Saturday, July 20, 2024

eMedia silent over eNCA's Friday on-air emergency after CrowdStrike's Windows update error code forced it into filler repeats.

by Thinus Ferreira

eMedia is silent and doesn't want to talk about the cyber emergency that plunged eNCA (DStv 403) into chaos on Friday morning and into repeat padding after its TV news channel was forced to cut original programming when it became one of the victims of CrowdStrike's error updates of Microsoft's Windows.

From its Hyde Park headquarters eNCA was forced to run repeat filler until 09:55 on Friday morning, after it was able to go back to original broadcasting but still without any on-air graphics, a lower-third banner or scrolling headlines, which it managed to return later during the day.

eNCA competitors SABC News (DStv 404) and Newzroom Afrika appeared unaffected on Friday morning while eNCA had to broadcast filler due to what is called the biggest IT outage in history.

In the United Kingdom Sky News (DStv 402) was forced off the air, and broadcasters elsewhere in the world like Australia's ABC were also affected. 

Besides broadcasters like eNCA, CrowdStrike's Windows shutdown also caused a debilitating shutdown of transportation systems like airlines and railways, hospitals, banks and shops globally - the biggest IT shutdown an internet-connected world has yet experienced.

CrowdStrike a cyber security company took responsibility for the update error that took millions of Windows computers offline on Friday. 

Ironically, CrowdStrike as an antivirus company has a Falcon virus scanner, used by around 29 000 corporate business clients worldwide to specifically protect their Windows infrastructure. A wrong update pushed through to Falcon broke Windows on Friday and resulted in the so-called "blue screen of death". 

TVwithThinus asked eMedia and eNCA about how DStv subscribers saw eNCA visibly affected on Friday morning when it had to resort to airing repeats. eMedia said it had no comment.

eMedia and eNCA were asked when it realised there were problems and when it foresee that normal and original programming could continue, and what eNCA started to do to find a workaround solution while it switched to repeat programming. eMedia didn't want to answer these questions.

Most importantly, eMedia and eNCA were also asked what eNCA will now change because of this IT shutdown that showed eNCA - as well as all other companies using CrowdStrike technology - that there is a glaring gap and vulnerability that could prevent it from functioning. eMedia had no comment.

eNCA sources told TVwithThinus on Friday morning that the inability to do regular programming "the way it's supposed to look is directly because Windows is stuck" and that affected graphic creation and output.

Sky News was quick to comment and to issue a statement on Friday morning and said "Sky News has not been able to broadcast live TV this morning, we apologise for the interruption. All the news is still available online, on the Sky News app, website, and across our social media accounts. We are working hard to restore all services."

CrowdStrike's faulty code update has now prompted companies and governments to ask serious questions over how they will be able to not just prevent a recurrence but to implement other options to continue to keep functioning during a worldwide IT outage.

While the SABC, Newzroom Afrika and other broadcasters like the BBC make use of the same software as eNCA, they were unaffected and were able to broadcast normally. Some, like Sky News and eNCA were effectively forced off the air.

It's unclear as of yet whether and how eMedia and rival broadcasters like the SABC, MultiChoice and TV news channels like Newzroom Afrika will have to relook and scrutinise the redundancy, security and failsafe backup options regarding their critical digital broadcasting infrastructure. 

Gary Marcus, professor emeritus at New York University, told The Washington Post "We have, as this shows, lots of infrastructure relying on single points of failure".

"Absolutely nothing guarantees that we won't have another similar incident either accidentally or maliciously."

Author Brian Klaas who wrote Fluke: Chance, Chaos and Why Everything We do Matters, wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, that "we've engineered social systems that are extremely prone to catastrophic risk because we have optimised to the limit - with no slack - in hyper-connected systems. A tiny failure is now an enormous one".

"Modern information-based society is based on a very fragile foundation," writes security researcher Richard Forno for The Conversation.

"Governments and companies alike will need to emphasise resilience in designing networks and systems. This means taking steps to avoid creating single points of failure in infrastructure, software and workflows that an adversary could target or a disaster could make worse."

"Organizations will need to renew their commitment to best practices in cybersecurity and general IT management. For example, having a robust backup system in place can make recovery from such incidents easier and minimize data loss."

