Monday, August 31, 2015

BREAKING. American president Barack Obama to trek through the Alaskan wilderness with Bear Grylls in special episode of Discovery Channel's Running Wild.

America's president Barack Obama will tackle nature's challenges when he appears in a special episode with survivalist Bear Grylls in  Discovery Channel's (DStv 121) Running Wild with Bear Grylls.

Running Wild With Bear Grylls started in May on the Discovery Channel on MultiChoice's DStv satellite pay-TV platform and sees the survivalist take celebrities with him as they endure harsh wilderness in remote locations in high-octane, action-based and empowering journeys.

Now the outgoing president Barack Obama will trek through the Alaskan wilderness with Bear Grylls.

The episode of Running Wild With Bear Grylls will be recorded soon and broadcast later this year to help highlight the effects of climate change in Alaska.

"President Obama will meet with Bear Grylls while visiting Alaska to observe the effects of climate change on the area. The two will then come together in the Alaskan wilderness. President Obama will become the first US president to receive a crash course in survival techniques from Bear Grylls."

Celebrities like Channing Tatum, Kate Winslet, Kate Hudson, Zac Efron, Ben Stiller and others have already joined Bear Grylls in his wilderness treks.

BREAKING. Zabalaza cancelled; Mzansi Magic axes the struggling soap after just 3 years after ratings and viewer interest waned.

The Mzansi Magic (DStv 161) soap Zabalaza is cancelled, with the M-Net supplied channel on MultiChoice's DStv which has axed the soap which has been struggling in the ratings.

Zabalaza will end its run in April 2016 after just three years.

Zabalaza was launched with big fanfare in 2013 but tanked with viewers and interest waned.

Urban Brew produced the now cancelled Zabalaza - and is interestingly also responsible for the new Gold Diggers, a telenovela with almost the same theme and background, for free-to-air channel

Zabalaza followed the launch of the channel's first telenovela Inkaba and Isibaya but Zabalaza with its township backdrop never became appointment television with viewers as M-Net and Mzansi Magic hoped.

"Zabalaza will also create appointment viewing," said Yolisa Phahle, M-Net's director of local interest channels at the time and now CEO of M-Net South Africa, although it never happened.

Producers and the channel tried in vain to reset the struggling soap by literally burning down the setting at the end of the second season and starting "a new era" at the beginning of the third season, moving much of the story line to an urban milieu in the same way SABC3's troubled Isidingo moved from its mining roots.

Nkateko Mabaso, M-Net's director for local interest channels confirms that Zabalaza is cancelled but says Mzansi Magic is "proud of the success sustained by Zabalaza in its three year run".

According to Nkateko Mabaso, Zabalaza , shown Mondays to Thursdays at 21:00, has "upped the standard of the local soap offering and we hope that we can continue to raise the bar".

Mzansi Magic has not announced what will fill the Zabalaza space and timeslot once the cancelled local show broadcasts its final episodes early next year.

Chewie or an Ewok for dinner? The Force is strong with M-Net Movies' Star Wars pop-up channel on MultiChoice's DStv - as well as with its website.

Chewie or an Ewok for dinner? The Force is not just strong with M-Net and DStv's temporary Star Wars pop-up channel which launched today on channel 109 - the specially created website has the droids (and a game and the prizes) you were looking for.

The temporary Star Wars pop-up channel (DStv 109) has launched on MultiChoice's DStv satellite pay-TV platform today showing all of the Star Wars movies, but viewers can also watch fascinating documentaries and featurettes about the sprawling science fiction saga, as well as episodes of the final season of animated show Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

M-Net Movies' Star Wars pop-up channel will run until 13 September - basically for half a month.

"We wanted to create a schedule which broadcast a title every night as well as a binge-viewing session," says Lani Lombard, M-Net's head of publicity.

"This plays out perfectly over one week and those who miss the movies during the first week have the opportunity to watch it in the second week".

"Star Wars is one of the biggest movie franchises ever and as a special treat to DStv Premium customers it made sense to create a special channel prior to the launch of the new movie, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, later this year".

With the Star Wars pop-up channel on DStv comes a strong tie-in web presence, where people can not just read and learn more, but also play, win prizes like tickets to the movie at the end of the year, and have to choose things like who'd make a better dinner guest - Chewbacca or an Ewok.

"Star Wars features 7th on 'Most popular topics on Facebook' and is popular throughout the world wide web," says Lani Lombard as to why M-Net and DStv decided to create a strong, concurrent online experience for fans at

"M-Net also has a strong digital presence with all its biggest properties and the Star Wars online experience is enhancing the content in a fresh way - what you would expect from M-Net Movies".

The Star Wars pop-up channel which is available across Africa in high definition (HD) to DStv Premium subscribers is showing all 6 Star Wars movies in chronological order, based on the year of release.

A new film is shown daily at 06:00 and repeated at 19:30 on the same day. On Sundays all the movies screened during the week are shown, and the films are also available on DStv's Catch Up service.

Zola abrupty gone from Mzansi Magic's Utatakho as presenter; Nimrod Nkosi awkwardly in as new presenter of the lurid paternity testing reality show.

Hit with production disruption, Mzansi Magic's (DStv 161) new Utatakho reality series testing dads for paternity suddenly got rid of presenter Zola, with Nimrod Nkosi awkwardly stepping in to take over from the original presenter mired in a maintenance scandal.

Mzansi Magic confirms that Bonginkosi Dlamini, better known as Zola is out and Nimrod Nkosi is in in a highly embarrassing and unprofessional presenter switch for the already tawdry show.

Mzansi Magic isn't saying why presenters who sign contracts for full seasons are allowed to leave, but Nimrod Nkosi is now taking over for Bonginkosi Dlamini who filmed only 8 episodes after no longer being involved.

Mzansi Magic says Zola is "stepping down as presenter due to his increasingly busy schedule" although its strange that Mzansi Magic signed the embattled artist before making sure his "busy schedule" can accomodate the new series doing DNA testing across the country.

Zola, mired in a maintenance scandal, recently told Move! magazine he's stopped paying child support for his children since the mother allegedly neglects the kids and isn't allowing him to see them.

Zola apparently has a "demanding scale" of commitments "including his musical career and philantrophy work" and is dumping Utatakho "to put his full weight behind these commitments".

