Thursday, March 26, 2020

Coronavirus: SABC sets up disaster recovery site with Outside Broadcast vans; production of soaps and scripted shows shuttered; news and actuality to continue during 21-day national lockdown.

by Thinus Ferreira

As South Africa enters a period of 21-days of a national lockdown the SABC has ordered all of its locally-produced soaps and drama series to shut down production although they will all remain on-air with pre-recorded episodes, while SABC news and actuality programmes will also continue on television and radio.

As the country tries to curb the rapid spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus in the country, the SABC has set up a disaster recovery site away from its Auckland Park headquarters in Johannesburg, consisting out of Outside Broadcast (OB) vans.

This site will take over in case of emergency to ensure that SABC TV and radio broadcasts continue uninterrupted. Two more studios at Auckland Park have been reserved for use by the department of education from which educational programming will be produced during the national lockdown period.

"Our logistical services department will continue to sanitise SABC radio studios between programmes as the crew switches over to reduce the risk of any contamination," says the broadcaster.

"During the switch-over, mechanisms have been put in place to allow cleaning teams enough time to do a thorough sanitation process."

"The SABC is working tirelessly to ensure that its core business of delivering on news and current affairs programmes as well as TV and radio programming will continue under stringent conditions, with alternative broadcast plans in place.

In terms of studio interviews the SABC has taken a decision to not allow any studio interviews during this period but use various alternative ways to communicate with newsmakers."

The SABC says that it has told production companies producing soaps, other drama series and scripted series to shut down. This includes Uzalo, Generations and Skeem Saam on SABC1 and 7de Laan, Muvhango and Lithapo on SABC2.

"Currently the SABC has enough broadcast stock during the lockdown and will continue to entertain millions of South Africans with their favourite soaps," says the SABC.

SABC1 will broadcast new pre-recorded episodes of Daily Thetha until 9 April 2020, after which it will switch to replacement content. Production has shut down of the just-restarted YO.TV on SABC1 that will show a mix of pre-recorded programming and replacement content.

SABC2 and SABC3 will continue to broadcast pre-recorded episodes of its youth blocks Hectic Nine 9 and Hectic on 3.

The SABC says that all SABC radio drama productions have shuttered. "More focus will be on increasing curriculum-based educational programmes to support learners during this time and creating more captivating programmes to keep listeners entertained."

The SABC has also shut down all SABC Sport TV productions that are being replaced on schedules with licensed international sports content. Midday programming is being replaced with educational content. The SABC will continue radio sports talk shows with safety precautions in place.

"As a public service broadcaster, it is important that the SABC meets both its public mandate and organisational objectives. This means that we need to balance our obligation to ensure the health and wellbeing of our employees and service providers, as well as maintaining business continuity, as our services are critical to the South African public," says Madoda Mxakwe, SABC CEO.

Ntabiseng Tau, Muvhango senior creative director, said the SABC2 started to shut down this week on Tuesday. "We've shot a couple of scenes on Tuesday morning to kind of safeguard where we are in production, in terms of deliverables and to have things that are on air."

Nandipha Pantsi, Generations The Legacy spokesperson, says "We are taking the current crisis seriously and are doing everything in our power to mitigate against it. However, we do have enough material to air".

"We have enough episodes to stay on air during the lockdown period. Cast and crew will be paid as per usual."

In a statement the SABC1 drama series Skeem Saam says "The safety and health of our crew and cast is the biggest priority. For our fans though, the entertainment and drama will continue as per usual in the signature Skeem Saam way so they don't need to worry about their daily dose".