Friday, July 19, 2024

South Africa's new arts and culture minister Gayton McKenzie slams NFVF: 'There's a big problem there. Where is Mzansiwood?'

by Thinus Ferreira

South Africa's new sports, arts and culture minister Gayton McKenzie on Friday slammed South Africa's National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF), an agency of, and funded by, his department "saying there's a big problem at the National Film and Video Foundation".

"We don't have blockbuster films. There's Hollywood. Nollywood. You have Bollywood. Where's Mzansiwood? Those are the questions we are going to ask. It can't be that all the people in the arts are complaining," Gayton McKenzie said on Friday in an eNCA (DStv 403) interview outside parliament.

"There must be a problem there. We must address that problem. We are here to fix things. We are not here for self-aggrandisement. We are here to fix stuff and to work together."

On Wednesday, Gayton McKenzie posted an image of South African writers at an airport, noting that "The second group of South African writers arrived in Turkey, en route to Venezuela. I removed myself and a few officials from the list to make space for more writers and this is how things will be going forward at the department of sports, arts and culture".

In June South African filmmakers reacted with fury over the NFVF's latest red carpet champagne junket to the 77th Cannes Film Festival - a visit that once again excluded media, but included a gaggle of NFVF and other officials and cost millions.

Adding insult to injury: It took the NFVF a month after returning to South Africa to put out a badly done, bland press release about what the NFVF did in Cannes, with no exposure or local coverage in the media about what the NFVF's work and interaction there entailed.

The NFVF - funded by South African taxpayers, spent big to take 40 people from South Africa's film industry together with NFVF staffers and acting NFVF CEO Thobela Mayinje to the French Riviera for so-called "exposure" and networking.

NFVF chairperson Tholoana Ncheke-Mahlaela also went along.

Sixteen delegates from provincial officers from the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, under which the KZN Film Commission, the Durban Film Office (DFO) and Wesgro, as well as officials from other organisations like the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) and the Eastern Cape Development Corporation (ECDC) went along. It's not clear what they did.

Following international flights and expensive French hotel accommodation, champagne glasses were filled during the 11-day festival at cocktail events, including a "first-ever intimate networking cocktail event" at the Bistrot de Lérins.

In response to a media query from TVwithThinus the NFVF didn't want to say how much money the NFVF spent on the overseas Cannes junket or where everyone stayed in Cannes.

Lerato Mokopanele, NFVF spokesperson said the NFVF paid for 22 filmmakers and five NFVF staffers and their travel and accommodation costs to go to the Cannes Film Festival.

As to why Tholoana Ncheke-Mahlaela went and attended, the NFVF said she was invited by South Africa's embassy in France to attend the Cannes film festival as part of a delegation from South Africa to promote South Africa as a film destination and that she was also invited by the Indian government to give a speech at the festival's Bharat pavilion.

For more than a year and a half since March 2023, the NFVF has been without a permanent CEO since Makhosazana Khanyile left.

Netflix says it won't bundle with other streamers.

by Thinus Ferreira

Netflix says it's strong enough as a viewing destination and streaming service on its own and won't bundle itself with other video streaming services, although it will consider working with device makers, pay-TV and operator partners.

On Thursday night Netflix released its second quarter results and announced that it had added another 8.05 million subscribers worldwide, taking it to 277 million users globally. 

Netflix earlier said that from 2025 it won't release its subscriber numbers anymore and will opt to release "user-engagement" metrics since it tells a better story about the streamer's performance.

In its latest shareholder letter Netflix said it won't bundle the red "N" with other streamers like Disney+, Warner Bros. Discovery's Max not available in South Africa, or any of the others global players like Amazon Prime Video or Apple TV+.

"We havent bundled Netflix solely with other streamers like Disney+ or Max because Netflix already operates as a go-to destination for entertainment thanks to the breadth and variety of our slate and superior product experience," it said in its letter.

"This has driven industry-leading penetration, engagement and retention for us, which limits the benefit to Netflix of bundling directly with other streamers."

Netflix says it will consider bundling the streamer with device makers, operator partners and pay-TV and is for instance available as an app through MultiChoice's DStv Explora Ultra decoder alongside its own Showmax streamer and Amazon Prime Video.

"From the early days of streaming, we saw partnerships with device makers and pay-TV and mobile operators as key to ensuring Netflix was easy to find and use."

