Friday, February 23, 2024

SABC holds showcase event about drastic content changes across its TV channels.


by Thinus Ferreira

On Thursday evening the South African public broadcaster held what it called an "exclusive showcase" for its SABC1, SABC2 and SABC3 TV channels that it neither bothered telling the media about beforehand, nor shared any of the information or speeches afterwards.

In attendance in Johannesburg was Nomsa Chabeli, the new SABC CEO who spoke to stakeholders like advertisers. The SABC didn't share her speech.

Nomsa Chabeli has markedly not spoken to the media or done any interviews since she started at the beginning of this month at the SABC's Auckland Park headquarters, although interview requests were made weeks ago.

Like on Thursday evening, Nomsa Chabeli is speaking publicly - just not with the media.

Also in attendance on Thursday evening was Lala Tuku, the SABC head of local content.

Lala Tuku is now also acting head of video entertainment at the SABC since Merlin Naicker has been suspended over allegations of impropriety over the contract and an allegedly secret profit-sharing clause in it with Discovery Digital running the broadcaster's SABC+ video streaming service.

The SABC didn't share her presentation or anything of what Lala Tuku said at Thursday evening's event with the media either.

The SABC is set to implement a range of drastic programming changes on all three its TV channels from March, including moving Skeem Saam to a later timeslot on SABC1, moving Deal or No Deal SA from SABC1 to SABC2, cancelling Fokus on SABC2, moving the Afrikaans TV news to SABC3 in a much later timeslot, and removing Afrikaans content from SABC2 and placing it on SABC3. 


Amazon Prime Video drops South African PR firm as part of cutbacks.


by Thinus Ferreira

Amazon Prime Video has also ended its contract with its South African PR firm Ten x Collective which will no longer do any publicity work for Amazon MGM Studios' content after this month.

The end of the contract with Ten x Collective is part of Amazon turning off its money tap for the creation of local African content that included the abrupt axing of all further African original productions in South Africa and Nigeria, the retrenchment of its content teams and executives in both countries and cancelling development deals with producers.

The conclusion of its contract with a local PR firm raises fears that Amazon MGM Studios and Amazon Prime Video will no longer bother to have a local PR presence in South Africa to promote any of its content through the press.

It would unbundle all the work in media relationship building that Amazon has done over the past two years to get coverage and exposure for what was its growing slate of African Originals and global series.

Stephen Barber, head of PR for Amazon in the UK, didn't respond to a media query about the streamer dropping Ten x Collective and media concerns about it.

Last month Amazon Prime Video abruptly retrenched multiple content executives and staff it lured to join its video streaming service in Cape Town and Johannesburg in South Africa and in Nigeria, based in London, after it rapidly ramped up plans over the past two years to create, produce and roll-out localised African Prime Video Originals.

Upset producers in South Africa and Nigeria said Amazon lured them with production promises that turned out to be fake, and that they feel duped over "promises were made and not kept".

Amazon Prime Video has drastically reigned in its content spend in Africa and on African original content as part of the streamer's global realignment that is also having a negative impact on what was its content budget for Africa.

The media launch event for LOL: Laugh Out Loud South Africa earlier this month for Amazon's streamer held at The Galleria in Sandton, Johannesburg is also its last, as well as the last for the PR company on behalf of Amazon.

LOL: Laugh Out Loud South Africa with host Trevor Noah, produced by Rapid Blue, was Amazon's first South African unscripted series but has the distinction of now also its last South African unscripted original. 

One of the attendees at the media event said "there were a lot of sad and emotional people" with "an undercurrent of depression" since a lot of people talked about Amazon shutting down local content production.

Lisa Pellatt, founder and director of Ten x Collective confirmed that Amazon had ended its PR contract.

"TxC is contracted to work with Prime Video until the end of February 2024, there has been no abrupt ending – everything has followed procedure. We unfortunately can’t comment on how other people felt at the event – we only received positive feedback about a wonderful evening and fun had by all."

During its expansion into South Africa, Amazon Prime Video made use of Gillian Gamsey International Communications (GGIC) in 2022 and then switched to Ten x Collective a year ago in February 2023.


MultiChoice and M-Net's Mzansi Magic bringing rainmaker legend Queen Modjadji to life in new Rhythm World Productions drama series.


by Thinus Ferreira 

After its first epic historical series Shaka Ilembe, MultiChoice and M-Net is following it up with Queen Modjadji for Mzansi Magic (DStv 161) in a drama inspired by the Balobedu legend of rainmaker Queen Modjadji whose bloodline has ruled Southern Africa's Lobedu clan for centuries.

Produced by Rhythm World Productions and Duma Ndlovu, Queen Modjadji will tell the "story of a matriarchal dynasty, whose ability to transform the clouds and summon the rain has earned the Balobedu royalty a place among the most revered of African dynasties," Mzansi Magic says. 

