Thursday, October 31, 2013

BREAKING. StarSat launching with porn, available as a separate sex bouquet from 1 December, and a new HD capable decoder.

Although it hugely damaged the TopTV brand and the company's public reputation, On Digital Media is launching its new StarSat brand with the pornographic bouquet of sex channels from December in time for the consumer festive season.

The struggling South African satellite pay-TV operator got permission from the South African broadcasting regulator to broadcast pornographic TV channels at the end of April 2013 and will now start showing those from December when the TopTV brand is dumped for the new name StarSat.

The Playboy bouquet with an R18 rating supplied by Playboy TV UK / Benelux Limited in England will run from 20:00 to 05:00 daily with three channels, Playboy TV and the hardcore Desire TV and Private Spice.

The separate Playboy bouquet will form part of StarSat's new bouquet which China's StarTimes and On Digital Media (ODM) will launch together with a new high definition (HD) capable StarSat decoder.

StarSat won't be carrying any HD channels yet but will phase in HD channels and content over time. Meanwhile some free new TV channels will be made available on StarSat on the Variety package during the month of November without an additional charge.

ODM and StarTimes are looking for a new start with StarSat after TopTV was pummeled the past two years with bad press over customer service issues, billing system problems, a lack of sport content, a lack of HD channels and a lack of PVR roll-out despite initial promises, as well as the desire to introduce pornographic TV channels while ordinary TV channels kept disappearing which were never replaced despite promises.

ODM has been in business rescue since the end of 2012 and is waiting for regulatory approval regarding stakeholder shareholding changes following a bail-out by China's StarTimes which is getting a foreign effective 65% economic interest in ODM.

StarTimes, a Chinese conglomerate involved in digital television ventures across several African countries already, has already pumped more than R30 million rand into ODM.

ODM will add a number of new TV channels like the newly renamed Nat Geo Gold to the new StarSat overall bouquet. The TopTV bouquet saw serious deterioration and atrophy the past year and a half with the loss of numerous TV channels due to financial troubles, debt and the breakdown of relationships with content distributors.

BREAKING. TopTV came thisclose to shutting down in July; StarTimes has pumped R30 million into ODM already and now gets the content.

You're reading it here first. 

The struggling On Digital Media's (ODM) precarious TopTV service came thisclose to shutting down at the end of July 2013; China's StarTimes has already funneled more than R30 million into the South African satellite pay-TV operator's operations, StarTimes has taken on the role of assimilating TV content for TopTV and StarSat promises to provide better TV content at more competitive prices to South African viewers.

These and other startling "new" facts are now coming to light, buried in new court documents submitted to the South Gauteng High Court.

The new court documents submitted by ODM's business rescue practitioner Peter van den Steen, follows after unhappy and exasperated ODM shareholders launched an urgent court interdict to stop what it calls permanent and "dangerous" changes to the operations, distribution, structure and content of On Digital Media and its new StarSat pay-TV product the company is launching with StarTimes as its new financial and content backer.

In court documents Peter van den Steen calls the court application of First National Media Investment Holdings (FNMIH) and Atchuthandandan Moodley - the shareholders bringing the application for an urgent court interdict - "ill-conceived".

Peter van den Steen says any interdict granted to prevent him from proceeding with ODM's business rescue plan will "undermine the successful implementation of the plan" and warning that there is "no doubt that, if the business rescue plan is not implemented, I will be required to apply for the liquidation of ODM".

ODM shareholders are alarmed and upset by what it calls big irreversible changes to ODM and TopTV's content and signal distribution, the operations of which were largely turned over or has now been "outsourced" to StarTimes.

"If I had not taken the action that I took, the business would have failed and the rescue would have become unachievable," says Peter van den Steen.

ODM came this close to losing the ability to broadcast TopTV when SES, the company from which ODM leased space on a satellite, in July 2013 decided to terminate ODM's transponder lease and uplinking contract.

"SES communicated to me that ODM had until 31 July 2013 to pay the outstanding rentals due in terms of the lease, failing which SES would shut down their transponders. This would have led to a complete shutdown of ODM's services to its subscribers," says Peter van den Steen.

"StarTimes then entered into negotiations with SES for the continued use of the transponders. SES was prepared to conclude a comprehensive deal with StarTimes internationally, which would avert the shutdown of ODM's services."

The business rescue practitioner says transferring the lease from ODM to StarTimes was a practical measure needed to ensure the continued operation of ODM. "The transfer of the lease to StarTimes serves to protect the effective operation of ODM."

"If the uplinking contract had been terminated, this would have interrupted the broadcasting services provided by ODM to its subscribers."

About ODM's new billing system which has been introduced for StarSat the business rescue practitioner says "the new billing system allows for a customer to be reconnected or for a new customer to be connected within a matter of minutes as opposed to the hours it took under the old billing regime."

Regarding claims by ODM shareholders that "the control of all material broadcast into South Africa is now under foreign control", the business rescue practitioner says "ODM retains a fully staffed content department headed by Ian Woodrow."

Peter van den Steen reveals that "StarTimes has taken on the role of assimilating content for ODM" which means that ODM "now has access to StarTimes' wide bouquet of channels worldwide".

"As such ODM has been placed in a better position to compete with other pay-TV providers in South Africa. The arrangement between StarTimes and ODM will ultimately enable ODM to provide better content offerings at more competitive prices."