"These partnerships are a win-win — making it simple for people to discover, sign-up, use and pay for Netflix," the streamer says.

"In turn, our device and operator partners benefit through increased device sales from consumers seeking devices integrated with Netflix and greater customer acquisition and higher retention as well as the opportunity to upsell higher value data or content packages."

"In some partnerships, operators may include other streaming services in a bundle with Netflix and the operator's services."

Netflix says that "If we execute well - better stories, easier discovery and more fandom - while also establishing ourselves in newer areas like live, games and advertising, we believe that we have a lot more room to grow."

"Commentators often ask if Netflix needs so many shows and films, and the answer is an emphatic yes," the streamer says.

"With 278 million member households and more than two people per household on average, we're programming for an audience of over 600 million. It's a huge number and to delight this many people, we need lots of great stories that appeal to many different tastes and moods."

"It's why we continue to increase the investment in our programming, even as many of our competitors are pulling back."

Improving content discovery
Netflix says it's improving content discovery on its video streaming service but "we believe we can do much more to improve discovery on Netflix".

"We recently began testing a new, more intuitive TV homepage design, our biggest update in a decade," the streamer says.

"This new interface provides more visible title information at a glance - including synopsis, genre and ratings. Title previews are also larger and more dynamic, with more immersive trailers and bigger box art to make browsing easier."

"We've also simplified the navigation bar and moved it to the top of the page to create quicker, easier short cuts. And this new design includes My Netflix, which has everything members have saved or watched and was previously only available on mobile. As always with any changes to our product, we'll listen to the feedback, learn and continue to improve the experience over time."

Paramount cancels Halo after two seasons, 343 Industries looking to sell the series and a third season elsewhere.

by Thinus Ferreira

Paramount has cancelled the science fiction drama series Halo on Paramount+ and available on MultiChoice's Showmax in Africa after just two seasons.

Halo which took years to bring to television was based on the hugely popular Xbox franchise and starred Pablo Schreiber as main character Master Chief John-117.

"Paramount+ can confirm that Halo will not move forward with a third season on the service," Paramount says in a statement.

"We are extremely proud of this ambitious series and would like to thank our partners at Xbox, 343 Industries and Amblin Television, along with showrunner and executive producer David Wiener, his fellow executive producers, the entire cast led by Pablo Schreiber as Master Chief and the amazing crew for all their outstanding work," Paramount says in a statement.

"We  wish everyone the best going forward."

343 Industries which will look to sell the series and a third season elsewhere, in a statement says "We deeply appreciate the millions of fans who propelled the Halo series to be a global success, and we remain committed to broadening the Halo universe in different ways in the future".

"We are grateful to Amblin and Paramount for their partnership in bringing our expansive sci-fi universe to viewers around the world."

Sky News off-air, eNCA switches to repeat filler as Microsoft's growing IT outage spreads and impacts broadcasters, banks, transport worldwide.

by Thinus Ferreira

Sky News (DStv 402) abruptly went off-air on Friday morning while eMedia's eNCA (DStv 403) was forced to switch to filler repeats as a global Microsoft IT outage related to cybersecurity software CrowdStrike spread worldwide, shutting down broadcasters, media, banks and transportation worldwide.

It's been described as "the most serious IT outage the world has ever seen" and led to global chaos on Friday.

In South Africa, the TV news channel eNCA and Capitec bank along with Comcast's Sky News channel were the first to be noticeably affected by the shocking cyber fiasco that hit businesses from the United States and the United Kingdom to South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

Other South African businesses besides eMedia's eNCA which were affected by the Microsoft host mistake included Nedbank, Absa bank, FNB, Standard Bank, Airlink, South African Airways, Flysafair, and the City of Tshwane municipality including its prepaid vending system.

The crippled eNCA was forced to switch to repeat filler to pad its morning broadcast for several hours.

eMedia in response to emailed media queries about eNCA's problems on Friday said it had no comment.

eNCA sources meanwhile told TVwithThinus on Friday morning that the on-air problems and emergency decision to air reruns "was directly because of Windows being stuck".

While eNCA failed to communicate about what was wrong in its Hyde Park headquarters, Sky News immediately communicated, and issued a statement as well. 