Nimrod Nkosi meanwhile says he bring his "unique brand of hosting talent to the show," which does DNA testing on Tuesdays at 20:00 on Mzansi Magic similar to the low-brow American talk show Maury and previously also on the cancelled Montel Williams and Trisha on The Sony Channel (DStv 127).

"Utatakho is a docu-reality series that focuses on resolving issues of paternity with the help of DNA testing," says Mzansi Magic. Nimrod Nkosi helps with "the important task of helping South Africans answer some questions with regards to their parentage and identity."

SABC3 repeats the same episode of Minute to Win It on Friday night making it two weeks in a row - showing the episode for the 3rd time.

There's been no explanation, nor apology from the SABC for showing the same episode of Minute to Win It on SABC3 for two weeks in a row - the third time the episode has been shown on the SABC now.

On Friday evening on 28 August, SABC3 repeated the same Minute to Win It episode from the previous Friday, 21 August. The episode is already a rebroadcast from the season which was shown before and is being repeated.

"The entire season was broadcast previously, which makes this repeat even more irritating," says SABC3 viewer Colin Corbett told TV with Thinus.

"And why is it that the SABC broadcasts repeats when they have new shows that are taken off the schedule at the last minute? It seems counter-intuitive to broadcast repeats when new programmes remain unshown".

"Shame on you SABC3 head of programming," said Joan Keane. "Wake up and do your job. Repeat after rerun after repeat after rerun. Whether its programmes, documentaries, movies, songs. The list goes on!"

"Stop repeating programmes for consecutive weeks," asks SABC3 viewer Bruce Basson.

"SABC3, I wonder if you could train a chimpanzee to press repeat. Because if you could, you might employ him for free and use the money you've saved to buy new shows," said Devin Du Plessis.

"Really SABC3? This is the third time you have broadcast this episode of Minute to Win It! It it so hard to get it right?" asked Pamela van Wyk.

In 2014 SABC3 showed the same episode of The Transporter three times in a row over three weeks and in June this year the SABC's only commercial TV channel again angered viewers by botching The Good Wife and showing several episodes of the 4th season completely out of order.

Mzansi Magic's latest telenovela The Road conjures up Sophiatown as a TV show set behind a TV show, with a murder mystery in two time periods.

Mzansi Magic (DStv 161) is going both high-brow and old school with its latest telenovela The Road starting tonight at 19:30 - a love story set against the backdrop of iconic Sophiatown filled with murder, mystery, politics and music.

"We hope our viewers will enjoy the authentic, sweeping love story set through an famous era's glamour and music," says Nkateko Mabaso, the M-Net director for local interest channels.

The Road with its high-brow concept hopes to capture the same success with audiences as Mzansi Magic did with Isibaya, although the intricate tale might be too difficult for some viewers.

The Road is set in two time periods - both the present and olden days Sophiatown - together with a murder mystery. Then there's the somewhat mind-bending aspect of the real-life actors playing characters in the story who are actors. These "actors" play characters in a Sophiatown setting, when a murder occurs.

Production company The Bomb Shelter describes it as "the beautiful singer Stella and talented writer Themba are star-crossed lovers longing to be together, but only destiny will tell if they end up in each other's arms".

"A heavyweight TV producer eager to tell and capture the touching story takes on the challenge, leading to spell-bound actions he couldn't have predicted".

The reality however is that the story is much more intricate that this, and it remains to be seen whether viewers will stick around for the viewing that requires some effort and concentration amidst the lavish beauty of 1950's recreated Sophiatown.

"This is a major milestone for us," says Nkateko Mabaso. "The Road marks our fourth venture into the genre and we've gone all out to create a high-quality, compelling drama for our audiences."

"We want them to feel immersed in the emotions of the characters and the demands of their worlds. The aim is to make a visually stunning, storyline-driven drama that will keep viewers enticed."

The Road will try to infuse and pay tribute to the sounds of the 50's and some of its greatest musicians into the story - and to then contrast that to modern-day Johannesburg.

The Road stars former Isidingo alum Darlington Michaels who has vowed to never return to the SABC3 soap saying he was badly treated and viewers can forget about "ever seeing me on Isidingo again".

Other The Road actors include Muzi MthabelaNandi Ngoma, Tsholofelo Maseko, Moneoa Moshesh, Solomon Sebothoma, Sithembiso Khoza, Gail Mabalane, Neo Ntlatleng and Sthandiwe Kgoroge.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

M-Net's investigative magazine show, Carte Blanche, turns 27 years old today with a special 90 minute programme.

Carte Blanche on M-Net (DStv 101), the pay-TV broadcaster's long-running weekly investigative magazine show turns 27 years old today - a veritable dinosaur in television years, but not a timid Stego, rather a roaring T-Rex.

The Combined Artistic Productions show in its entrenched 19:00 timeslot on Sunday nights will tonight run until 20:30, a half hour longer with the Sunday night movie that will start at 20:30 instead of 20:00.

Tonight the actuality show will investigate why the South African government's ambitious nuclear building programme is shrouded in secrecy.

Carte Blanche also has a shocking expose and exclusive footage of a zama-zama (illegal miners) army pillaging North West mines, as well as a story about the billionaire Sidney Frankel accused of paedophilia. His alleged victims speak out - one publicly for the first time.

Carte Blanche also looks at why the office photocopying machine has become a serious cyber security threat and what the term "revenge porn" means.

Special Assignment on SABC3 at 20:30 looks at hate crimes committed against gay people and the violence and brutality experienced by lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders and intersex people, in an insert produced by Lindile Mpanza.

The episode examimes the problem of hate crimes in South Africa and asks what can be done to ensure that the victims of these hate crimes get justice.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

M-Net's Idols judge and MetroFM DJ Unathi Msengana now 'sorry'; suspended after disgusting filthy-mouthed Twitter outburst.

Damaging her own image and standing as well as that of the SABC, M-Net, Idols and MetroFM, Unathi Msengana who has been suspended by the SABC, is now saying "sorry" for her vulgar outburst on social media.

Unathi Msengana whose filth and hate riddled tirade against a 19-year old went public and will live online forever and might one day be embarrassing to her kids, now "wish to publicly apologise" for her choice of language.