"StarTimes has invested substantial amounts towards the improvement of the business and getting the business ready to compete once the business rescue is implemented. StarTimes has, to this end, invested an amount in excess of R30 million."

ALSO READ: StarSat to start on 1 November with more TV channels and some free TV channels to sample for a month.

BREAKING. TopTV ends; StarSat to start on 1 November with more TV channels and some free channels to sample for a month.

You're reading it here first. 

On Digital Media (ODM) will terminate its TopTV brand today, 31 October, and I've also learned that StarSat will start as the new brand-name of the struggling South African pay-TV operator on 1 November.

Current subscribers to the TopTV service will get additional new TV channels which will be made available for free sampling for the month of November, with new StarSat bouquet changes and package restructuring which will be introduced from December.

The Woodmead based company with China's StarTimes as a new investor which came to ODM's rescue with a cash flush lifeline, wants to distance itself from the damaged TopTV name.

ODM and StarTimes are looking for a new start with StarSat after TopTV was pummeled the past two years with bad press over customer service issues, billing system problems, a lack of sport content, a lack of HD channels and a PVR roll-out despite initial promises, and the desire to introduce pornographic TV channels while ordinary TV channels kept disappearing which were never replaced despite promises to customers.

Neither ODM nor its PR agency has communicated anything to the South African press regarding the StarSat brand name change or that it will be happening from tomorrow, 1 November, or channel or bouquet changes, but ODM is set to have a press conference today to officially unveil the new StarSat name change of the terminally damaged TopTV name and to talk about the business rescue process.

ODM has been in business rescue since the end of 2012 and is waiting for regulatory approval regarding stakeholder shareholding changes following a bail-out by China's StarTimes which is getting a foreign effective 65% economic interest in ODM.

StarTimes, a Chinese conglomerate involved in digital television ventures across several African countries already, has already pumped more than R30 million rand into ODM.

ODM shareholders voted at the end of April 2013 for StarTimes to bail-out the beleaguered operator which would have shut down at the end of July 2013 without a massive cash injection to keep the operation and signal distribution of South Africa's second satellite pay-TV platform going.

StarTimes in its rescue bid proposal had some strong words for what it considered mismanagement at ODM as well as its poor content offering and badly priced packages and said that it plans to radically overhaul the TV channels offered, the packages and the customer experience for TopTV subscribers.

ODM today is set to reveal that it will finally embrace a roll-out of high definition (HD) TV channels in the future, something which ODM promised for TopTV when the service commenced commercially just over three years ago but which never got fulfilled. ODM will also introduce additional new TV channels for StarSat which will form part of a new bouquet grouping structure and packages.

ODM will add a number of TV channels to the new StarSat overall bouquet, after the TopTV bouquet saw serious deterioration and atrophy the past year and a half with the loss of numerous TV channels due to financial troubles, debt and the breakdown of relationships with content distributors.

ODM will add TV channels to StarSat's Variety package which current TopTV subscribers will be able to see for the month of November without an additional charge. ODM will introduce StarSat package changes in December.

ALSO READ: TopTV came thisclose to shutting down in July 2013; StarTimes has pumped R30 million into On Digital Media (ODM), StarTimes now helps with acquiring TV content.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

BREAKING. On Digital Media (ODM) to unveil TopTV's change to StarSat and its new StarSat pay-TV offering on Thursday.

You're reading it here first. 

Tomorrow On Digital Media (ODM) intends to take the wrap off of it's "new" StarSat offering when the struggling South African satellite pay-TV operator, which is dumping and completely getting rid of the terminally damaged TopTV brand, plans to officially unveil its new StarSat name and TV channels offering.

ODM in business rescue since the end of 2012 and is waiting for regulatory approval regarding stakeholder shareholding changes following a bail-out by China's StarTimes which is getting a foreign effective 65% economic interest in ODM.

On Thursday ODM will unveil that its new StarSat brand will include StarSat branded TV channels, third party TV channels, ODM's first-ever offering of some high definition (HD) channels, as well as a new bouquet grouping restructure.

It's not clear whether ODM will also launch a pornographic TV bouquet of sex channels which it got permission to launch from South Africa's broadcasting regulator at the end of April this year after a second application but which dented the company's public image and reputation and the TopTV name.

Interestingly, as On Digital gets ready to reveal its new pay-TV offering to South Africa, competitor MultiChoice is making a raft of premium channels from its most expensive package available to lower-tiered DStv subscribers in November at no additional cost.

From Monday 11 November to Sunday 17 November MultiChoice will unblock dozens of TV channels for subscribers who are not on the DStv Premium bouquet.

On Thursday ODM plans to give an update on On Digital Media's progress regarding the business rescue.

The Woodmead based company has seen court action as shareholders fight behind the scenes and an ongoing diminishing channel line-up this year. StarTimes promised a major restructuring and shake-up of the business as well as a major upgrade of TopTV's on-air content offering.

On Thursday ODM's acting CEO Eddie Mbalo plans to launch StarSat as a new brand in the place of TopTV, promising a "new viewing experience" to subscribers.

BREAKING. MultiChoice giving millions of DStv subscribers free access to dozens of premium TV channels for a week in November.

I was waiting for this announcement and now it's here: MultiChoice will be unblocking dozens of its premium access TV channels usually only available on its most expensive TV package, DStv Premium, to millions of DStv subscribers who are on lower bouquets for a week starting Monday 11 November to Sunday 17 November as part of an all-you-can-eat see TV buffet.