 Nomsa Philiso, MultiChoice CEO for general entertainment, says "Bringing Queen Modjadji to our audiences meets their desire for television entertainment drawn from our heritage and it also flows seamlessly into our plans to create a catalogue of drama series made in African languages". 

 "Queen Modjaji comes hot off the trail of Shaka Ilembe which was a global phenomenon and very much an expression of the MultiChoice strategy to drive home-grown, authentic African storytelling," she says. 

According to MultiChoice production on Queen Modjadji is "already well underway and the team behind the title has been researching and consulting with key stakeholders, tribal leaders and academic experts".

Scripting and casting for Queen Modjadji is nearing completion and principal photography will be starting soon.

Duma Ndlovu says "The earth, the elements, and the energy of humans connect in ways that are both physical and spiritual, both obvious and unseen. Queen Modjadji was a living embodiment of this, and so we will explore what this royal title, and the women who've held it, have lived, sacrificed, lost, and achieved".

"At the same time, we want to be very entertaining – with a strong episodic storyline and historical detail set under unpredictable skies, where rain or storm, echoes what is happening in the lives of those below."

Mzansi Magic adds 13-episode netball teen drama Obstruction from Origin Pictures.


by Thinus Ferreira

Mzansi Magic (DStv 161) has commissioned a new 13-episode teen drama series, Obstruction, produced by Origin Pictures, that will start on Monday 18 March at 20:00 and revolve around a high school netball player and the challenges she faces to attain her goals.

Obstruction stars Luyanda Zuma as the 17-year-old Zenokuhle, with dreams of making it to the Gauteng provincial netball team. 

She has to contend with various challenges faced by "an extremely talented black female teenager and how she and her peers navigate relationships with their parents, teachers, love interests, enemies, and frenemies".

Obstruction also stars Bukamina Cebekhulu as Zenokuhle's mother Thandiwe who doesn't understand her daughter's dreams and uproots her by placing her in a new school, as well as Menzi Biyela playing her alcoholic father Mandla. 

The rest of the Obstruction cast includes Lerato Mokoka as "frenemy" Ora, Nhlanhla Kunene and Thembsie Matu.

"This is a story of a lot of young people in our society nowadays – faced with the pressure to succeed, to be liked by peers, to have an emotionally stable family life, and also nail it in the relationship department," says Shirley Adonisi, M-Net's director for local entertainment channels.

Wendy Williams diagnosed with dementia and aphasia


by Thinus Ferreira

The former American talk show host Wendy Williams (59) has been diagnosed with dementia and aphasia, after battling alcohol addiction and other health issues like Graves' disease and lymphedema.

Her dementia and aphasia diagnosis is the same as what has been happening to former action star Bruce Willis.

Williams is currently in an undisclosed treatment facility with family unable to contact her, with only a court-appointed legal guardian who has access to her. Williams can call family members from an unidentified number, but they can't call her. Her bank accounts were frozen in 2022.

In press release from her representatives, her "care team" said "Over the past few years, questions have been raised at times about Wendy's ability to process information and many have speculated about Wendy's condition, particularly when she began to lose words, act erratically at times, and have difficulty understanding financial transactions.".

"In 2023, after undergoing a battery of medical tests, Wendy was officially diagnosed with primary progressive aphasia and frontotemporal dementia (FTD)."

"Aphasia, a condition affecting language and communication abilities, and frontotemporal dementia, a progressive disorder impacting behaviour and cognitive functions, have already presented significant hurdles in Wendy's life."

"The decision to share this news was difficult and made after careful consideration, not only to advocate for understanding and compassion for Wendy, but to raise awareness about aphasia and frontotemporal dementia and support the thousands of others facing similar circumstances."

"Unfortunately, many individuals diagnosed with aphasia and frontotemporal dementia face stigma and misunderstanding, particularly when they begin to exhibit behavioural changes but have not yet received a diagnosis."

"There is hope that with early detection and far more empathy, the stigma associated with dementia will be eliminated, and those affected will receive the understanding, support, and care they deserve and need."

"Wendy is still able to do many things for herself. Most importantly she maintains her trademark sense of humor and is receiving the care she requires to make sure she is protected and that her needs are addressed. She is appreciative of the many kind thoughts and good wishes being sent her way."

The announcement comes just before a two-part documentary, produced by Williams, "Where is Wendy Williams?" will be broadcast in the United States over this upcoming weekend on the Lifetime TV channel which is no longer available in South Africa. 

Paramount ran The Wendy Williams Show on its BET (DStv 129) channel until Williams' erratic behaviour led to its inevitable cancellation in mid-2022.