"In what I have come to realise was a bad attempt to defend myself, I reacted by engaging directly with a Twitter follower. However, as upset as I was at that time, I should not have used offensive language," says Unathi Msengana in her statement. 

The MetroFM DJ and Idols judge previously considered the "nice" one despite some previous flare-ups and bad language, has now largely dented her positive role model image permanently.

The "rude" Unathi Msengana was for instance suspended in October 2013 by MetroFM after "unsavoury" comments, and with listeners complaining about her rude and sarcastic on-air behaviour.

The latest damaging self-inflicted reputation damage started when Unathi Msengana - who was suspended on Wednesday by the SABC - blasted a 19-year old MetroFM listener and Wits student, Palomino Jama, on Twitter who had different views.

It followed after a discussion of the documentary "Luister" about allegations of rampant racism at the University of Stellenbosch faced by black students.

Disgusting filth-riddled Twitter messages from Unathi Msengana to Jama like contained shocking languages like:

"Do you think insulting me, my marriage and my sexuality is going to change your situation? You're a f***ing idiot if so… you’re f***ing delusional if you think you can get personal. F*** your stupid mind. No amount is going to change our realities."

"You psycho b***h. F*** you twice over."

It prompted the SABC to suspend the mother - who hopefully isn't using that language with her own kids and calling them "psycho b***h" when they're not listening.

"Unathi Msengana has been taken off air because there are issues with what happened on her Twitter account after her show," says SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago.

The SABC will "engage" Unathi Msengana over her actions.

In a statement M-Net says "M-Net has engaged with Unathi Msengana extensively regarding her recent use of offensive language" but is not removing her as a Idols judge - for now.

"In light of the fact that Unathi Msengana has expressed her remorse over the incident, she will continue in her role as Idols SA judge. M-Net wishes to reiterate that it does not condone the use of offensive language and will take more serious action should such an incident occur again".

BREAKING. Egypt sentences Al Jazeera journalists to 3 years in prison for operating without a press licence and not being 'registered' journalists.

In a retrial, an Egyptian judge this morning in Cairo sentenced 3 journalists who worked for Al Jazeera (DStv 406 / StarSat 257) to 3 years in court because they were operating without a press licence and were not "registered" as journalists in Egypt.

Interestingly, the SABC's controversial and famously matricless chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng in South Africa is advocating for the same "rules" for media and journalists in South Africa, wanting journalists to be "regulated" and registered.

At the conclusion of the retrial this morning, journalists Mohamed Fahmy from Canada and Baher Mohamed from Egypt were immediately taken into custody.

Australian journalist Peter Greste who was released and deported at the beginning of February this year, was convicted and sentenced by judge Hassan Farid in absentia in the farcical trial.

In the harsh judgment, judge Hassan Farid said that Mohamed Fahmy, Baher Mohamed and Peter Greste were not journalists because they were operating without a press licence and were never "registered" to practice journalism or to be journalists in Egypt.

Both were sentenced to more time in prison because judge Hassan Farid said they were not journalists.

Al Jazeera said the TV news channel is "sickened" by the "disgusting" conviction of its journalists.

Giles Trendle, Al Jazeera's acting managing director for Al Jazeera English appeared on the channel on Saturday morning, saying he is "shocked, sickened, appalled at today's verdict".

"They were arrested on false charges, they've been convicted without a shred of evidence, they were imprisoned for over a year. And now they're going back to prison. It's disgraceful, it's disgusting. We are shocked," said Giles Trendle.

"The safety and well-being of our staff is of paramount importance," said Giles Trendle.

"The judge said one of the reasons they were there [in prison] is because they were not members of the Egyptian journalists' syndicate. Well, obviously foreign journalists ... the syndicate is for Egyptian journalists," said Giles Trendle.

The three journalists were arrested in December 2013 after a raid on the Marriott Hotel in Cairo and sentenced to seven to 10 years in prison in 2014. International pressure forced a retrial.

This is the second trial in Egypt in the two trials that both had several postponements. The journalists will continue with yet another retrial - the last one allowed.

"Today's verdict defies logic and common sense," says dr. Mostefa Souag, Al Jazeera's acting director-general in a statement issued on Saturday.

"Al Jazeera will continue to call for their freedom and an end to the ordeal for Baher Mohamed, Peter Greste and Mohamed Fahmy and the six Al Jazeera staff who were sentenced in absentia."

"The support shown for Baher MohamedPeter Greste and Mohamed Fahmy has been loud and unified and has come from every corner of the world, from world leaders, journalists, human rights organisations and the general public."

"Al Jazeera calls on everyone to continue to fight for the freedom of speech, for the right of people to be informed and for the right of journalists around the world to be able to do their job," says dr. Mostefa Souag.

"We will not rest until Baher MohamedPeter Greste and Mohamed Fahmy and the six Al Jazeera staff sentenced in absentia are freed and formally and definitely acquitted from the trumped up charges against them."

Mohamed Fahmy has since distances himself from Al Jazeera and blasted the Qatar based 24-hour TV news channel, and accusing Al Jazeera of blatantly placing his life and the lives of his colleagues in grave danger, lying about Al Jazeera's lega status in Egypt.

Mohamed Fahmy who is also suing Al Jazeera for damages in a Candian court, also slammed Al Jazeera for displaying editorial bias in favour of Islamists.

Reporters Without Borders says it "reiterates its call for the acquittal of Mohamed Fahmy, Baher Mohamed and Peter Greste".

"We urge the Egyptian authorities to terminate the trial by dismissing all charges against the journalists. This judicial sham must end with everyone being acquitted," says Christopher Deloire, secretary-general of  Reporters Without Borders.

With at least 15 journalists detained in connection with their work, Egypt is the world's fourth biggest prison for media personnel (after China, Eritrea and Iran) and is ranked 158th out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.

SABC admits clandestine 'security' operations going on as 'standard procedure' inside SABC offices; fearful SABC staff scared their offices are bugged.

The SABC now admits that a "security audit" has taken place inside the SABC's offices, done by the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) inside the public broadcaster's Durban offices to "ensure that there's no threat to the efficient operations of the broadcaster".