Sky News in a statement said "Sky News has not been able to broadcast live TV this morning, we apologise for the interruption. All the news is still available online, on the Sky News app, website, and across our social media accounts. We are working hard to restore all services."

On the channel, Sky News showed a filler card that reads: "We apologise for the interruption to this broadcast. We hope to restore the transmission of Sky News shortly."

Sky News anchor Anna Jones told viewers that Sky News was "operating at minimal capacity" and was "working to imrpove" its Friday news content output.

So far the SABC and other South African TV news channel SABC News and Newzroom Afrika appear unaffected.

On Friday morning, CNBC Europe switched from its London studio to Dubai because of Microsoft's "blue screen of death".

The global IT outage continues to affect everything from airlines worldwide to railways, banks and ATMS, to media outlets, hospitals, supermarkets and even stock exchanges.

In a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, CrowdStrike CEO George Kurtz of the American cybersecurity company, noted that the worldwide outage was not a "security incident or cyberattack" but connected "to a defect found in a single content update for Windows hosts".

George Kurtz said that the mistake "has been identified, isolated and a fix has been deployed".

Frank X. Shaw, Microsoft spokesperson, in an emailed statement said "a CrowdStrike update was responsible for bringing down a number of Windows systems globally. We are actively supporting customers to assist in their recovery".

In a social media post, Troy Hunt, a security consultant, said "I don't think it's too early to call it: This will be the largest IT outage in history. This is basically what we were all worried about with Y2K, except it's actually happened this time".

The BBC reported that by 12:00 on Friday, 1 400 airline flights worldwide had been cancelled so far today.

UPDATE Friday 19 July 2024 10:20am: Sky News is back to broadcasting again but without any graphics or the lower-third banner. 

eNCA went back to broadcasting live again at 09:55 with Sindy Mabe anchoring but also without any graphics or a lower-third banner and just the eNCA logo in the bottom-right corner.

A broadcast insider told me earlier on Friday morning that "we are unable to fire banners" meaning on-screen graphics and the lower-third strap usually populated by rolling headline text.

UPDATE Friday 19 July 2024 14:00: eNCA managed to return its lower-third banner and headlines scroll by 14:00 on Friday afternoon.

Thursday, July 18, 2024

Disney is losing a whole generation of kids to YouTube, as the Mouse House is 'too slow to capitalise' on the shift to short-form content.

by Thinus Ferreira

According to eMarketer, Disney - once a dominant force in children's entertainment is losing a whole generation of children to YouTube as it struggles to connect with new generations of kids in the digital streaming age and is too slow to shift to short-form content.

Where The Disney Channel - also carried by MultiChoice's DStv (DStv 303) in South Africa and across sub-Saharan Africa - used to command sizeable audiences, that linear TV audience has dramatically shrunk over recent years.

In the United States, The Disney Channel used to be a top 10 TV channel a decade ago in 2014 but now children between the ages of 2 and 11 prefer to watch YouTube over traditional TV, The Disney Channel and its video streaming service Disney+.

According to Nielsen audience measurements, American kids between 2 and 11 now watch YouTube and YouTube content three times more than Disney+.

According to eMarketer consumer data, YouTube "dominates socialmedia usage among United States children under 12, with 58% preferring it over TikTok (5.5%), Instagram (5%, Facebook (4.7%), and Snapchat (3.2%).

"Gen Z shows a strong inclination towards Snapchat (52.3%) and TikTok (43.8%) but YouTube remains vital with 25.5% of the total user share.Disney+, capturing 30% of Gen Z users, struggles to maintain engagement with the youngest audiences," eMarketer found.

"US children under 12 prefer YouTube, which has 28.6 million viewers, followed by Netflix (17.2 million) and Disney+ (15.6 million). The shift has profound implications for Disney," eMarketer says.

"Disney risks losing the next generation of fans, which could affect its broader revenue streams, including theme parks and merchandising," eMarketer says.

"Disney's attempts to engage kids through YouTube SHorts and integrations with popular games like Fortnite are steps in the right direction. However, these efforts seem reactive rather than proactive. The stark decline in Disney Chanel viewership underscores the urgency to innovate more aggressively and strategically."

"Over 60% of Disney+ subscribers redpotedly d not have children at home, per company data. This suggests that while Disney+ is appealing, it may not be a go-to platform for kids."