In the latest issue of People magazine in America to promote the documentary, her family - including her niece, sister and brother - broke their silence around her "shocking and heartbreaking" struggles.

"The people who love her cannot see her, "Wendy's sister Wanda told People magazine."I think the big question is: How the hell did we get here?"

To promote the documentary, Thursday's episode of the American talk show The View also featured Williams' niece Alex Finnie. 

In the released clip, Finnie, says contact with Williams has "been limited". "I finally got some sort of a response not too long ago, but it has been a big problem for the family in terms of just 'Can we get an update on how she’s doing?"

"All of a sudden there was just this wall that went down and the family was blocked out. It was in April 2022. And the contact from that point on, has been so limited."

"She went into where she is now, between April and May last year. We went months before we were even able to get a call."

Thursday, February 22, 2024

National Association of Broadcasters elects new leadership.


by Thinus Ferreira

South Africa's National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) has new leadership with Nick Grubb (Kagiso Media Radio CEO) elected as new chairperson, and Philly Moilwa (SABC's head of policy and regulatory affairs) elected as the deputy chairperson for the 2024/2025 term.

The NAB's executive committee is its decision-making body and represents various players across the regulated broadcast sector across South Africa.

The NAB chairperson and deputy chairperson serve for a term of two years whilst the leadership of its four standing committees are elected annually by its committee members.

Nadia Bulbulbia, NAB executive director, in a statement, says "Over the last 31 years the NAB has been fortunate to be led by passionate and committed professionals with vast industry knowledge and expertise. We thank the erstwhile chairperson, Thabo Makenete (formerly MultiChoice) for his leadership over the past two years and look forward to a positive future for the NAB and the industry with our newly constituted exco team."

Nick Grubb says "The NAB has always played a critical role in uniting the industry so it can navigate its regulatory landscape and develop structures that support self-regulation and skills development."

"Over the last few years, we have seen it play an even broader role in promotion of TV and radio to all of its stakeholders and build out industry social investment mechanisms. There is a lot of change coming from all fronts, so the NAB has never been more critical for our members and our industry."

Commercial radio committee
Chairperson – Tholoana Ncheke (Primedia Broadcasting)
Deputy chairperson – Judy Monyela (SABC) 

TV Committee 
 Chairperson – Lara Kantor (MultiChoice) 
 Deputy chairperson - Greg Clur (Faith Terrestrial)

Technical Committee 
Chairperson – Andy Louis (Telemedia) 
Deputy chairperson – Bevan Bates (MultiChoice)

Community Radio Committee 
Chairperson - Wilma van Schalkwyk (Radio Pulpit) 
Deputy chairperson – Franklin Huizies (Jozi FM)

Co-opted exco Members 
Philippa Rafferty (eMedia)
Alfie Jay (Algoa FM)

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Zola Nene back as judge for 5th season of Primedia Studios and Homebrew Films' MasterChef SA on SABC3.


by Thinus Ferreira

The culinary queen Zola Nene will be back as one of the three judges in the new season of MasterChef South Africa coming to SABC3.

Primedia Studios and Homebrew Films are producing a 5th season of the Banijay format cooking competition series jumping from M-Net to SABC3, with Pick n Pay back as the season's sponsor.

South Africans older than 18 have until 15 March to enter on the www.masterchefsa.tv website for a chance to compete in the customised kitchen hall in Cape Town where Zola Nene will taste and judge their food along with two other judges for the winner to eventually bag R1 million.

The 5th season of MasterChef SA will be Zola Nene's second turn judging in the kitchen, after she gave advice, tasted and told contestants to hang up their aprons in the fourth season in 2022. 

"For a food fanatic like me, it's such a joy and honour to be part of a show that celebrates our unique South African cuisine whilst giving local foodies a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make their dreams come true," says Zola Nene. 

"It's beautiful to watch how the contestants grow and unleash their full potential."

Zola's own journey as a seasoned chef started as a young girl grinding mealies for her gogo's mealie bread. 

After experiencing how hearty food can create special bonds between people, Zola realised in her early twenties that her true life-calling was grounded in her roots – celebrating human connections via simple but scrumptious recipes.
 
A burning desire to learn the tricks of the trade landed Zola a job at the hot section of a brasserie in the United Kingdom, where she quickly became the sous chef. 

Following this valuable work experience, she returned to South Africa to finesse her skills at the Institute of Culinary Arts in Stellenbosch, which allowed her to work with some of the country’s top chefs. 
 
Since then, Zola has carved a place deep in the hearts of millions of television viewers – from being the resident chef on Expresso to co-judging The Great South African Bake Off, hosting her own show, Celeb Feasts with Zola and impressing the infamous 17-Michelin-star international chef Gordon Ramsey on National Geographic’s Gordon Ramsey’s Unchartered.
 