The nationa security secret invasion and the secret investigation conducted inside the SABC, with SABC permission, and not made known beforehand or during the audit by the SABC to SABC staff, is allegedly to "ensure the security of various state-owned entities in compliance with the National Key Point requirements," says SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kgangayo.

Interestingly, the SABC used to be a public broadcaster according to the Broadcasting Act, belonging not to the state but to the people of South Africa as defined under the South African Constitution.

The South African National Editors Forum (Sanef) calles the State Security Agency's (SSA) spying inside the SABC "outrageous".

"We at Sanef believe an investigation should be conducted by higher authorities," says Sanef deputy media freedom chairperson, Raymond Louw.  "What the SSA had done was a violation of constitutional freedom and outreageous".

The State Security Agency (SSA) says SABC staff should be asking the SABC CEO why the investigation is happening since the SSA worked inside the SABC on request of the SABC.

"The SABC needs to explain to its staff what is happening," says Brian Dube, State Security Agency spokesperson. "The allegations emanated from the staff".

Brian Dube says "the SABC CEO must deal with the questions" and that "government departments and public entities invited the agency to assist with various activities".

Trade union Bemawu's president Hannes du Buisson blasted the SABC earlier this week, writing to new SABC CEO Frans Matlala demanding explanations for the secret spying going on inside the SABC, and saying that SABC workers were ordered to keep quiet, that the investigation and presence of spies damage and comprises what's left of the SABC's integrity, and asking why the secret operation has not been communicated by the SABC to the SABC's own staff.

SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago called the secret investigation "standard procedure" done to "constantly identify threats towards acts of terror, espionage and other related risks".

Kaizer Kganyago said "The SABC would like to put it on record that this process is not in any way a move to undermind the corporation's business units, instill fear among staff members or invade their privacy."

Sadly, shockingly, this is exactly what has happened through this process: SABC workers are scared, suspicious, have been deliberately kept in the dark, are wondering what's going on, have not been communicated with, don't feel valued and trusted and are fearing what's going on.

SABC staff and managers are extremely concerned that their offices are bugged.

Bemawu president Hannes du Buisson asked SABC CEO Frans Matlala for "urgent intervention" and an explanation as well as that "this secret operation be stopped".

"We also want an explanation as to why the National Intelligence Agency finds it necessary to put employees out of their offices, invading their privacy and work space, where they spent the majority of the day and a substantial time of their lives."

SABC workers are fearful and scared and worried about the lack of transparency from the public broadcaster.

"Employees are extremely uncomfortable with what is happening, as they are not sure whether secret surveillance equipment is installed in their offices, and if so, why this is happening and necessary," says Hannes du Buisson.

"We do not see any reason for the NIA to lock employees out of their offices, remaining inside alone. The SABC is a workplace, not a law enforcement agency or some secret organisation where NIA agents have free reign."

Political party COPE says in a statement "under Hlaudi Motsoeneng [SABC COO] and Faith Muthambi [South Africa's minister of communications] the public broadcaster will soon become the ABCBC".

"In a vibrant democracy, all self-respecting democrats will take offence if the NIA were to walk into provincial offices of the public broadcaster, which belongs to all of us, and throw out employees from their offices to make secret searches. Furthermore, they would be revolted if the staff were threatened with dismissal if they dared disclose what was happening," says Dennis Bloem, COPE spokesperson.

"This is how, by little steps, tyranny overthrows democracy."

"The NIA's business is to protect the state, not to harass journalists and media workers. They are not the enemy of the state. Every South African should recognise that this is an insidious operation by the NIA."

"COPE wants an explanation from Faith Muthambi. Was this what 'Baba' had wanted her to do and is that why she gladly obliged? Is this what we can expect under her as minister of communication? Or was this instigated by Hlaudi Motsoeneng with her blessing?"

"COPE demands that Faith Muthambi explains to the nation what the NIA was doing at the SABC offices in Durban and why the staff there was treated so contemptuously and aggressively."

Thursday, August 27, 2015

BREAKING. The Shores returns for a 2nd season! Clifton Shores - retitled - is back with a new cast and this time you can watch it online from 16 September.

You're reading it here first.

I can exclusively reveal that The Shores, now retitled from Clifton Shores, is back, with a second season of the Quinton van der Burgh reality show set in sun-drenched Cape Town, set to start on 16 September - but now rolling out online with an episode per week.

Viewers can get ready for more bikini babes, mansions, bling and fights as the reality cameras follow the socialites, models, friends and business people converging around mining magnate and billionaire Quinton van der Burgh.

The second season follows three years the debut of Clifton Shores which was picked up by M-Net's VUZU in the latter part of 2012 and following the cat fights, conflict and love lives of a gaggle of American girls working in Cape Town and across South Africa for the mogul's Quintessential events company.

The Shores will start on 16 September with 13 episodes which will be released online on the reality show's website at and although it won't be initially, might even make it to local video-on-demand (VOD) services like the Times Media Group's VIDI and Naspers' new ShowMax.

One episode of The Shores per week will become available on the site as well as on The Shores' website channel at TheShoresTV, I'm told.

The second season of The Shores is flush with expensive champagne, glamorous parties and sun-soaked yachts as the well-heeled shows that they are, after all, human too.

A constant stream of drama follows Quinton van der Burgh and the collection of characters around him in the fast-paced, success-driven environment as the A-list parties at swanky events and top clubs while having to complete work events and assignments riddled with unexpected challenges and drama.

According to insiders, this time around there's more South African personalities featuring in The Shores, with just one American.

"Also this time around Quinton and his guy friends become more of the focus of the new season, compared to the American girls of the first season," says a source.

"This show was shot with the intention of reaching a global audience and we're planning to air the show online to expand it's presence internationally, rather than only airing it in South Africa," says Quinton.

"We promise to deliver more drama, entertainment and gripping reality TV than ever before."

The new cast of characters include the opinionated full-time model and blogger, Jade; the Capetonian surfer, and male model Jamie; Courtney Cousins who is a Cape Town based fashion designer; Ryan, the "sexy bad boy" and Muay Thai fighter who usually gets what he wants; and Michaela, a business woman from Las Vegas who works as Quinton's personal assistant but has her fair share of relationship drama.