"The company's traditional strength - long-form content - is at odds with the current preferences of its youngest audience, who favour quick, engaging videos."

eMarketer says that the rise of short-form content on platforms like YouTube has "fundamentally altered how children consumer media - and Disney seems slow to capitalise on this shift".

"The company needs to rethink how it can capture and retain the attention of young audiences."

Becky Casting owner admits she lured hundreds to kiddie tent camps with fake promises to star as Shaka iLembe extras.

photos: The Devi Show/

by Thinus Ferreira

Casting agent Becky Dube who plunged production of MultiChoice and South Africa's most expensive TV show into scandal admits that she lured hundreds of people from across the country to horrific kiddie tent camps with fake promises of getting roles as Shaka iLembe extras.

Devi Sankaree Govender of The Devi Show on tracked down the notorious Becky Dube (watch the episode here) who claims that the exploited extras - lured from three provinces hoping for Shaka iLembe walk-on roles only to live in squalor in tents - "consented to that".

The background actors casting scandal led to change, prompting MultiChoice, M-Net and Bomb Productions to implement a code of conduct document it demanded that casting agents working for Shaka iLembe now sign and that it hopes will be adopted through the wider local industry.

Shaka iLembe, produced by Bomb Productions for M-Net's Mzansi Magic (DStv 161) channel, is busy with production on its second season, with a third season that will be filmed in 2025.

Earlier this year before principal photography of the second season started, Becky Dube exploited and demanded that hundreds of people pay her R2000 each - only for them to be set up in tents surrounding Bomb Productions' base camp where filming of scenes in Muldersdrift took place.

Becky Casting demanded that prospective extras pay must pay a R350 "membership fee". 

Becky Casting then also demanded that they pay for two so-called "workshops" at R150 each, supposedly to "orientate extras on how things would be" when they get roles on Shaka iLembe. 

Over 300 people from Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape then had to cough up an additional R1250 each, only to discover they're getting flimsy kiddie tent accommodation surrounding the Bomb Productions show, without clean water, no food, no electricity or proper ablution facilities. 

This was after they had to pay for their own transport to get to Johannesburg.

It means that Becky Dube made over R500 000 from all of the people who paid her - although people who get roles as extras are not supposed to pay a cent and are supposed to get paid for their work.

Thabisile Xulu who wanted to be a Shaka iLembe extra said Becky "was rude and didn't respect us. She treated us as if she had picked us up off the streets. It was as if she had dumped us because she didn't check on us". 

After Bomb Productions intervened and told Becky Casting to fix the situation, the hopeful extras were moved to a dilapidated church in Melvern where people slept 13 to a room and eat off the floor.

Extras were then threatened by Becky Casting and told they would not get any work if they spoke out about the conditions and their circumstances.

"She said we were wasting our time speaking to the media because we would be fired," Thabisile Xulu said.

Jack Devnarain, chairman of the South African Guild of Actors (SAGA) told The Devi Show that "having to pay your agent a commission, on top of a rental - it's not just a violation of industry rules - it's just crazy. Ultimately Bomb Productions is responsible for every single person who is going to be on that set".

"It would be right to look at this in the context of human trafficking. The conditions in which they were kept is a misrepresentation. It wasn't what people were told and they certainly didn't get work every day which is what they were promised."

Jack Devnarain said South Africa's TV and film industry "is still playing catch up, trying to establish basic rights for performers and for creatives. It means we are not protected under any basic conditions of employment". 

"We should be ashamed as South Africa and we should take full responsibility for the fact that the creative sector is not regulated. We are an anomaly. So we have created a system that punished the most vulnerable people within this sector."

Bomb Productions which is busy filming Shaka iLembe as the biggest and most expensive TV production ever made in South Africa, said it didn't make any promises to Becky Casting for extras to get work. 

Together with MultiChoice and M-Net, Bomb Productions has now implemented a strict new code of conduct for casting agents to sign, following the scandal, to prevent any similar occurrences and to prevent being blindsided again.

Thabo Boom, a Bomb Productions producer, told The Devi Show "We hope that the wider industry will take this code of conduct and utilise it so that we try, while we argue for more regulations, that we make sure that we protect extras". He said Bomb Productions will never work with Becky Casting again.