Meanwhile, Zola also made her mark by penning down three best-selling cookbooks, Simply Delicious and Simply Zola and Simply Seven Colours which have all won the Best in the World at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards.
 
Zola encourages everyone who shares her incredible passion for food to enter MasterChef South Africa.

"It really doesn't matter what your food-making forté is or which type of South African cuisine you dish up to tickle people's taste buds. As long as you have an extensive knowledge of flavours and textures, love whipping up food feasts, know your way around the kitchen and have a brewing appetite to learn more about the art of cooking."

Clover's Tropika Island of Treasure returns for 11th season in 2024 with Zanele Potelwa as host.


by Thinus Ferreira

The radio presenter Zanele Potelwa who is also the newest addition of the Expresso morning show on SABC3 will host a new season of Tropika Island of Treasure this year, with the advertiser-funded production (AFP) which will return for an 11th season to SABC3 around September.

Clover's Tropika is once again the sponsor of the upcoming season which will have 13 episodes as well as South African celebrities who will team up with South Africans selected from entries.

Season 11 of Tropika Island of Treasure will once again be produced by the Cape Town-based Cardova Productions, also responsible for Expresso on SABC3.

This time it will be Zanele Potelwa who will be whisked off to a tropical island together with this year's chosen contestants, where they will compete in various challenges as they're whittled down to a winner that will get R1 million.

"This year, the show is pushing the boundaries once again, introducing a fresh batch of castaways ready to face their fears and outwit their rivals for the ultimate prize," says the show. 

The celebrity contestants whose names have not yet been revealed, will include "a charmer", an athlete, an "enigma", a comedian, an "island veteran" survivor, an underdog, a leader, a social butterfly, and "the brain", as well as "the wild card".

MSC Poesia visiting SA waters with chef Reuben Riffel curating pickled fish, malva pudding and Karoo lamb.


by Thinus Ferreira

The MSC Poesia has made the cruise ship's first visit to South African waters with chef Reuben Riffel who curated a special menu.

The MSC Poesia docked in Port Elizabeth on 18 February as part of an ongoing cruise taking it to a berth in Cape Town harbour on 21 February.

The MSC Poesia visit to South Africa follows shortly after the MSC Splendida's first cruise rotation to Southern African shores and will bring another influx of international tourists disembarking in these cities for sight-seeing tours and to do some shopping.

MSC tells me the South African celebrity chef Reuben Riffel was onboard the MSC Poesia for the Port Elizabeth to Cape Town sailing, with guests who enjoyed "his curated menu with a local South African twist".

The MSC Poesia's visit to South African harbours is part of the ship's current world cruise.

"MSC Poesia calling, not just in South Africa but other African parts as part of her journey is a significant vote of confidence in the capacity in the capacity and structures of these destinations, says Ross Volk, MSC Cruises South Africa's managing director.

"The vessel brings with her over 2 000 foreign national visitors to our country and this will have an immense impact on the local economies of Durban, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town. We hope the guests will enjoy their time in South Africa and come back again soon."

The 16-deck MSC Poesia built in 2008 in France has three swimming pools, four whirlpool baths and a giant poolside cinema screen, as well as a Zen garden and a foyer waterfall.

Reuben Riffel's curated menu during the Port Elizabeth to Cape Town cruise included pickled fish, malva pudding and Karoo lamb.

"I'm excited to see the collaboration come to life and equally as excited about sharing this menu with the guests who will be onboard MSC Poesia," said Riffel who did special meet-and-greets while onboard and was on hand during dinner to speak to guests as well about what is being served.

"It is not every day that people from around the world get to experience our local flavours and I hope that the food will be a true reflection of our rich South African cuisine."

SABC unplugs Primedia Studios' Deal or No Deal SA from SABC1 and shunts it to SABC2 for second season.


by Thinus Ferreira

In another shocking programming move from the SABC, the public broadcaster is shifting Deal or No Deal SA to SABC2 from March which means that the local version of the game show will now have been shown on all three of the SABC's traditional terrestrial TV channels.

While the first season of Deal or No Deal SA - produced by Homebrew Films through Primedia Studios with host Katlego Maboe - aired on SABC1 with repeats on SABC3 since March 2023, the second season of the Banijay-format show from March 2024 will now suddenly be on SABC2.

Before the start of the show in 2023, the SABC was asked why a TV show specifically for SABC1 audiences would work and be shown on SABC3, with the broadcaster that responded by saying that Deal or No Deal SA and The Masked Singer SA works for both those TV channels. 

Now the SABC has decided that the show works for not just two but all three of its differently branded TV channels although each channel supposedly caters content to separate viewing audiences.

The SABC calls the Deal or No Deal SA move from SABC1 to SABC2 a "scheduling adjustment".