MultiChoice's smorgasbord "OpenWeek" TV content announcement comes as struggling rival On Digital Media (ODM) plans to unveil its brand-new StarSat pay-TV offering tomorrow in the place of the damaged TopTV brand.

MultiChoice will give subscribers to DStv Access, Select 1, Select 2, DStv Family, DStv Compact and DStv Extra dozens of TV channels for a week at no extra cost and which DStv Premium subscribers pay a premium for.

This includes the range of sought-after SuperSport channels as well as a litany of third-party and M-Net supplied entertainment, documentary, music, news, movie and kids channels.

The sought-after M-Net branded entertainment and movie channels will be made available to Select 1, Select 2, DStv Family, DStv Compact and DStv Extra subscribers on the weekend of 16 and 17 November.

The DStv Premium Open Week suddenly gives DStv subscribers access to programming ranging from cricket and rugby action to Bear Grylls, and from CBeebies to Top Gear Australia.

DStv channels available during the Premium Open Week

SuperSport 1      - channel 201
SuperSport 2      - channel 202
SuperSport 3      - channel 203
SuperSport 5      - channel 205
SuperSport 6      - channel 206
SuperSport 7      - channel 207
SuperSport 8      - channel 208
SuperSport 9      - channel 209

KykNet Musiek - channel 146
MTV base            - channel 322
VH1 Classic          - channel 323
Trace Urban       - channel 325

Entertainment and Movies
Studio Universal               - channel 112
Universal Channel           - channel 117
BBC Entertainment         - channel 120
Discovery Channel           - channel 121
Comedy Central                 - channel 122
E! Entertainment             - channel 124
FOX                                        - channel 125
FOX CRIME                         - channel 126
Sony Entertainment Television  - channel 127
Sony Max                            - channel 128
MTV                                      - channel 130
Turner Classic Movies    - channel 137
True Movies                       - channel 138
kykNET                                 - channel 144
KykNet & Kie                     - channel 145
Africa Magic Entertainment SA  - channel 150
Africa Magic Movies 1    - channel 153
AfricaMagic                        - channel 154
Mzansi Magic                     - channel 161
Crime & Investigation Network - channel 170
Discovery ID                       - channel 171
BBC Lifestyle                      - channel 174
Style                                      - channel 173
Food Network                   - channel 175
Travel Channel                  - channel 179
National Geographic Channel     - channel 181
Animal Planet                    - channel 183
BBC Knowledge                 - channel 184
The History Channel       - channel 186
Discovery World               - channel 187
Trace Sports                       - channel 188

Boomerang                        - channel 302
Disney Channel                 - channel 303
Disney Channel XD          - channel 304
Nickelodeon                      - channel 305
Cbeebies                             - channel 306

CNN International           - channel 401
Sky News                            - channel 402
eNCA                                     - channel 403
Russia Today                      - channel 407
Bloomberg Television    - channel 411
EuroNews                           - channel 414

M-Net Channels available on 16 and 17 November
M-Net                                                  - channel 101
M Premiere                                        - channel 103
M Comedy                                          - channel 104
M Family                                              - channel 105
M Action +                                          - channel 106
M Drama & Romance                     - channel 107
M Showcase                                      - channel 108
M Action                                              - channel 110
M-Net Stars                                       - channel 111
M-Net Series Showcase                - channel 113
M-Net Series Reality                      - channel 114
M-Net Series Zone                          - channel 115
VUZU                                                    -  channel 116

Friday, October 25, 2013

Anthony Bourdain on CNN International calls South African freedom fighters 'ugly Dutch guys with guns; calls putu pap 'futu'.

Viewers will see the ignorant Anthony Bourdain refer to South African freedom fighters at the famous statue of Paul Kruger on Church Square in Tshwane on Friday on CNN International (DStv 401) at 17:00 as "ugly Dutch guys" and "assholes".

Anthony Bourdain who appears to brim with disdain for legitimate parts of South African heritage from the outset of the episode, also makes mistakes like referring to putu pap as "futu" as he comes to shoot eland, see how people in Hillbrow lives now and takes a taxi ride to Soweto. Later Cape Town's restaurants get dissed.

Anthony Bourdain visits parts of Gauteng in South Africa in Friday's episode of Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown on CNN International which is sure to grate some viewers and already elicited strong reaction from viewers elsewhere in the world who've seen it.

At Paul Kruger's statue in Tshwane surrounded by anonymous soldiers who fought British imperialism and colonial oppression in South Africa, Anthony Bourdain says: "Who are those ugly white men?" and then: "Who are those assholes anyway?" taking no time to actually find out, while people from all races continue to pose for pictures at the statue.

"Ugly Dutch guys with guns. Who I guess was particularly friendly to the current power. They look like they're either coming from, or on their way to oppress the black man," says Anthony Bourdain.

"The first order of business when I take my country back is take that shit down. Tear that down."

Later in the travel show the travelling chef Anthony Bourdain mistakenly calls putu pap, "futu" .

Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown also gives opportunity for Cape Town's restaurants to be dissed in the episode.

"After this show airs I'm going to get a huge amount of mail saying why didn't you go to Cape Town - great modern restaurants, cutting-edge chefs. Is it alright that I missed all that?" says Anthony Bourdain in Friday's episode, talking to Johannesburg chef Andrea Burgener.

"I feel like those particular restaurants in Cape Town are not really representative of  what most people in this country are eating," says Andrea Burgener.