The blonde Kerry from Cape Town is also a model; Justin is Quinton's trainer and best friend; and Christina is a part-time model and socialite (and registered private pilot) in for a lot of heartbreak during this season.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

National Intelligence Agency (NIA) is spying on SABC staff, says SABC trade union Bemawu, demands that SABC CEO Frans Matlala explains why.

South Africa's National Intelligence Angecy (NIA) is spying on SABC staff and the public broadcaster says the SABC trade union Bemawu who wrote to the SABC's new CEO Frans Matlala asking what is going on.

Hannes du Buisson, president of the Broadcast Electronic Media and Allied Workers' Union (Bemawu) wrote to Frans Matlala on Tuesday saying the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) has "instructed SABC employees to leave their offices while operators spent between 2 and 3 hours per office for a purpose unknown to the employees".

This allegedly happened and is happening at the SABC's offices in Durban.

"We have furthermore been informed that employees were instructed to keep quiet about this and were threatened with action should they tell anybody."

Fearful SABC staff are "not sure whether secret surveillance equipment was installed in their offices, and if so, why is this happening and necessary?"

"We do not see any reason for the National Intelligence Agency to lock employees out of their offices, remaining inside alone."

"The SABC is a workplace, not a law enforcement agency or some secret organisation where NIA agents have free rein," Hannes dui Buisson wrote to Frans Matlala.

"For a state agency to act in this manner at a public broadcaster is of serious concern… such action seriously compromises what is left of the SABC's integrity."

Bemawu demands that Frans Matlala as the SABC CEO explains what is going on at the public broadcaster.

"We request your urgent intervention, assistance and explanation. We request that this secret operation be stopped and the purpose and intent be communicated to staff."

"We also want an explanation as to why the National Intelligence Agency finds it necessary to put employees out of their offices, invading their privacy and work space, where they spent the majority of the day and a substantial time of their lives."

BREAKING. Mishka Patel quietly dumped as co-presenter from Private Property, Plascon, Nedbank an LG's Win a Home on SABC3.

Miskha Patel who was "overwhelmed" to be the new co-presenter of the second season of Plascon, Private Property, Nedbank, LG and Mercedes-Benz' advertiser-funded production (AFP) Win a Home has been dumped shortly before the first episode aired this past Friday.

That's after Miskha Patel was already talking about how she was "excited for the journey ahead".

TVSA has the story of the shocking way in which Mishka Patel was unceremoniously cut from Win a Home after Expresso and SABC3 told viewers she is one of the presenters, and after Miskha Patel on social media gushed about the show and her presenting gig.

While Mishka Patel was previously announced, she was suddenly, embarrassingly, no longer a part of Win a Home's second season, with no word from SABC3, Tswelopele Productions producing Win a Home or any of the sponsors on why she was suddenly missing in action.

While imaging with Khanya Siyengo together with Mishka Patel and SABC3 branding appeared beforehand as well as other pictures of them together, and them being interviewed together on Expresso, Khanya Siygeno was suddenly the sole presenter.

Mishka Patel is gone.

"A revision of the show's format, aligned to the reality format, informs the programme's current look and feel," says Win a Home.

"Final testing with the client" apparently led to the axing of Mishka Patel for reasons unknown.

"It sucks and reveals just how hectic and ruthless the TV industry can be," writes TVSA editor Tashi Tagg.

"What's so especially shocking is about this particular situation is how it was so publicly confirmed by so many of those involved with the series. The Win a Home Twitter account retweeted Expresso's tweet about the two of them hosting together," TVSA reports.

"The situation also highlights what a huge problem it is when shows are at the mercy of sponsors in advertiser-funded shows."

The irony for many is how television and programming about beautiful things and about the creation and showcasing of beautiful things externally, often has a mostly hidden, ugly underbelly.

It's not clear why a show like Win a Home and SABC3 would trot out someone like Mishka Patel, have her talk on public television about being a co-presenter, then cut her in conjunction with a client or clients of the advertiser-funded production - and then not explain her sudden absence.

It leaves so many questions about the ugly brand damage inflicted on sponsors, a broadcaster and the business of creating beauty.

BREAKING. She's the One and Edgars dump SABC3 as the reality show jumps to for its second season promising 'clashes and conflicts'.

The advertiser-funded production (AFP) She's the One and Edgars have dumped SABC3 with the second season of the locally produced reality show by Cheeky Media suddenly jumping to rival from 15 September at 20:30.

The show which suffered low ratings in the recent first season on SABC3 abruptly switched channels and will now be on with presenter Thapelo Mokoena and judges Belinda Driemeyer, Kojo Baffoe and Tumi Morake.

Edgars which suffered its own recent mark-up sales scandal will use the show to push the retailer's brand with the inclusion of Sandy Rogers, an Edgars executive into the show to market Edgars' clothing. promises that the second season will be better than the first one and deliver more "fierce, fabulous and real" viewing as 13 contestants, living under one roof, compete to become the next "it girl" like in America's Next Top Model currently on SABC3. is now playing up the conflict for She's the One, saying the show takes "reality TV to the next level, with constant personality clashes and conflicts" as every episode "pitches the girls against each other". The winner will represent Edgars.

"She's the One is the first of its kind on our channel, and it will captivate our viewers as weekly drama unfolds," says Monde Twala, MD.

"Cheeky Media and Edgars are proud to announce that the second season of She's the One will be broadcast on in September," says Yusuf Stevens, executive producer.

About leaving SABC3 for he says the show is incredibly happy to be on the new channel.

"We are incredibly happy to have our new family on board for the much anticipated return of She's the One."

Ultimate Braai Master with Justin Bonello similarly started on SABC3 and left for and SA's Got Talent which started on SABC2 also left the public broadcaster for

INTERVIEW. Joel Churcher on the BBC channels changing in Africa: 'Making them future-proof, sharp, consumer-facing, and playing to our strengths'.

The BBC's channels from BBC Worldwide are changing in South Africa and across the African continent, with the introduction of BBC First, BBC Brit and BBC Earth, sitting alongside the existing BBC Lifestyle, kids channel CBeebies and BBC World News.

In a wide-ranging interview about the BBC channels changing, I spoke to Joel Churcher, the vice president and general manager for Africa.