Deal or No Deal SA is moving into the 18:30 timeslot on SABC2 where the Afrikaans TV news bulletin was. After cancelling 7de Laan in the 18:00 timeslot on SABC2, the SABC is moving the Afrikaans TV news from the 18:30 timeslot to SABC3 and much later to 20:30.

The SABC is also cancelling the broadcaster's sole Afrikaans current affairs show Fokus and removing the remaining Afrikaans content from SABC2 besides the TV news from the channel as part of a plan to reallocate it its struggling and smaller SABC3 channel.

On SABC1, the Deal or No Deal SA gap at 19:30 is being filled with Skeem Saam moving later to this timeslot. No announcement has yet been made on what SABC1 will fill Skeem Saam's timeslot with but the preliminary schedule shows repeats at 18:30. 

"Game shows are part of the SABC2 signature offering and have always been audience drawcard," says Gerhard Pretorius, SABC channel head.

"They encourage family viewing and participation and speak to our family entertainment positioning. We are excited to continue the show's legacy of uplifting communities and giving back, and we welcome Deal or No Deal to the SABC2 family."

Jan du Plessis, Primedia Studios president, says "We are immensely proud of Deal or No Deal South Africa and how it has brought smiles and excitement to many Mzansi homes."

"Whilst the upcoming season will have all the thrilling elements that will make more viewers fall in love with the show, loyal fans are in for some delightful surprises. The mysterious banker will have some exciting new tricks up his sleeve."

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Mickey remains on MultiChoice as Disney extends channels carriage deal with DStv to 2027.


by Thinus Ferreira

Mickey will remain on MultiChoice with Africa's largest pay-TV operator that has signed a new channels carriage agreement with The Walt Disney Company for its collection of TV channels to remain on DStv until 2027.

The new deal between MultiChoice and the Mouse House ensures that channels like The Disney Channel (DStv 303), Disney Junior (DStv 309), National Geographic (DStv 181), Nat Geo Wild (DStv 182), ESPN and ESPN will remain available to DStv subscribers for another four years. 

According to MultiChoice and Disney, National Geographic will remain available to DStv Family subscribers and up, Nat Geo Wild will be accessible to DStv Access subscribers and up, The Disney Channel will be for DStv Compact and up, while Disney Junior will be for DStv Access subscribers and up.

The sports channels ESPN (DStv 218) will be for DStv Access and up while ESPN2 (DStv 219) is for DStv Compact subscribers and up.

"This distribution renewal ensures that we will be able to continue bringing our six 24-hour channels to audiences across the continent and marks another proud milestone in our long-term relationship with the MultiChoice Group," says Christine Service, senior vice president and general manager of The Walt Disney Company Africa.

"With a strong foundation of creativity, story-telling, exploration and multi-generational emotional connection, we are proud to continue offering DStv viewers the very latest from our high-quality, premium kids, factual and sports content."

Nomsa Philiso, MultiChoice South Africa CEO for general entertainment, says "Championing our mission to enrich lives and elevate entertainment experiences, we're thrilled to ensure our customers can savour their favourite shows and movies effortlessly, anytime, anywhere, thanks to our state-of-the-art platforms".

"Extending our partnership with The Walt Disney Company and the incredible linear channels on DStv elevate our offering and amplify the joy of entertainment!"

Monday, February 19, 2024

MultiChoice's DStv price increase for 2024: Two packages increasing with above-inflation rates.


by Thinus Ferreira

MultiChoice will increase DStv prices again from 1 April with two packages seeing an above-inflation increase.

DStv Premium is increasing from April 2024 by 5.7% from R879 to R929, with a 6.9% increase for DStv Compact Plus increasing from R579 to R619.

DStv Compact is increasing 4.5% from R449 to R469, DStv Family is increasing 3.1% from R319 to R329, while DStv Access is increasing 7.8% from R129 to R139. DStv EasyView is remaining the same at R29.

MultiChoice is increasing the DStv Access fee by 4.3% from R115 to R120 monthly, with no increases for the ADD Movies package at R79 monthly and DStv BoxOffice rentals also remaining unchanged at R40 per popcorn couch-watching pop.

All streaming-only services will maintain their current subscription fees. 

DStv Compact Plus and DStv Access are the two packages getting price hikes bigger than South Africa's inflation rate of 6%. DStv Access is however getting a sport-injection in the form of access to content from ESPN, La Liga, SuperSport Variety 4 and the SuperSport Blitz channels.

To promote its relaunched Showmax video streaming service, MultiChoice will soon rebrand and reprogramme one of the M-Net packaged linear TV channels on DStv to carry a curated offering of the content on offer on Showmax to aid sampling. 

