When the South African Broadcasting Corporation celebrated 77 years in existence, it did so in style by launching a 24-hour news channel on the DSTV platform. Some have hailed the launch of the all-day, all-night news channel while others question many implications of this move by the SABC.
Those who support the new channel cited wider reach and access to comprehensive news from all nine South African provinces and beyond the borders of the country as the reasons for their excitement. SABC viewers can now enjoy news throughout the day instead of the morning and evening bulletins that were previously available on the three existing channels; SABC 1, 2 and 3.
Another point in favor of the 24-hour channel is that the public will eventually be able to choose from bulletins presented in all 11 South African official languages. However, English will be the main language of presentation initially and the other languages will be phased in as time goes on.
The guest of honor was President Jacob Zuma who believes that the SABC will make a success of this new venture. He has high hopes that the channel is going to be effective in showcasing the achievements of the country and not focus on crime stories.
According to a Media Online report, the Democratic Alliance is worried that the channel will not be universally accessible because it is on a pay-television platform which is a luxury to many South Africans. The Communications Spokesperson for the DA, Marian Shinn, said: “The fact that the 24-hour news and entertainment channels are to be broadcast on a pay-platform may be in contravention of its public broadcasting mandate, and possibly undermine its much-delayed transition to digital terrestrial broadcasting.”
The SABC has invested in multi-million rand infrastructure as well as recruitment and training for new employees in order to meet the demands of a 24-hour newsroom. It will also maximize the efforts of existing provincial newsrooms to deliver educational, informative and relevant content.
Mixed reactions were evident on social networks. Political party COPE went on Twitter and said: “SABC’S 24 HOURS NEWS CHANNEL PREMATURE AND ELITIST, SAYS COPE.” A twitter subscriber with the handle @GGMatsheke tweeted: “I’m confused why is the SABC launching a 24 hours news channel on DSTV?” Fifi Mokganeng had this to say: “So this new #SABC news channel is Jay Z’s personal 24Hr PR machine. Safa saphela” Lindani Gasa was full of congratulations: “Well done #SABC for the 24 hour news channel, channel 404. We also salute the department of communications for taking SABC forward!”
The SABC is certain that the channel will be sustainable and is in the best interests of South Africa.