"You know, I'm almost used to it, foreigners coming to South Africa and basically being ignorant about our country, like those guys from The Amazing Race that were so surprised that Johannesburg was a city, or journalists coming here to do documentaries about violent crime and end up trying to rationalise it by invoking apartheid," says an overseas viewer who saw the episode, and calling Anthony Bourdain "completely sanctimonious".

"He mistakenly claims the ANC was formed in 1923 when it was actually formed in 1912 - their centennial was last year."

"Didn't they do any research or did they just not care? What if the other episodes had problems only the locals could spot, how can we trust them now?"

I asked CNN International for a response or comment on why Anthony Bourdain calls South Africans "assholes" and made reference to "ugly Dutch guys with guns".

"We leave it to our viewers to watch Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown: South Africa in full to get the complete picture," says CNN International.

BREAKING. Collins Khumalo quits as MultiChoice South Africa CEO; DStv Online and DStv Mobile to merge into a new single unit.

Collins Khumalo has quit as MultiChoice South Africa CEO, as the South African satellite pay TV platform is merging its DStv Online and DStv Mobile business units.

MultiChoice in a statement issued Friday morning says "Collins Khumalo has decided to take "time out" after 17 years with the group".

MultiChoice South Africa will now report directly to Imtiaz Patel, the group CEO of MultiChoice South Africa.

"We thank Collins Khumalo for his sterling service to the group and wish him well into the future," says Imtiaz Patel in the statement.

DStv Online and DStv Mobile are merging with John Kotsaftis, currently the CE of DStv Online as the new head but MultiChoice has not announced what this new unit will be called.

Mark Rayner, currently the head of DStv Mobile is moved to the position of chief operating officer (COO) of MultiChoice South Africa, reporting to Imtiaz Patel.

Calvo Mawela has been appointed to head up the stakeholder and regulatory affairs division for the MultiChoice South Africa group and will also report directly to Imtiaz Patel.

SABC public protest: 'The SABC routinely silences programming critical of the South African government failings.'

Scores of people including civil society groups publicly protested at the SABC's Auckland Park headquarters in Johannesburg on Thursday afternoon, outraged and angry over growing perceptions of rampant censorship at the South African public broadcaster and skewed editorial practice silencing opposition and criticism of the South African government.

"We are gathered out of a sense of outrage. We gathered out of desperation," said the SOS Coalition group, a bradbased representative umbrella organisation representing vast spheres of the local TV industry groups and civil society.

"We are gathered in the shared battle for the soul of the SABC and a robust, representative and free media in South Africa," said the SOS Coalition.

People gathered with placard which read: "Bring back Big Debate. Free the SABC" and "Free the SABC. Stop State interference".

When the SABC decided to can The Big Debate last week, it canned a programme which reflected the lived experiences of ordinary people in South Africa," said the SOS Coalition.

"We are not against the SABC, we love the SABC as the public broadcaster, but we are against political influence over programming, which is what we believe is happening," said the Right2Know organisation, another civil society pressure group.

"It's not just about The Big Debate - it was the trigger. The latest trigger that raised issues fundamentally outside The Big Debate of the independence of the public broadcaster from political manipulation and influence," said R2K.

"The SABC routinely silences programming which is critical of the South African government's failings," says the SOS Coalition. "It also routinely does this on the basis of obscured readings of the editorial policies."

ALSO READ: 'It's bizarre': SABC News literally wastes time on showing bull(sh*t), instead of covering real news like the protest at the SABC.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

'IT'S BIZARRE': SABC News literally wastes time on showing bull(sh*t), instead of covering the real news like the protest against the SABC.

This is how totally bullsh*t bad the South African public broadcaster's SABC News has become: On Thursday evening the SABC's flagship daily news bulletin in primetime on SABC3 couldn't find the time to report on a public protest from civil society against the SABC but had the time to waste on a totally bull(sh*t) irrelevant foreign story about ... a runaway bull.

"How bizarre," remarked a schmaltzy Peter Ndoro to the South African nation on Thursday evening's broadcast on SABC3, complete with faux laugh next to co-anchor Natasha Thorp as they grinned and pleasantly bantered over an escaped bull from a farm in Romania which ran over a busy intersection.

Peter Ndoro introducing "the shocking story" and remarking "how bizarre" it was, came across as highly ironic, since civil South Africa today picketed the SABC over rampant censorship and other concerns - although none of that was to be seen on the SABC's most important news bulletin today.

Yet the hour long SABC News Primetime bulletin found and had 35 seconds to devote to a story filled with bull on television.

Scores of people protested this afternoon at the SABC's Auckland Park headquarters, amidst ongoing and growing concern from the public about censorship at the SABC, skewed SABC editorial practice, as well as undue internal editorial interference.

The picketing at the SABC was prompted by the sudden and unexpected cancellation by the SABC of its own locally produced current affairs talk show The Big Debate which was pulled off of the SABC2 schedule on instructions of the broadcaster's famously matricless acting chief operating officer (COO) Hlaudi Motsoeneng.

(The runaway bull in Romania was finally concerned in an alleyway. Also, in my opinion, the SABC's news coverage has become a veritable sh*tfest of sadness.) has the new international Baywatch-esque action show with Dolph Lundgren, SAF3; will start in South Africa in 2014. has the new international Baywatch-esque TV drama Safe, stylised as SAF3, currently being filmed in Camps Bay in Cape Town which will start on the South African commercial free-to-air TV channel in 2014.

