie.

Last month Cell C revealed that its black video streaming service gobbled up another R524 million for another year in TV channels and content licensing costs.

Cell C black competes with The MultiChoice Group's Showmax and DStv Now, Netflix South Africa, Amazon Prime Video, along with a litany of other services like Acorn TV, TV2GO, and even PCCW Media giving it a second try after ONTAPtv, having launched Viu with some local SABC content.

UPDATE Monday 18 March 2019 - 11:14:
"In our efforts to create a seamless user experience for our subscribers, it was very important to consider our package structure," says  Precious Nkabinde Cell C black PR manager in a statement.

"Furthermore, in an ever-changing economy we are particularly committed to providing affordable entertainment for the whole family and you will see this through the significant reduction in subscription fees."

Duration of final Game of Thrones episodes seen on M-Net set to stretch longer and longer.

Whatever your favourite snack is when watching television, start hoarding and stacking up because the final Game of Thrones episodes will basically get longer and longer as the last 6 "mini-movie" episodes are broadcast from 15 April on M-Net (DStv 101).

HBO has released the estimated running times of the upcoming 8th and final season of Game of Thrones that will start on 14 April in the United States and that M-Net will show as an Express from the US title as a simultaneous simulcast at 03:00 on the mornings from 15 April.

M-Net will reshow Game of Thrones on Mondays at 22:00 with episodes of the 8th season that will become available after its linear broadcast on MultiChoice's subscription video-on-demand service (SVOD) Showmax, as well as on its DStv Now Catch Up service for DStv subscribers. Showmax also carries a library carousel of the previous 7 seasons' episodes.

M-Net will also be doing a big screen cosplay celebration viewing party for die-hard, sleep-when-you're-dead Game of Thrones fans at 03:00 in the morning in Cape Town, Johannesburg and possibly another city or two for people who want to watch the beginning of the end of the fantasy series together. Details of the competition have not yet been announced.

HBO released "estimated" running times for the episodes with some that will contain spectacular battle scenes.

Why "estimate"? Because HBO is literally still pouring over and working on final cuts for the various episodes, so the running times of all or some of the episodes might even be a few minutes longer in the end.

HBO says it estimates that the first episode of the 8th season of Game of Thrones on 15 April will be 54 minutes in duration.

Sit tight and keep those King's Landing popcorn, White Walker brittle candy or dragon juice close since the episode length jumps to 58 minutes for the second episode on 22 April, and a whopping 1 hour and 22 minutes for the third Game of Thrones episode on 29 April.

The 4th episode on 6 May will be 1 hour and 18 minutes, and episode 5 on 13 May will have a running length of 1 hour and 20 minutes.

The 6th and final episode will clock in at 1 hour and 20 minutes.

eNCA has started a series of Town Hall Debates with South Africa's political leaders that will debate in various provinces leading up to the country's general election on 8 May.

eNCA (DStv 403) has started a series of Town Hall Debates that the TV news channel will be broadcasting.

The first eNCA Town Hall Debate leading up to South Africa's general elections on 8 May took place in Cape Town on Thursday last week at 11:00 in the morning and was rebroadcast in full at 19:00 that same evening.

eNCA didn't communicate or announce the addition of its programming event-series to the press beforehand.

TVwithThinus asked eNCA about its Town Hall Debate series on Thursday after 11:00 after the recording of the first Town Hall Debate started in Mitchell's Plain in Cape Town with eNCA anchor Michelle Craig.

In response to the media enquiry, eNCA, in a general press statement it then issued to all media, says that "the aim of these Town Hall Debates is to give South Africans an opportunity to raise their questions and concerns with the political parties, and give the politicians a real understanding of what the people want ahead of the general elections".

Jody Jacobs, eNCA's head of output, says "Political leaders will have the opportunity to address these concerns, clarify their positions on key issues and propose their solutions to the challenges facing our democracy".

After Cape Town that, eNCA plans three further Town Hall Debates with representatives from political parties in various provinces.

Durban (27 March): eNCA anchor Shahan Ramkissoon will host a debate at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) on Wednesday 27 March at 19:00.

Port Elizabeth (11 April): eNCA's political editor Vuyo Mvoko will host a debate at the Nangoza Jebe Hall (Centenary Hall) on Thursday 11 April at 11:00.

Johannesburg (25 April): eNCA's acting editor Jeremy Maggs will host a final Big Leaders Debate at the Johannesburg city hall, on Thursday 25 April at 19:00.

eNCA says that besides the TV broadcast the debates will also be live-streamed on the website.

Friday, March 15, 2019

The National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) says it dumped writers from the televised 13th South African Film and Television Awards since their creative art is ‘technical expertise’.

The National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) that abruptly dumped writers and all writers' categories to the non-televised, so-called "technical awards" for the 13th Saftas now says writing isn't creative but "technical expertise" and was therefore removed.

The NFVF with acting CEO Shadrack Bokaba that organises the South African Film and Television Awards finally responded, just short of two weeks after the 13th Saftas took place at Sun City on 2 March and where writers and nominees in the various writers' categories discovered - to their shock - that they've been dumped.