National Geographic commissions David Attenborough: Ocean feature film documentary exposing 'the biggest problems facing our ocean'.

by Thinus Ferreira

National Geographic has commissioned David Attenborough: Ocean (working title) as a new feature film documentary in which the famed natural history conservationist will be the presenter looking at "how we can, and must restore the glory of Earth's vast, interconnected waters".

National Geographic says "After nearly a hundred years filming every aspect of the natural world, Attenborough delivers his most powerful message yet".

David Attenborough: Ocean is produced by Silverback with the backing of All3Media International and National Geographic. The film will premiere in some theatres around the world before then premiering on linear television on National Geographic and then moving to Disney+.

David Attenborough: Ocean will be directed by Toby Nowlan, Keith Scholey and Colin Butfield.

It's produced by Toby Nowlan for Silverback and the executive producers are Louise Pedersen and Rachel Job for All3Media International, Tom McDonald and Janet Han Vissering for National Geographic.

"In this feature-length special, he draws on his lifetime of knowledge and experience to take us on a journey of wonder through the planet's most spectacular undersea habitats, revealing that we are currently living in the greatest age of ocean discovery, and showing beyond doubt that it is the most important place on Earth," says National Geographic.

"Cameras will film across the Americas, Europe, Africa and Oceania, capturing the practical and affordable solutions to reversing harmful human activity along coral reefs, mangroves, coastal communities, fish farms, marine sanctuaries and many other habitats in order to return the ocean to its most pristine and vibrant."

"While Attenborough exposes the biggest problems facing our ocean, his story is one of hope, and that in front of us is an opportunity for marine life to recover on a scale no one alive has ever seen before."

"It is clear without doubt that we can only stabilise the climate by restoring the ocean. David Attenborough: Ocean will amplify the solutions that are already at hand and ready to be immediately implemented to help turn the tide."

Sir David Attenborough, in the prepared statement, says "My lifetime has coincided with the great age of ocean discovery. Over the last hundred years, scientists and explorers have revealed remarkable new species, epic migrations and dazzling, complex ecosystems beyond anything I could have imagined as a young man".

"In this film, we share those wonderful discoveries, uncover why our ocean is in such poor health, and, perhaps most importantly, show how it can bounce back to life."

Tom McDonald, National Geographic's executive vice president of global factual and unscripted content, says "ThereThere is no-one better to deliver this landmark film than Sir David".

"I have had the privilege and pleasure of working with him many times over the past decade, and so I am, of course, personally and professionally thrilled that he has agreed to work with National Geographic for the very first time on a subject that is timely and close to his heart".

The underwater cinematographer Doug Anderson responsible for the BBC's Blue Planet and Our Planet will be the director of underwater photography of David Attenborough: Ocean.

Wednesday, July 17, 2024

How France's far-right billionaire and corporate raider Vincent Bolloré is doing his Canal+ aggresive buyout of MultiChoice and what it could mean for content.

by Thinus Ferreira

In the latest edition of Al Jazeera's The Listening Post, the weekly media review show looks at and explains how France's far-right billionaire and corporate raider Vincent Bolloré from Vivendi is moving to gobble up Africa's MultiChoice in South Africa through his aggressive Canal+ corporate takeover.

The Listening Post report how the so-called "Bolloré system works": Vincent Bolloré first acquires a small stake in an organisation - like what Canal+ started doing with MultiChoice - slowly builds up his shareholding in an organisation, stages a hostile takeover, then fires a bunch of staffers and the pivot the organisation to the right, politically.

Should Canal+ and Vincent Bolloré's aggressive buyout of MultiChoice go through, "it would grant a monopoly to one man with the power to determine what kind of content gets broadcast across an entire continent" The Listening Post reports.

The report details how Vincent Bolloré and Canal+ have censored the news and news reporting that wasn't favourable for Vivendi and Canal+.

Staffers also got fired to create the far-right editorial newsroom environment that Bolloré wants, Canal+ did marketing disguised as news reporting to curry favour with African governments, and Bolloré even removed TV channels critical of government from Canal+'s line-up to appease governments in Africa to get government contracts.

Vincent Bolloré pleaded guilty to corruption charges in France related to election interference in both Togo and Guinea. Now he's trying to buy MultiChoice in a hostile takeover.