When I heard two months ago about securing Safe or SAF3, I asked who them denied any involvement with the new action series produced by Tower 18 Productions, Emmett/Furla Productions and Kalahari Pictures.

Now I can report as fact that does have the show from Baywatch creator Gregory J. Bonann and will broadcast it in 2014.

Filming on SAF3 which started in August and which also makes use of a 30 by 15 metre and 3 metre deep tank at The Ottery Youth Centre, will continue until 13 December in Cape Town with a estimated injection of R160 million for the local economy.

All post-production on SAF3 with a Babylon 5 type show logo is done in South Africa - a first for an international TV series of this scale, and there's ironic trivia like the lifeguard tower for the show which is actually better than the one used for real on Camps Bay.

The TV drama follows Southern California's elite rescue task force, SAF3 (pronouced "safe") who do daring rescues in dangerous places with Dolph Lundgren, Katie Meehan, Lydia Hull and Travis Burns with Cape Town doubling as Malibu.

"Greg and his team looked allover the world, including America, New Zealand and Australia but chose Cape Town for the production value, labour force and gorgeous scenery they could get here," says Michael Murphy of Kalahari Pictures.

"Cape Town has proved again that it's a film-friendly destination and it's reaping the benefits," says Michael Murphy.

ODM embroiled in yet another lawsuit; Industrial Development Corporation demands more than R750 million back from ODM shareholders.

The beleaguered On Digital Media (ODM) is embroiled in yet another lawsuit, this one the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) which invested in the struggling South African satellite pay-TV operator, seeking more than R750 million back from certain ODM shareholders.

Meanwhile other shareholders have decided to take ODM to courtin another court case involving the satellite pay-TV operator, demanding a stop to the further implementation of the StarTimes business rescue plan and seeking an urgent court interdict to prevent permanent changes to the floundering Woodmead based operation which launched its unsuccessful TopTV service just over three years ago in May 2010.

The Industrial Development Corporation, a stakeholder in ODM which has pumped hundreds of millions of rands into ODM, is sueing three of ODM other major stakeholders, Red Gold Investments, First AOne Trade & Invest and First National Media Investment Holdings (FNMIH) after ODM was placed in business rescue at the end of 2012.

Red Gold Investments, First AOne Trade & Invest and FNMIH had a combined 58,9% stake on ODM when the struggling pay-TV business filed for business rescue.

The IDC wants R293 million from FNMIH and certain of its investors, R161,8 million from First AOne Trade & Invest and R147,2 million from Red Gold Investments.

ODM planned to relaunch TopTV as StarSat last week with around 90 TV channels including a new StarTV set of channels. The plan had to be scuppered and was postponed to November, but embroiled in litigation, might be pushed even later in 2013 or to early 2014.

TopTV shareholders at the end of April voted for a StarTimes bail-out with the Chinese media conglomerate which would get a 20% stake or an effective economic interest of 65% in ODM.

South Africa's broadcasting regulator, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) still has to approve the deal since it relates to a massive change in the direct foreign stake holding and composition of the company.

eNCA, eNews Prime Time and eNuus on kykNET switching to 16:9 standard from Sunday morning.

The eNCA (DStv 403) South African news channel, as well as its eNews Prime Time bulletins and the Afrikaans eNuus its provides to kykNET (DStv 144) will be switching from the 4:3 to 16:9 standard from Sunday morning.

eNCA as well as the other news programming from will switch on Sunday morning 06:00 on 27 October.

"No adjustment to the TV set is required by viewers,"says eNCA, "but they should experience an improvement in the picture quality of eNCA. Should viewers experience any issues, they should check the ARC settings on their set or their DStv decoders."

"The change is purely technical and obviously doesn't affect the editorial excellence of eNCA."

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

BREAKING. SABC3 cancelling All My Children - again! - now plans to replace the soap with The Jeff Probst talk show from 20 November.

SABC3 is cancelling All My Children - again - after trying in 2011 but then doing a double take following viewer outrage and contract issues - with SABC3 now planning on getting rid of the American soap in November and replacing its timeslot with the cancelled The Jeff Probst Show.

The cancelled Jeff Probst Show started earlier this year on M-Net Series Reality (DStv 115) and now SABC3 plans to dump All My Children with the last episode on 19 November.

The Jeff Probst Show will then be stripped into the 13:55 daily All My Children timeslot from 20 November.

There's been no official word from SABC3 yet, but according to various insiders in the know, SABC3 is done with All My Children, feeling that the American soap is "irrelevant", although SABC3 just took over the American soap The Bold and the Beautiful from SABC1.

SABC3 ended up continuing with All My Children more from a contractual obligation last year, as TV with Thinus reported back in 2011, because the TV channel failed to sign the contract for The Nate Berkus Show in time.

After saying that All My Children would be removed and embarrassingly telling TV critics that the channel is done with the soap starting from January 2012, SABC3 quietly kept it on the schedule, which also saw an All My Children petition from outraged South African soap viewers which did the rounds.

That led to a reprieve - what now clearly seems to have been only a temporary one - for All My Children fans.

According to sources the dumping of All My Children is not "new", although the continuation of All My Children might have led viewers and fans of the soap on and mistakenly created the impression that All My Children was actually saved from the axe.

According to another connected source SABC3 simply added another season because new planned content wasn't available in time. "It was the plan since last year" to still end All My Children but just giving it another season extension, the source told me.