Writers' categories were shunted from the main awards ceremony broadcast on SABC2 and bumped to the afternoon awards.

Writers, the Writers' Guild of South Africa (WGSA), and even nominees in writing categories were not told that their creative categories have been removed after numerous telenovela categories were added for the first time this year to the main awards.

Nominees who showed up on the Saturday had to hear that Golden Horn awards for their categories already got handed out during the afternoon.

While scrapping the writers' categories and dismissing it as "technical expertise" the NFVF and producers Clive Morris Productions responsible for the bloated Saturday night awards show broadcast, kept best directing categories that were not considered "technical".

The long-winded and yet-again badly produced televised ceremony included a speech by the minister of arts and culture Nathi Mthethwa, a youth achiever award, sponsored McDonaldsSA backstage bits, as well as a parade of telenovela and soap stars taking to the Saftas stage in-between wrong envelopes that got opened.

The NFVF, funded by the department of arts and culture, finally responded on Thursday evening - almost two weeks after Safta organisers were asked in multiple media enquiries made since 2 March - why the writers' categories were scuppered from the main awards ceremony.

The NFVF, in a statement from Instinctif, the PR company now used by the film funding body, on Thursday evening told TVwithThinus that scriptwriting - although a creative art - is now seen as "technical expertise".

"The quality of our scriptwriters is the backbone of our industry and should be recognised for the technical expertise these key categories represent," the NFVF said.

"In acknowledgement of this, the Saftas sub-committee, which is made up of members from the various industry bodies - and also sit as judges - made the decision to move the writing categories to the technical section of the award ceremony."

"We are currently working on a 4-month workshop where we are relooking the Saftas categories and criteria required, with the Saftas sub-committee. Once we have commenced with this process we will first send through the categories and criteria to all industry organisation chairs and their boards for their preparation."

The NFVF was asked multiple times when the decision was taken but the NFVF and Instinctif didn't answer this question. The NFVF was also asked for its comment and explanation about writers and nominees who say they were not informed about the move but declined to answer this.

The NFVF was asked if it has a message for South Africa's TV industry about writers' categories and what its response is to the Writers' Guild of South Africa (WGSA) saying it will boycott the Saftas moving forward unless the writers' categories are restored to the main awards ceremony, but the NFVF chose not to answer these questions either.

Meetings abruptly cancelled
According to insiders, an initial meeting between the WGSA and the NFVF CEO was abruptly cancelled by the NFVF.

A possible new meeting between the WGSA and NFVF will likely be with Makhosazana Khanyile, known as Khosi Khanyile in the industry, who is taking over as new NFVF CEO from 1 April.

On Tuesday, according to insiders, the NFVF also cancelled a Saftas debriefing and new programmes session that was scheduled for 29 March, without any reasons given, and no new date set.

According to insiders, there was no meeting where either the move of writing categories or the short documentary category - also mired in a scandal of its own - was approved to be moved to the technical awards.

The WGSA told TVwithThinus it is "shocked and taken aback" by the removal of writers' categories from the Saftas main awards and demands the reinstatement of the writers' awards in the main broadcast of the Saftas.

"We will also demand input in and full oversight of the judging and categories of writers awards. And we are seriously looking at lobbying for an Independent Motion Picture and Television Academy to take over the running of the Saftas."

On Friday the WGSA told TVwithThinus that "writers are creatives and writing is not a technical skill but a creative one. The only thing technical about what we do is using a computer".

"Secondly, WGSA was not invited to be part of the Safta sub-committees, nor did we provide judges for the screenwriting categories. If writers were part of either, they were chosen by NFVF and were not representatives of the mandated industry organisation."

"We only heard about the move of the writing categories to the 'technical awards' at the networking session on the morning of the Safta awards. There was no consultation and WGSA was not officially informed of the change. If our vice chairperson Eubulus Timothy had not been at Sun City, we would have found out about this during the actual awards show, said Harriet Meier, WGSA chairperson.

"Further as to the cancellation of the debrief of the Saftas, we have still not been advised of any reasons, nor have we been informed of a new date. We have also not heard anything further from the acting CEO since his acknowledgement of receipt of our letter and promise to revert."

"And finally, we are not part of the 'sub-committee' which is allegedly relooking the Safta categories and criteria - and I have no idea what they mean by sending categories and criteria to industry organisation chairs for their 'preparation'," said Harriet Meier.

BREAKING. Neo Momodu out as SABC spokesperson just 7 months after joining; Vuyo Mthembu now taking over.

Neo Momodu is out as the SABC spokesperson just 7 months after joining the struggling South African public broadcaster as the SABC's boss for marketing and corporate affairs, with Vuyo Mthembu - already working inside the SABC - taking over.

Neo Momodu replaced Kaizer Kganyago in mid-August 2018 with immediate effect as the crises-riddled South African public broadcaster's spokesperson after 13 years and became its new spokesperson.

Now she's gone without any explanation as to why and the SABC saying in a terse statement that the broadcaster and Neo Momodu "have parted ways".

"After careful consideration, Neo Momodu has decided to leave the SABC to pursue other interests. Both parties agreed to end the employment relationship amicably."

