SABC, the love is gone

2012-08-11 15:02

As our relationship with the public broadcaster deteriorates, we have to ask why it has left us out in the cold

Dear SABC,

I am writing in response to your campaign this week called Make Your Voices Heard – the one where you want your audience to tell you what you’re doing right and wrong. And they wonder why it snowed in Pretoria.

Joke, guys.

Actually, I’d have missed this opportunity if a colleague had not told me about your campaign.

I don’t hook up with you so much nowadays. I’m thinking that next time you should announce it on and DStv Compact too.

I know, I know. But they’re jokes made in pain. I mean, what the hell happened to your TV channels?

For me, there was a time when your dramas like Yizo Yizo and Tsha Tsha were setting the conversation and sending out the life skills; your documentaries went global, you owned the rights to football, your news pretended to be independent, you had plans for new soapies and your comedies were funny ... Okay, maybe that last one is a stretch, but The Pure Monate Show was hilarious.

Today? Boring.

You watch a show on SABC and then change channels because you’re bored.

It’s not just me. I asked a small sample of viewers – yes, within your demographic.

Boring. Boring news, boring soapies, boring repeats. No surprise you’re losing viewers.

Let me say that you seem to be doing much better on radio.

The audience figures read okay. Metro FM on a Sunday is what we used to call “the bomb”.

5FM has broken ground and mixed up the cultures.

Yes, you’ve refused to play the odd song for political reasons and I still keep hearing mutterings about payola, but the most beautiful thing is that you’ve kept the nation’s languages lively across your 18 radio stations.

Of course, that’s your mandate. And 18 stations is a goldmine.

Are you re-investing? I hear there’s a steady decline in technical radio skills and a short supply of training.

Over at the TV building, I hear that the fire at Henley Studios exposed a structure that had not been maintained.

Now you can’t even use the studios to generate income.

So will you really be able to rock a 24-hour news channel or lead me into the digital age?

How much will I have to pay for a set-top box?

The licence money you collect already sets you apart from most of the world’s public broadcasters, who offer their nation-building services for free.

Sure, there’s the recession. But the BBC has worked through it by retrenching top-heavy management.

During your crisis, I do not recall you saying sorry to the nation and admitting that you’ve failed us by putting us on repeats.

You seem to have stopped hiring skilled people but, then again, you haven’t dumped deadwood. You pumped up your advertising rates but couldn’t match them with programming. Your leaders seem to be playing political games instead of focusing on me, the person who pays a licence fee.

You say you’ve launched Make Your Voices Heard because “this is in line with our mandate, as prescribed by the Broadcasting Act, which stipulates that we need to have regular feedback sessions”.

That hurts. I thought you wanted to talk because you care and you’re invested in my future.

It makes me wonder if you’ll be adhering to your other licence agreements now – like that Icasa legislation on local content.

It doesn’t take a research guru to see that you’re not generating enough homegrown programming in several genres.

So I’m going to come clean – our relationship isn’t going well. Now you want to talk, now that I have eyes for other channels.

This letter is hard to write because deep down I still have feelings for you.

I’ll take quality local content in indigenous languages over American crap any day.

Khumbul’ekhaya tells me about my country, Intersexions had me hooked, I’m good with Live, I’ll even catch Generations for a chuckle.

But do you really only want to be with me a few times a week?

I thought we had a better future together than that.


Charl Blignaut

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