If you're unhappy about the second cancellation of All My Children, let SABC3 know on the TV channel's Facebook page. Even better is to vent that Pine Valley outrage and anger with an email to the SABC's customer service department, saying your are unhappy about All My Children: Write to, or call the SABC at 011 714 9111 and say: "I want to complain about All My Children on SABC3 being removed".

BREAKING. Shareholders to take On Digital Media (ODM) to court to prevent StarTimes business rescue plan of TopTV to go further.

Shareholders - which includes its former ODM CEO Vino Govender , extremely unhappy with the StarTimes bail-out and the business rescue plan of the struggling On Digital Media (ODM), now plan to take the Woodmead based South African satellite pay-TV operator to court to prevent the business rescue plan from the Chinese digital television conglomerate StarTimes from proceeding any further.

Unhappy and exasperated shareholders are now seeking an urgent court interdict to prevent what they see as wholesale changes to the TopTV service which are permanent and dangerous and which could be lethal to ODM should South Africa's broadcasting regulator not eventually approve the StarTimes bail-out application.

First National Media Investment Holdings and Atchuthandandan Moodley who together have a combined interest of 21,1% (20,4% and 0,7% respectively) are adamant to stop the business rescue plan being implemented by StarTimes from going any further.

The urgent court interdict will be brought on 29 October. If granted, it will further delay ODM's already delayed relaunch of its severely damaged TopTV brand into StarSat which was supposed to happen last week and which has been postponed to November.

With a court application and the interdict coming to the South Gauteng High Court, it now appears that a November launch of StarSat is also out of the question as conflict rages behind the scenes at TopTV.

The ODM shareholders voted on 30 April 2013 for China's StarTimes - already operational in several African countries - to take over a 20% share in the beleaguered company. What it means in reality is that StarTimes acquires an effective 65% economic interest in ODM.

A fifth of the shareholders have however been extremely concerned that On Digital Media will be "irreparably damaged" if the StarTimes business rescue plan goes ahead but isn't successful. Meanwhile some flaws in the implementation behind the scenes have already become very visible to not just shareholders but also to ordinary commercial TopTV subscribers.

"Currently the business rescue plan is the best opportunity for ODM, which is in a vulnerable position, to be rescued," says the shareholders, unhappy with what they claims are "significant aspects of the business rescue plan which appears to be permanent".

Already massive drama has been playing out behind the scenes at the company, once again rocking the struggling ODM as StarTimes' presence started to be felt the past two months.

It's been playing out for TopTV subscribers on their TV screens with weird new unexplained content, as well as high frustration and a consumer backlash over a new billing system which was introduced and instantly malfunctioned.

The ODM shareholders say that StarTimes is under financial stress of its own and that if StarTimes' business rescue plan proceeds that it will increase the risk of the business possible failing.

The shareholders are extremely concerned over the fact that StarTimes has been given control over ODM's billing methods and programming and they are worried over how ODM's own content - which it used to control - were suddenly sidelined and "outsourced" to China.

Then there is also grave concern over the termination of ODM's termination of German uplink contracts which were switched to StarTimes in Beijing  as well, and ODM's cancellation of satellite space on the SES satellite platform service which was taken over by StarTimes.

"In this respect, all content being broadcast into South Africa is now under foreign control," says the shareholders.

"This act by the business rescue practitioner outsources the very core of ODM's top channels which are packaged and owned by ODM. The ability to reactivate these channels will be a very lengthy process and the loss of these channels on the ODM product bouquet will certainly result in a huge loss of the subscriber base," says the shareholders.

These big changes have been done with the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) which has not even approved ODM's change of shareholding application with the broadcasting regulator.

Icasa is still considering and has to make a decision on ODM's request, submitted last month, requesting approval of the massive foreign shareholder change with StarTimes. In the application ODM asked for the unconditional transfer of the ENCS licence from ODM to Newco, which is in fact StarTimes Media SA.

If it's not approved, and with StarTimes already in control of crucial business aspects of ODM, ODM will be essentially cut off and lose its link to its TopTV subscribers without content and satellite distribution capability.

"The ownership and control of ODM is misrepresented in the Icasa application in order to circumvent the criteria for holding and transferring an individual Broadcasting Service Licence and an ENCS licence," the shareholders say.

"In my extensive experience as previous CEO of ODM, and from my long experience in the industry, it is clear that once a subscriber is lost, it is very costly and difficult to win that subscriber back," says Vino Govender.

"Unhappy subscribers who have cancelled their contracts and moved to ODM's competitors often do not return despite massive marketing attempts."

Monday, October 21, 2013

More blatant SABC News censorship as the public broadcaster now shockingly blurs out other news organisation logos from its footage.

More blatant censorship from the SABC and the South African public broadcaster's SABC News division, as SABC News and its 24-hour SABC News channel now clearly, and shockingly, manipulates filmed news footage and now blurs out rival news organisation's mic flags.

Look closely and you'll see it - on closer inspection it's plain to see that the SABC and SABC News is now distorting news footage broadcast on-air to blur out on its airwaves what it can't control and doesn't want viewers to see - such as mic flags from's eNews and the eNCA (DStv 403) microphones.

This is done to footage publicly filmed, in a public arena where mics are placed in front of people at public news conferences. No blurring or deliberate alteration to give the viewer less information or a censored version should ever be done.

The SABC and SABC News's shockingly amateur, petty and unprofessional news broadcasting behaviour is repulsive and completely out of line with international TV news values and practice.