Madoda Mxakwe, SABC CEO said the SABC "would like to thank Neo Momodu for her contribution in heading up a critical division of the SABC" and that the SABC "wishes Neo Momodu well in her future endeavours".

Vuyo Mthembu who has been working within the SABC's corporate communications division for a number of years is now the new SABC spokesperson from Friday 13 March. ends unsuccessful eBella channel on Openview and DStv a year after launch, telenovelas folded into eExtra from April. is ending its unsuccessful eBella channel it created a year after its launch and that was carried on its own Openview satellite platform and MultiChoice's DStv, with the existing, dubbed telenovelas that will be folded into the eExtra channel from April.

eBella launched in March 2018 on eMedia Investments' free-to-air satellite TV platform and MultiChoice's DStv satellite pay-TV platform, targeting female viewers with a mixed of dubbed-into-English foreign telenovelas and reality shows.

etv and Openview however did little to promote and publicise any of the programming in the press over the past year with viewers and the media not knowing what was really shown on it after it launched, which in turn impacted on ratings.

At launch described eBella as "a strong addition to DStv and we know that our viewers will enjoy the channel’s mix of speciality shows and telenovelas that empower and celebrate the female market".

Now eBella is being axed from the end of March and its programming shunted to eExtra (Openview 109 / DStv 195 / StarSat 489) with the telenovelas that used to be on eBella that will create "a weekday guilty pleasure afternoon block" according to

The Spanish telenovelas from Latin America, Indian and Turkey ranging from The Girl Named Feriha, Caribbean Flower and Naagin will now be seen on eExtra.

This will be followed by the court room reality series, Hot Bench; the Afrikaans programming block on eExtra consisting of dubbed-into-Afrikaans telenovelas Bittersoet, Nuusdag om 8 and Die Wiel Draai; followed by international series and comedies and local drama series like Umlilo and Traffic.

The daily Nuusdag Perspektief that followed after Nuusdag om 8 was quietly cancelled as a weekday show and will now be a weekly show with one episode on Sundays only, starting from this Sunday 17 March, with the kykNET Afrikaans drama series filmed in the Western Cape, Vallei van Sluiers that has also been added to eExtra on Sundays.

"eBella built a loyal following over the last year and gave us the opportunity to showcase and test new content that celebrates the lives of women around the world," says Marlon Davids, managing director of channels.

"Following the success of eBella, we are excited to incorporate our viewers' most-loved telenovelas and series into our main schedule on eExtra. This move will give us the opportunity to provide eExtra viewers with a bigger and bolder content offering throughout the day, with all their favourite shows in one place."

PLAY WITHOUT PAY. The SABC owes struggling local artists almost R250 million in royalties as the public broadcaster scrapes to pay staff salaries only.

The SABC owes struggling South African artists R250 million in a constantly mounting debt burden that the South African public broadcaster - that is scraping to prioritise the payment of its own staff salaries before anything else - isn't paying, causing an untenable situation for performers struggling to live. 

Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, the minister of communications, revealed this week in a written reply to the Democratic Alliance (DA) political party's member of parliament George Michalakis, that the beleaguered South African public broadcaster that is on the brink of financial collapse, owes South African artists almost R250 million for playing and using their music without paying.

Since music rights organisations are not getting paid by the SABC for the use of performers' songs and music which the SABC continues to use on a daily basis, these organisations are unable to pay over royalties to performers for their work and who are suffering because of the lack and drop in income.

The SABC owes a mounting R126 million to the South African Music Rights Organisation (Samro) alone. 

The SABC owes the South African Music Performance Rights Organisation R104 million.

Then there is an R8.8 million the SABC owes to the Association of Independent Record Companies and R3.3 million the SABC owes to the Recording Industry of South Africa.

The SABC owes another R6 million to the Composers, Authors and Publishers Association. 

Yolande van Biljon, the SABC's chief financial officer (CFO), told parliament this week that "we owe about R943 million as at the end of February to trade and other payables, so what we are unable to settle really just gets added to the backlog and aggravates the situation as we near the year-end."

"We really rely very heavily on our stakeholders and content providers and other service providers to continue to support us at this point in time."

"In the 11 months as we're reporting here for January we have actively chosen not to spend on certain items - maintenance, travelling, consultants - even our content, in order to ensure that we have sufficient cash to cover our payroll."

Yolande van Biljon told parliament that "our cash-management these days is literally on a day-to-day basis. We prioritise our payroll at the cost of every other service provider, supplier and the investment in content and marketing but we will do everything possible to protect the payroll."

"In February the income was the lowest it has been this whole year but we were able to cover our payroll and we covered really very, very critical service providers only, and that process continues into March."

"So we really just manage around Day Zero. In my opinion, it could really happen any day because it depends on one of our major creditors deciding that they're no longer able to support us," said Yolande van Biljon.

Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams said the government will provide "interim relief" to the SABC to ensure that the ailing public broadcaster is able to pay staff salaries at the end of this month when the SABC reaches factual insolvency.

 The SABC needs R6.8 billion as a government bailout in the form of another government-guaranteed bank loan but hasn't received any cash-injection yet.