This will include locally produced series made for the Showmax platform that DStv subscribers will be able to watch on the linear channel.

MultiChoice is also introducing what the Randburg pay-TV operator calls a "Price guarantee" agreement, whereby DStv subscribers can ensure that their subscription fee remains fixed for the period of their contract, as well as its subscription price adjustments for 2024.

"We're excited about DStv Price Guarantee which secures a price lower than today for our customers who sign up for our 24-month deal to beat the increase," says Marc Jury, MultiChoice SA CEO.

"Our priority is to ensure that we continue to provide unparalleled entertainment, which includes local South African stories and the world’s best sports. Subscribers can look forward to an array of exciting content such as Big Brother Mzansi as well as major sporting events like the SA20 Cricket and the Olympic games."

"We believe these adjustments are reasonable considering the significant 16% year-on-year depreciation of the Rand against the US Dollar, and our commitment to securing long-term broadcast sports rights and international studio deals, which are priced in US Dollars," he says.

"As Africa's premier entertainment provider, we are committed to delivering exceptional value to our customers. We have an excellent line-up of local and international shows and sports. Our customers can also look forward to continued savings on our DStv Internet bundles, DStv Insurance, and Namola."

Friday, February 16, 2024

2014 is 2024: SABC plans to dump Afrikaans content from SABC2 with Fokus cancelled, Afrikaans news and other shows moved to smaller SABC3.


by Thinus Ferreira

The South African public broadcaster plans to dump Afrikaans from March 2024, with its only Afrikaans actuality magazine show Fokus cancelled, and the Afrikaans TV news bulletin and other Afrikaans shows like Voetspore shunted to SABC3 that has much smaller channel reach.

It's exactly the same plan the SABC had a decade ago in July 2014 to move Afrikaans from SABC2 to the smaller SABC3.

Caroline Phalakatshela, SABC TV publicist, confirmed to Netwerk24 that the SABC has cancelled Fokus since it "no longer fits in" with SABC2 and the broadcaster's plan to move Afrikaans shows to SABC3 from March as part of a strategic decision.

She denied that the SABC plans to get rid of Afrikaans.

According to the SABC, the ratings of the Afrikaans TV news bulletin is below what the SABC wants it to be for SABC2. 

Viewership of the Afrikaans news is down since its lead-in programme 7de Laan was cancelled and replaced with old reruns of Vetkoekpaleis in the timeslot in December 2023 that saw ratings tank.

In November while 7de Laan as lead-in to the Afrikaans TV news still lured 901 668 viewers to SABC2, while the news had 627 845 viewers, the news bulletin fell to 518 355 viewers in December 2023.

Once reruns of Vetkoekpaleis started with 608 320 viewers on SABC2 - shedding 300 000 viewers in that timeslot, it carried a lot fewer Afrikaans viewers to the news following it.

Other shows like the travelogue Voetspore and the environmental show 50/50 are all moving to SABC3 which is the TV channel with the smallest terrestrial footprint with many South Africans and Afrikaans viewers unable to receive the channel.

Several questions around the language content move were put to the SABC and comment will be added here when received. The SABC was also asked what is happening to SABC3 - repositioned a few years ago as a TV channel for millennial viewers - if Afrikaans is now shunted to this channel.

The SABC had a very similar plan to permanently move the Afrikaans TV news and shows from SABC2 to SABC3 a decade ago in July 2014 but cancelled the plan due to public pressure after news of the move leaked.

In 2014 the SABC said that the broadcaster "has not marginalised any language and will not do that in future. The SABC has an obligation as prescribed by the Broadcasting Act to ensure that all languages are treated equally".

In December 2023, SABC3's maximum viewership, which keeps falling, slid to just 436 548 viewers.


Thursday, February 15, 2024

'Characters all carrying dark secrets': Skemergrond to replace Arendsvlei as new Afrikaans telenovela on kykNET&kie from July.


by Thinus Ferreira

A new telenovela Skemergrond, set in a small Western Cape town will replace the popular Arendsvlei from July on kykNET&kie (DStv 145) with the new Afrikaans show also produced by Penguin Films and filled with characters "all carrying dark secrets".

Once the cancelled Arendsvlei ends, Skemergrond will also broadcast four episodes weekly from Mondays to Thursdays in the 19:30 timeslot on kykNET&kie. Casting that will include veteran actors as well as new faces is still to be announced.

The new telenovela is set in Gemoedsdrif, a small town in the Western Cape where the Louw family has a flower farm. 

The Louw lives are thrown into tumult when guests arrive unexpectedly, threatening to divulge shocking family secrets.

Roxanne Blaise who starred in Sara se Geheim and M-Net's upcoming White Lies is the principal director and also worked as director on Arendsvlei.