Joel Churcher spoke about the decision, the work that went into it, provides insights about the content aspects and considerations - and he reveals what's most exciting for him about the looming BBC channels change.

Why the decision the change and launch all of the new BBC channels from BBC Worldwide at the same time instead of changing just one like BBC Knowledge first to BBC Earth and using a phased approach?
Joel Churcher: It makes sense for us to do all at once as one big bang from a marketing perspective. 

But this is also a global roll-out and if you look at what happened in other markets, not all of those markets took all the channels for their own reasons.

The affiliate partner already maybe had a drama channel or already had a natural history channel, whereas with MultiChoice they’re a big fan of the BBC channels, so it's a discussion we had with MultiChoice and they said ‘great, we want all of it’. 

So it makes sense for us to launch it all at the same time. So South Africa as you know is the first country to get all three global brands as well as keeping CBeebies, BBC Lifestyle and BBC World News. So South Africa gets the full 6 BBC channel portfolios.

Why the decision to turn BBC Knowledge which becomes BBC Earth into an HD channel, and how does that make that channel better?
Joel Churcher: Firstly as a premium broadcaster all of our stuff is shot in HD. 

And again its up to the affiliate partner to decide if they’ve got enough capacity to broadcast this from their satellite to the consumer in HD or SD. 

Obviously we can deliver all of our new stuff in HD and in fact some of our natural history stuff is being shot in 4K.

So it makes sense if we’re filming natural history in HD which is probably how its best being enjoyed, to play it out in HD, but not all our affiliate partners around the world have that capacity. MultiChoice has limited spectrum on their ssatellite in order to play it out, so of the channels they want in HD, they chose the natural history one to be played out in HD.

For DStv subscribers who might not have access to BBC First when that starts, would some of that content eventually become available on BBC Brit as well?
Joel Churcher: Under the filters of the channels, they’ve been very much curated to play to BBC strengths. 

In research about two years ago when we looked at our global offering, it was decided that we’ve got three pillars that we’re really good at: premium drama, factual entertainment and the third one is natural history.

So those three global brands were born out of those research strengths. BBC Brit is obviously factual entertainment, using the spirit of Top Gear and that sense of humour. BBC First is a pure drama channel and on that you will only get the best of British or the BBC’s drama offering.

Natural history fits on BBC Earth, but I should say that Earth isn’t just a natural history channel, there’s a lot more to it – documentaries on questions about how did we get to be here, what it is to be human.

The BBC is platform agnostic. We make a billion pounds a year in selling our TV shows to some of the biggest broadcasters on the planet. Drama will sit on BBC First if that channel is in that market, but drama certainly as a TV sales business certainly goes all over the world.

Certainly my vision in Africa is to offer our content wider than the MultiChoice family.

So of course the MultiChoice subscriber will always get first run brand new stuff because that’s what they’re paying for. 

But as you know, we’ve done deals with VIDI [Times Media Group], we’ve done deals with M-Net, with [Naspers’] new SVOD player ShowMax, so it goes to say that over the next five years as Africa gets its mojo as over-the-top (OTT) players, there will be other opportunities to watch BBC drama outside of BBC First.

How much work went into this – I don’t know what the word would be – realignment or alignment to eventually roll out the new BBC brands in Africa? Because it was first Australia for BBC First and now then some BBC channels across Europe and now Africa. It’s actually very quick that these new brands are coming to this continent as well. How much work did it entail?
Joel Churcher: We’re methodical and we have to be. 

There are so many stakeholders involved here from a corporate communications, from a corporate brand perspective, from a content perspective in terms of what we’re buying and what we’re making, our partnerships with our indies – there’s over 200 that we support in the UK, and obviously looking at our affiliate partners as well. So, an awful lot.

Research was done about what our three strengths were and try to build and curate and embody those strengths and not just be pure about it but also have some stretch as well - so there’s flexibility in local markets.

In Poland they launched BBC Brit and BBC Earth. There isn’t a BBC First. In Australia there’s a pure drama channel; and there is in Benelux. 

And I believe the Benelux BBC First is a lot darker as a drama offering; they enjoy quiet drama a lot more than other markets. So there’s a lot of flexibility for us to make sure that we tailor the offering to our consumers wherever they are in the world.

Research was carried out by international agencies in New York in terms of the brand identity and the messaging that these brands will roll out globally.

The beauty and brains in London they worked effortlessly to work to get these brands so they could not just deliver and house content but also so they became more consumer-facing so that we future-proof ourselves and business for the next 5 to 10 years, so that if pay-TV in other parts of the world takes a nose dive, then these brands can live outside of a linear TV space.

So BBC Earth is a live event and a cinema experience in Japan. So an awful lot of work, discussion and partnerships have gone in to make sure that these brands are future-proof, that they look sharp, that they’re consumer facing and that they play to our strengths.

BBC Worldwide has made great inroads to bring a lot of the content quicker to BBC Entertainment for instance over the past few years. Will that still be a part of the value offering for BBC First? How important is it for viewers in Africa to get content quicker,or is it not yet such a priority for them?
Joel Churcher: It’s always important for us to make sure that content arrives to the audience as soon as we can.
It’s very much our ambition to make sure that they get it as close to the UK TX as possible.

However, under the TV business model, a lot of the content we provide on our channel isn’t ours. We have to go buy it; making sure that that channel offering reflect what the audience likes. The best example is Downton Abbey. Not ours. It means we have to buy it. We have to enter negotiations with NBC. 

Top Gear for example is ours. So the fact that we can do a simulcast day and date is a great example of how we can do that.

But a lot of stuff we do, and Lifestyle is a great example – a lot of that is content we buy specifically for Lifestyle for South African viewers. 

But that involves under the TV model us going out and negotiating with content producers and other distributors and making sure that we’re getting that content. But that can take time. 

So something can play out on ITV on Monday night. We have to sit and negotiate for the next three months to get it on our channel in South Africa and that is why viewers might experience some lag time between the UK TX and South Africa.

What makes you the most excited about the coming change and what are you personally looking forward to the most? Not perhaps in terms of programming but of this next new BBC chapter?
Joel Churcher: I can give you my best example which is managing to get our content down into DStv Compact. So BBC Brit is now a Compact channel. So DStv channel 120 is now DStv Compact. And that can sit next to BBC Lifestyle.