While ordinary TV and news viewers might not care, in fact even hardly notice, something like this should send shockwaves through a TV and news industry.

The SABC isn't saying why it is blurring news footage and blurring out other news organisation's logos, or if this is now new Auckland Park policy for SABC News.

The SABC and its news division is altering captured news and distorting original news footage through deliberate blurring which falls in neither the offensive category, nor has to do with keeping the identity of a person or place secret for legal or personal protection reasons - the only times when a TV news outlet or current affairs programme would or could alter news footage in post editing.

The SABC's editorial independence will not be compromised in the run-up to the 2014 elections, says the minister of communications.

The SABC's editorial independence will not be compromised in the run-up to the South African general elections to be held in 2014, says Yunus Carrim, the minister of communications.

Yunus Carrim was speaking in parliament and said that the SABC is obliged to adhere to the regulations from the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa), the Independent Electoral Commission's Code of Conduct and the SABC's own internal guidelines in terms of covering pre-election stories.

Editor's note: There is of course, tragically, two points of intense irony here. Firstly it is that the SABC's editorial independence and editorial integrity has been compromised a long time ago.

The blatant censorship, skewed news values, cronyism and interference in news at the SABC can be observed weekly, if not daily, in the sad and sorry sack of scandals emanating from SABC corridors, such as the very current drama of the matricless Hlaudi Motsoeneng who've ordered The Big Debate talk show to be pulled off of the SABC2 schedule.

Secondly, how sad that a minister from a political party, and from the ruling party in a country, has to say something like that of a broadcaster. As if the SABC is a state broadcaster (which it isn't - it's a public broadcaster).

If anyone was going to say the SABC will be editorially independent, it should be, can only be, and must be coming from the SABC's CEO Lulama Mokhobo who is the editor-in-chief, and not from a political minister.

How sad, ironic and eye-rolling terrible.

Come Dine With Me South Africa on BBC Entertainment: Once great, now bad, due to irritating, intrusive on-screen crawl ads spoiling it all.

What used to be so great is now utterly awful with the quality viewing experience of Come Dine With Me South Africa on BBC Entertainment (DStv 120) totally debased and crassly commercialised with irritating, intrusive and terrible on-screen crawl ads spoiling the watching.

Where the previous seasons of Come Dine with Me South Africa, the hit ITV Studios format produced by Rapid Blue for BBC Worldwide's BBC Entertainment on DStv, had classy restraint with in-show product placement which was at least functional and not overdone, it has now gone overboard and is spoiling it for viewers.

The latest third season of Come Dine with Me South Africa is now so commercially pandering by even adding stripped ads which completely detracts from the show, that is comes across as if BBC Worldwide and everyone else smelled money and is now just in it to mine the TV property at the expense of who really should matter: the ordinary viewer forced to watch this over commercialised show.

When you go to a classy restaurant, are there stripped adds all across the menu? Are you being confronted to look at brands on your wine glass and stickers on your knives and forks like Ariel washing powder trashing and trashing around just to get noticed irrespective of the impact and the detracting experience it has on your dining evening?

Why them is BBC Entertainment and Come Dine With Me South Africa filling the screen of the local third version with even more crass marketing trash this time around? It's so unbecoming of what used to be a good show. It lowbrows what used to be higher brow.

Do the people who book, excitedly decide, and then give money and get money for these things actually sit down and watch the total end product and how it's trashed up? You expect this hard-selling approach from something like a Tropika Island of Treasure Paradise we-will-run-a-show-with-a-dead-contestant and SABC1. Not from Come Dine With Me South Africa and the BBC.

Go mar your kid's kindergarden picture, your wedding photo, your car's windscreen or your own dining room table with garish banners and stickers and labels and see if you like it. Of course nobody will do that, yet somehow television and the viewing experience offered to pay-TV subscribers are seen as ripe territory to stuff down intrusive ads.

Why yet another local produced South African TV show must be made to look like an infomercial on-screen with pandering brands hoping to get noticed (and then ironically be rejected by viewers precisely because of that) is not clear. Why can't commercials be kept where they're supposed to be ... in the ad breaks between shows?

The end of BBC Entertainment on DStv? BBC Knowledge becoming BBC Earth? BBC Worldwide unveils new global TV channels strategy.

BBC Entertainment (DStv 120) and, or BBC Knowledge (DStv 184) as channels on MultiChoice's DStv platform - supplied by BBC Worldwide - could end or be transformed into new channels BBC First and BBC Earth as part of a new wide-ranging international TV channels change and realignment from BBC Worldwide.

BBC Worldwide, the BBC's commercial arm has announced that its new premium international channel brand will be known as BBC First with one of the existing BBC international TV channels which will be rebranded but not yet specifying which one it will be.

BBC First will carry premium drama and high quality first-run British programming. Australia will be the first country in August next year to get BBC First.

It could spell the end and the transformation of BBC Entertainment which currently carries the BBC's drama and premium entertainment content internationally.

BBC Knowledge could likewise face a transformation and change to BBC Earth.

BBC Worldwide says BBC Earth will now become the BBC's premium factual content portal. The BBC also plans another, male-skewed TV channel will will focus on factual entertainment and "the maverick spirit of the BBC's best shows". A show such as Top Gear would seem to fit on this as-yet-unnamed channel.

The changes are part of BBC Worldwide's attempt to compete with global content rivals.