"We're ecstatic over this fantastic opportunity," says Roxanne Blaise. "The fresh and exciting cast will bring an epic family saga to television. Skemergrond is set in the rural Western Cape and the flower markets of Cape Town, filled with interesting characters who are all carrying dark secrets".

The other director on Skemergrond is Marissa Drummond who starred in kykNET series like Suidooster and Spoorloos: Die eiland. Bobby Stuurman who did director training on Arendsvlei is the dialogue coach and apprentice director on the new show. 

The Skemergrond writers' room consists of Jo-Ann Scholtz, Johann Davis, Alyzzander Fourie, Margaret Goldsmid, Meesha Aboo, Kanya Viljoen, Lauren Scholtz, Henry Cloete and Tristam Atkins.

Skemergrond's creative producers are veteran producer Roberta Durrant and Andrea Frankson-Titus.

"We've brought together an exceptional cast and a brilliant crew behind the scenes to tell a multi-faceted story filled with secrets, love and revenge," says Roberta Durrant. "Viewers will be captivated and surprised by all of the emotional twists and turns."

CWU notifies SABC of strike in wage dispute, demands investigation into secret Discover Digital profit-sharing deal for SABC+.


by Thinus Ferreira

The Communications Workers' Union (CWU) has warned the beleaguered South African public broadcaster that its members will strike and demanding a swift investigation into the broadcaster's secret profit-sharing deal with Discover Digital running its SABC+ video streaming service.

The CWU's ongoing wage dispute and planned strike could have serious consequences for the broadcaster in a national election year with any strike action or labour issues that could impact the SABC's election news coverage.

While the Bemawu trade union has accepted a 6% wage increase offer, the CWU is holding out for its initial 9% wage increase, backdated to 1 April 2023. The SABC which made yet another R1.13 billion loss last year, has said it cannot do salary increases.

The CWU plans to go to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) to get clarity on the picketing regulations for its planned SABC strike.

Nathan Bowers, CWU bargaining coordinator, in a statement, says the CWU is also demanding an investigation following the suspension of SABC COO Ian Plaatjes and head of video entertainment Merlin Naicker and the resignation of sales boss Reginald Nxumalo after revelations of a secretive 7.5% profit-sharing deal with Discover Digital that runs the broadcaster's SABC+ video streaming service.

The CWU says it demands "for the investigation to be expedited and serious consequences to follow".

"The revelation comes as workers who are members of CWU are in deadlock over the salary increase. The SABC continues to plead poverty while allegations of concealing profit are out there in the media."

"Workers have not had a salary increase for over three years and every time there are financial losses or financial crisis, workers have to become the scapegoat and bear the brunt through no salary increases," Bowers says.

"The plundering of the financial resources of the SABC through shady contracts and unaccounted fruitless and wasteful expenditure every financial year cannot continue and used as an excuse not to give workers a salary increase and their backdated pay. As CWU we will still continue to defend our public broadcaster by keeping an eye on all these questionable deals from all angles."

"While CWU welcomes the suspension of the two executives, we are further calling on the SABC to also place the chief financial officer Yolande Van Biljon on precautionary suspension."

Nathan Bowers says Van Biljon "also has to answer during the investigation as the person who holds the purse of the SABC. As CWU we want to know how the 7.5% slipped through her fingers in this digital deal".


SABC warns over 2024's first fake SABC TV Licence email.


by Thinus Ferreira

The SABC is warning about yet another fake TV Licence email that is circulating and trying to steal people's money, with the South African public broadcaster saying it will never threaten anyone with a warrant of arrest.

The first fake SABC TV Licence spam email for 2024 tries to trick people into downloading a "statement" file through a phishing attack, threatening people that a warrant for their arrest will be issued and that they need to pay the amount on the statement.

A whopping 87% of South African TV households on the SABC's TV Licence register no longer bother to pay their annual SABC TV Licence fee of R265, with the South African government and the department of communications and digital technologies that have been stalling for years to get rid of it and to replace it with a better system.

The SABC in a statement is now warning the public again about the latest scam TV Licence email, saying that the "email correspondence purports to be that of the SABC, threatening the public that they will be issued with a warrant of arrest for non-payment of TV Licence fees".

"The public is advised to ignore the contents of a correspondence coming from an email address jjim@mega.* [TV Licence board]. This is not an SABC email address and the corporation will at no point threaten anyone with a warrant of arrest."

The SABC warns the public "not to download any statement from this fake email as instructed" and says the SABC TV Licence division can be reached by calling 011 330 9555 or the email of tvlic.info@sabc.co.za or get statements at www.tvlic.co.za which is the legitimate website.

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

MultiChoice appoints Emma Gichonge as Showmax's first-ever general operations manager for East Africa.


by Thinus Ferreira

MultiChoice has appointed Emma Gichonge as the first-ever general manager for operations for East Africa for its Showmax video streaming service, overseeing its East African market.