So BBC Brit, although its enjoyed by young adults and women, it’s very much curated and put together as a “male” channel; that will then offset BBC Lifestyle as a female channel. And there you’ve got two brilliant Compact channels from the BBC. So that opens up a massive more viewership for us.

The other exciting thing for me is CBeebies. CBeebies has always been stuck up in the rafters as a DStv Premium channel, and that’s now going down into Compact as well, so we can wow our fans – our preschoolers – and it obviously means that our content can be seen by a lot more South Africans that we have over the last 7 years.

We've got two up in DStv Premium – BBC First and BBC Earth, and two down in Compact – BBC Brit and BBC Lifestyle, along with CBeebies and BBC World News which goes across the continent. That’s the most exciting thing.  

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

BREAKING. MultiChoice opening The Disney Channel from 8 September to DStv Extra, DStv Compact subscribers for Descendants movie.

MultiChoice is opening The Disney Channel (DStv 303) to all lower-tiered DStv Extra and DStv Compact subscribers for 20 days from 8 September to co-incide with the broadcast of the new made-for-TV movie Descendants.

The Disney Channel will be unblocked on DStv from 8 to 28 September for Descendants that will be broadcast on Friday 18 September at 17:00.

The new musical telefilm revolves around the teenage offspring of fantasy Disney villains who are all living on the Isle of the Lost.

The high schoolers attending Auradon Prep must decide whether they're going to be "bad" like their infamous parents who include Cruella de Vil, Maleficent, Jafar and the Evil Queen or whether there's "good" in them.

Besides Descendants The Disney Channel is also rolling out the new third season of the telenovela Violetta from 21 September at 16:10, followed by the I Love Violetta companion show from Friday 25 September at 17:00 which is The Walt Disney Company Africa's first local South African production on the channel.

Other new Disney Channel content new premiere episodes of Jessie, Liv & Maddie, I Didn’t Do It and The Next Step as well as classic Disney movies like The Incredibles, Enchanted and The Princess Diaries.

Platco Digital's OpenView HD reaches 200 000 customers; will enhance offering with further new TV channels added soon.

OpenView HD will reach its 200 000 installation and activation within days since the free-to-air satellite TV service launched in South Africa in October 2013.

OpenView HD is operated by Platco Digital with its head office in Johannesburg and is backed by's parent company Hosken Consolidated Investments (HCI).

In 2014 Ellies, the JSE-listed electronics distributor said that OpenView HD "has been slow to take off" and that there's been a poor uptake of the service but OpenView HD. started OpenView HD as a counter and interim measure to due to government's long-delayed switch-on of commercial digital terrestrial television (DTT) in South Africa and things are now looking better for OpenView HD.

OpenView HD tells TV with Thinus that a target of 170 000 box sales was set for this financial year and OpenView HD has already sold 100 000 boxes.

OpenView HD sold an average of 3 500 boxes per month last year and is now averaging sales of 26 000 boxes per month.

"The growth of OpenView HD is better than expected," says Maxwell Nonge, the managing director of Platco Digital.

"In its 1st year OpenView HD was accepted into 50 000 households. To date there has been a 300% increase in the uptake which will get OpenView HD to 200 000 active decoders."

Maxwell Nonge says "viewers can look forward to an even more enhanced offering from the platform, as new channels will be added to the bouquet soon".

"Content that will be added is guided by focused consumer research to ensure that the channels are in line with the target audience's viewing patters."

OpenView HD has 19 entertainment channels, including the SABC's SABC1, SABC2 and SABC3, and carries 5 radio stations.

OpenView HD decoders retails for R399 which excludes the dish and installation. It uses the same dish alignment as MultiChoice's DStv which means that OpenView HD viewers don't need to buy a second satellite dish and only the decoder.

Monday, August 24, 2015

BREAKING. New zombie drama, Fear The Walking Dead, a massive hit for AMC Networks International's AMC on DStv and StarSat.

New zombie drama and The Walking Dead spin-off, Fear the Walking Dead is a massive hit right out of the box for AMC (DStv 140 / StarSat 115) which now has instant must-watch, appointment television on Monday nights.

Fear the Walking Dead which made its monster debut on Sunday night in America on AMC and was shown on Monday morning at 03:10 on AMC in South Africa on MultiChoice's DStv and On Digital Media's StarSat and again in its regular primetime timeslot of 20:00, logged an astounding 10.1 million viewers in the United States.

The viewership - 6.3 million of them in the desired 18-49 adult demographic - instantly propelled Fear the Walking Dead to the number one drama series premiere in pay-TV history in America which is a new ratings record.

Fear the Walking Dead produced by AMC Studios now holds the record as the most watched series premiere of any TV drama in pay-TV in the United States.

It's also history-making and highly significant for South Africa's TV and pay-TV industry, and here's why.

Although Fear the Walking Dead received barely any marketing and publicity push before its debut in South Africa today, it means that South African viewers are getting a premium brand-new TV drama, which is instantly a primetime hit, virtually simultaneous with the United States, but accessible on several lower-tiered, non-premium satellite pay-TV bouquets.

StarSat subscribers get AMC - and therefore Fear the Walking Dead - included on the StarSat Smart package for R149 per month. DStv subscribers on all packages get access to AMC - down to the cheapest DStv EasyView for R39 per month.

It means that DStv, StarSat and AMC can market and promote the hit zombie drama to virtually the  entire existing pay-TV subscriber base in South Africa.

For AMC, run by AMC Networks International Zone (AMCI Zone), Fear the Walking Dead represents a massive upgrade and and opportunity in South Africa and Africa to elevate the channel's brand and awareness of it.

The channel changed and rebranded from the stale, library title filled MGM channel to AMC only from December 2014 and can now suddenly boast the year's latest biggest TV hit, eclipsing M-Net's Game of Thrones and FOX's Empire.

Fear the Walking Dead gives AMC not just buzzy appointment television in primetime over the next few weeks but dramatically elevates the channel proposition and the AMC brand.

With the new new premium drama hour AMCI Zone which will get the chance to showcase and perhaps expose new viewers to the channel for the first time who might not have channel hopped to AMC before.