ALSO READ: Plans for BBC Earth still in development, BBC Worldwide will speak to South African pay-TV operators about it.
ALSO READ: BBC set to launch BBC Earth as a new natural history TV channel.

Asked what is going to happen to BBC Entertainment and BBC Knowledge, BBC Worldwide tells TV with Thinus that "we have a successful and established channels business in South Africa and we will be working with our channels partners to find what we think will work best according to market conditions and audience needs."

BBC Worldwide says "it's too early to say what format this will take, but linear channels are just one way in which we can see these new brands rolling out in the market."

Tim Davie, BBC Worldwide CEO said "BBC Worldwide has a good track record of taking British content to the world, benefiting international audiences, licence fee payers and the wider industry alike. But the time has come for a step-change, reflecting the rapid development in our markets.

"In particular, we will invest more into the unique content that powers everything we do, and realise the full potential of the BBC brand with audiences around the world."

The new channels, BBC First, BBC Earth and the third unnamed channel will be introduced on a market-by-market basis around the world from 2014.

"They combine an increased commitment to content investment with new BBC content brands alongside a more powerful and unified digital engine," said Tim Davie.

"Taken together, these three investment priorities will serve to grow the BBC's footprint across the world, both via our own services and our important third party sales, resulting in greater access by audiences to BBC and British content and sustainable cash flows back to the BBC."

M-Net's power failure which saw its channels on DStv go dark last week the fault of City Power Johannesburg, says pay-TV broadcaster.

The power failure which saw M-Net's channels on MultiChoice's DStv satellite pay-TV platform unexpectedly disappear off the air last Wednesday morning when M-Net's broadcasting complex in Randburg was plunged into darkness, is the fault of City Power Johannesburg, the South African pay-TV broadcaster tells TV with Thinus.

This past Wednesday morning the M-Net channels were cut which created a crisis within the Randburg headquarters of M-Net as technicians scrambled to fix the problem and restore power and the M-Net channels.

According to insiders the third Wednesday of the month, at 10:00, used to be the scheduled power outage test at the MultiChoice complex. "Odd that this would take out M-Net and not the other DStv channels," whispered one.

"The power failure and subsequent break in transmission for 10 minutes was the result of an unforeseen, out-of-the-ordinary electrical spike from City Power Johannesburg," says M-Net.

But why did the power generator not automatically kick in?

"The power generators could not be used as the electrical systems common to both City Power and the generator - that facilitates automatic switch-over - was damaged," says M-Net.

"Kudos to our fantastic engineers who managed to fix the damage in a remarkably short time," M-Net tells me.

Public protest coming this Thursday at the SABC over the broadcaster's ongoing censorship and canning of The Big Debate on SABC2.

The Right2Know Campaign (R2K) is organising public protest action outside the SABC's Auckland Park headquarters this Thursday 24 October at 12:00 to picket the South African public broadcaster's sudden, unilateral canning of the hard-hitting current affairs talk show The Big Debate hosted by Siki Mgabadeli.

The SABC's famously matricless acting chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng ordered The Big Debate on SABC2 with executive producer Dan Cashdan off the air just before its second season was supposed to start which has already filmed 4 episodes, as well as pulling all the repeats of the first season.

The SABC says The Big Debate "compromised the SABC newsroom" since the show was "incorrectly commissioned".

"In protest at the continuing censorship and lack of editorial independence at the SABC, as well as the canning of The Big Debate, we are issuing a public call to protest for this Thursday 24 October from 12:00 to 14:00 outside the SABC in Auckland Park," says the R2Know Campaign in a statement.

"The South African public are fed a diet of cheap American sitcoms, aspirational soap operas and poor quality foreign programming in part because of the perennial underfunding and financial mismanagement at the SABC," says the Right2Know Campaign. "The Big Debate is a massively popular exception to this that gives South Africans a taste of what a true public broadcaster can deliver."

Public pressure organisations and industry watch groups focusing on public broadcasting in South Africa are incensed at the SABC and the ongoing highly-embarrassing financial, management and editorial dramas which plague the struggling broadcaster.

"We do not want skewed and biased sunshine journalism from our public broadcaster – we want real journalism," says William Bird, director of Media Monitoring Africa MMA). "This really is an extraordinary decision especially given how the SABC's group CEO Lulama Mokhobo spoke so warmly and positively about The Big Debate."

"It would appear that the SABC wants to insource current affairs because the programme producers are too independently-minded for the broadcaster, and they have developed cold feet with a national election looming," says the Right2Know Campaign.

"The SABC's canning of The Big Debate smacks of political censorship and an abuse of the public broadcaster to protect certain individuals' political interests. In its first season of 10 episodes The Big Debate offered viewers high quality programming and deep level debates on various current affairs pertinent to South Africa."

"This has happened as the SABC is on a nationwide roadshow to ensure public participation in the review of editorial policies. The decision flies in the face of the current and draft policies which both commit the public broadcaster to reflect the diverse range of South African attitudes and opinions."

"The SABC is being dragged back to the days when it was a state broadcaster practicing political censorship ahead of the public's right to know," says the Right2Know Campaign.

Meanwhile the former intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils has called on South African journalists to question the so-called Secrecy Bill and to report on it insightfully. The Secrecy Bill aims to hamper journalists reporting on various matters with the interest of the state weighing heavier than freedom of expression.

Ronnie Kasrils who spoke at a Media Freedom Day Event at Wits University said South African journalists have to question the Secrecy Bill and investigate all the implications.