SABC gets an 'F' for failing viewers

05 September 2012 - 02:10 By ANDILE NDLOVU
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Media Monitoring Africa is heading for a collision with the SABC - a study has found that the public broadcaster is "constantly feeding the South African public a steady diet of old programmes and repeats".

Released at the weekend, the study was damning about the SABC's news and programming, giving it an "F" on its hypothetical report card.

Among the findings of the agency were that, between April 1 and May 15 this year (on selected radio and TV services):

  • SABC1 used 28% of its broadcasting time on repeats, and SABC2 and SABC3 used 21% and 15% respectively.
  • On the face of it, the SABC far exceeded its target of 55% local content with about 70% - but that is because the figures include sport (not counted as local content) and news.
  • When sport and news are excluded, the broadcaster gave us 59% local content spread over all three of its channels.
  • Despite the demographics, English dominated the programming (76%), followed by Afrikaans (6%) and Zulu (5%). Xhosa, Sotho and Tshivenda scored 3% apiece. English is spoken as a first language in this country by about 8% of the population.
  • Issues such as gender, gender violence, health, children and HIV/Aids received little attention from SABC news broadcasts.

But the public broadcaster's spokesman, Kaizer Kganyago, said yesterday that the corporation was heading for talks with Media Monitoring Africa about the study.

"We do not agree with many of the findings and proclamations made in the report and we are engaging with them. Until that engagement is finalised we cannot make any comments," he said.

The SA Screen Federation's Marc Schwinges said he was not surprised by the findings of the study.

"Admittedly, it isn't the most recent of data, but the last time we did our research it showed that they [SABC] were at around 44% instead of the 55% quota of local content and that is [a] substantial [difference].

"They are adamant that they are hitting their targets. They even promised to invite us to look at their figures and how they arrived at them, but they haven't [invited us].

"The lack of commissioning of local programming tells us that they are clearly not reaching their current targets."

SABC1 and SABC2, as public service stations, are required to reach a local content of at least 55% between 4am and 11pm daily. SABC3, as a commercial station, is required to hit 35%.

Schwinges blasted the Independent Communications Authority of SA for producing only one compliance report, in 2008, on the SABC, despite being required to do so regularly.

The report recommended that the SABC, among other steps, review its editorial policies and curb the over-representation of English, Afrikaans and whites to reduce "the disparities between those who have access to and control of the media".

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