Now having a premium, first-run drama express from the United States and the year's biggest pay-TV hit is somewhat ironic for AMC, given that MultiChoice, when it was added as the MGM channel just over a year and a half ago in November 2013, initially didn't want to give the channel to its top-tiered DStv Premium subscribers but soon relented following a public backlash.

MultiChoice said at the time that the repeat filled MGM wasn't intended for DStv Premium subscribers but realised that "Premium customers would like to have the full range of channels available on their package".

Imagine the outcry now if higher-tiered pay-TV subscribers like DStv Premium customers were blocked from seeing and following the start of the latest zombie apocalypse.

"Thank you and congratulations to Robert Kirkman, Dave Erickson, the brilliant executive producers and the entire cast and crew of Fear the Walking Dead," says Charlie Collier, president of AMC in a statement.

"Fear the Walking Dead delivered record-breaking numbers that are all the more special in this era of time-shifted viewing and audience fragmentation."

"To have a companion series to the number one show on television driving communal, urgent viewing, social activity and pop cultural relevance of this magnitude is truly differentiating. Of course none of it is possible without the fans, whose passion leads to these remarkable results," says Charlie Collier.

"It is extremely exciting that we are broadcasting such fresh and interesting shows," says Ian Woodrow, the head of content at StarSat in a statement about Fear the Walking Dead.  "We have a whole new line-up of content with Fear the Walking Dead leading the way."

Fear the Walking Dead is a spin-off prequel set in Los Angeles and will follow the start of the zombie outbreak with a first season of 6 episodes starring Kim Dickens, Cliff Curtis, Frank Dillane and Ruben Blades.

It will be followed by the 6th season of The Walking Dead starting on 11 October in America and shown very soon after on FOX International Channel's FOX (DStv 125 / StarSat 131).

SABC adds audio description as a trial project from September to SABC1's Zulu drama Sticks & Stones for visually impaired viewers.

As a trial project, the SABC will introduce audio description from 1 September on the repeat broadcast of the SABC1 Zulu language local drama Sticks & Stones.

It's not yet clear how ordinary terrestrial SABC1 viewers or those watching SABC1 on MultiChoice's DStv, On Digital Media's (ODM) StarSat or Platco Digital's OpenView HD will be able to access and enable the option to hear the audio description on Sticks & Stones, or whether it will be a compulsory soundtrack as part of the test.

Audio description, also known as video description or visual description, is done for two reasons: firstly to enable visually impaired viewers to get an audio "reading" of what is happening or screen and written on screen, secondly being able to follow a show and therefore what is being said in another language as a translation service.

Visually impaired viewers will now be able to hear what they can't see on Sticks & Stones like production credits and descriptions of what is being shown when there are no characters or only actions or scene-setting shots.

The audio description trial won't come with other language audio tracks however and will just be in Zulu, the same as the show.

The trial project forms part of the SABC trying to gear up to provide audio description options on some programming once the government's long-delayed digital terrestrial television (DTT) finally starts in South Africa with a commercial service.

Viewers will then be able to toggle and choose the additional audio description or sound track on selected SABC programming.

Depending on funding, cost and capacity, its theoretically possible that SABC viewers in future might be able to listen to a show like Sticks & Stones in one of the other 10 official languages like Venda for instance as a service provided by the public broadcaster.

SuperSport already runs multiple commentary audio tracks in different languages for some major sport events on DStv; and TV channels like Glow TV (DStv 167 / OVHD 108) gives DStv and OpenView HD users a choice to toggle between an English or Hindi sound track. Its however different language options and not actual audio description.

Renee Williams, series commissioning editor at the SABC says the public broadcaster has empowered a blind company with this production which in turn helps with the training and development of blind audio describers through the production of Sticks & Stones.

"SABC TV is proud of the achievements of Audio Describe, not only in the training of audio description but in the successful production of this show and hopes that together with the support of stakeholders, it can broaden its development of blind viewers in the creative industry," says Renee Williams.

SABC2's Hectic Nine-9 from Okuhle Media reaches its 2000th episode on Tuesday; will feature Freshlyground and fans to help celebrate.

When the cameras roll tomorrow, Tuesday 25 August, the youth focused afternoon programming block Hectic Nine-9 on SABC2 will reach its 2000th episode

Since 2007 Hectic Nine-9, also abbreviated as Hn9, has seen a revolving door of teen presenters come and go as the show grew not just its timeslot ratings but also its timeslot duration to an hour from the beginning of 2012.

As the production changed studios a few times over the past 8 years, incorporated social media and tackled current youth issues, it also incorporated the highly successful and well-liked teen drama mini-series Signal High.

Former Hectic Nine-9 presenter Danilo Acquisto who moved behind the scenes as producer, transitioned earlier this year to SABC3's weekday afternoon variety and talk show Afternoon Express.

The Hectic Nine-9 studio hosted not only local bands and celebrities but saw soccer teams, dance crews, horses, a cheetah and even a 45 member choir visit.

Hectic Nine-9, currently broadcasting Mondays to Fridays at 16:00 on SABC2, is produced by Okuhle Media in Cape Town and is currently being done live daily from MagnaTude Studios in Observatory, sourcing content from all of South Africa's provinces.

"I am incredibly proud of the growth of the show," says executive producer Louise McClelland. "Hectic Nine-9 touches lives every day, in a way we never expected.”

"2000 episodes is a milestone most TV shows only dream of reaching," says Wilna van Schalkwyk, series producer. "What a proud moment to see this incredible show grow into one of the biggest and most successful youth shows produced in South Africa."

"Eight years of Hectic Nine-9 means that a person who started watching the show when they were 12 is now 20 – a significant leap – and our interaction with this viewer shows us a fun, creative, determined and independent thinker who has his or her future firmly in their hands," says Mpumi Ngidi, SABC commissioning editor of the show.

Tuesday's 2000th episode will celebrate the milestone in style on-air with band Freshlyground making an appearance and performing. Hectic Nine-9 will also have fans in the studio.

At the moment Hectic Nine-9 producers are working on a technological treasure hunt celebrating South Africa's diversity. From there the show goes into planning episodes for the upcoming festive season at the end of the year and then brainstorming the new season.