MultiChoice and Showmax just relaunched the streaming service in partnership with Comcast NBCUniversal's Peacock and Sky.

"With our ambition to be Africa's number one streamer we're happy to welcome Emma, whose wealth of experience will serve our customers in the key East African market," says Joe Heshu, Showmax chief operating officer, in a statement.

Emma Gichonge joins MultiChoice's Showmax after previous roles at the startup Yutap and the telecoms giant Safaricom.

She holds a masters degree in IT management and a BA science degree in information technology. Most recently she as MultiChoice Malawi's managing director.

"Showmax is a bold business and is in an exciting stage of its story - moving onto the globally-scaled Peacock platform, increasing its loved local content slate and introducing affordable new plans," Emma Gichonge says in a prepared statement.

"With my passion for innovation and for East Africa, I'm looking forward to building the business with the Kenyan Showmax team. We're already hard at work with our partner Safaricom to re-integrate in-app M-PESA payments with our new technology."

Africa's animal abundance on display in third season of Planet Earth.


by Thinus Ferreira

South Africa's wildlife - specifically seals who band together to outwit a great white shark - once again feature prominently in the third season of Planet Earth that starts on Monday 19 February at 20:00 on BBC Earth (DStv 184) with astonishing BBC cinematography of the natural world.

Sir David Attenborough is once again the narrator of the third season of this landmark BBC series, which was filmed over five years and includes several segments filmed across South Africa for the eight episodes.

"In this new series of Planet Earth, we travel to the most astonishing wild places, see mysterious creatures, witness rare, spectacular wonders, and reveal breath-taking animal dramas," says Sir David Attenborough.

"The natural world continues to surprise us, but since Darwin's time, it has changed beyond recognition, being transformed by a powerful force – us."

"We will see how animals are adapting in extraordinary ways, to survive the new challenges they face. At this crucial time in our history, we must now look at the world through a new lens."

Nearly two decades since the original season of Planet Earth, the natural history documentary series once again goes on a journey from remote jungles to scorching deserts and from the darkest caves to the depths of the ocean.

The new season highlights several places and animals and their unique wildlife adaptations and survival strategies in Africa - from the Kalahari Desert to the wildebeest migration in the Kruger National Park across vast grasslands, the unique flora and fauna found at the Drakensberg Mountains' high altitudes, and the aquatic life of the Okavango Delta. 

Delving into the heart of South Africa's waters, the first episode entitled "Coasts", reveals the struggle for survival on South Africa's Robberg Peninsula, where thousands of Cape fur seals face off against the world's most notorious predator, the great white shark.

Nick Easton, producer and director of this episode, says "The struggle between the Cape fur seals and the great white shark has been a developing story on the South African coast for the last few years".

"The sharks' increased presence on this stretch of coast is still poorly understood, as is their behaviour generally. And, of course, they are notoriously dangerous predators. The crew had to capture this nail-biting scene over four years." 



The show also captured footage of the first lions to return to Namibia's coast in 40 years, a remarkable event filmed at night using cutting-edge thermal imaging technology.

The series also features two orphan lion sisters whose lives have consisted of scavenging for food.

The coast provides a veritable feast for the tiny pride in the form of roosting seabirds, allowing the sisters to specialise in hunting these flocks, perhaps saving them from starvation.

Using a military-grade thermal camera to film the sequence enabled the crew to capture footage of lions hunting cormorants at night, a behaviour these sisters had to teach themselves as they lost their mother when they were young.

Across the episodes, DStv subscribers will see animals survival strategies in the Kalahari desert, the biodiversity found at high altitudes in South Africa in the Drakensberg Mountains, how wildebeest migrate across the grasslands of the Kruger National Park, and the rich and diverse ecosystems of Southern Africa's freshwater habitats like the Okovango Delta's aquatic life.

There is an ostrich family in the Namib desert and the poignant journey as she tries to raise her chicks in one of the world's most extreme environments, as well as desert baboons' relentless search for water in an arid landscape.

The hunting tactics of Southern African leopards are also on display in Planet Earth III, demonstrating unique hunting tactics by leaping from treetops, showcasing their impressive adaptability. 

In the Zakouma National Park the show follows one of the world's most spectacular elephant herd in Chad which has become a beacon of hope for conservation in central Africa.

"The local scenes are a testament to the rich natural heritage of South Africa and the broader African continent," the BBC says. 

 "They serve as a reminder of the importance of conservation efforts to protect these unique environments for future generations. By featuring these local stories, Planet Earth III aims to inspire South African viewers to take a closer interest in the natural world, its conservation challenges, and what can happen if we help protect these precious ecosystems."