So close yet so far

2010-07-08 10:38

Their studio sits just a few kilometres from Soccer City, where the

World Cup final will be held on Sunday, but Soweto TV’s teams have yet to step

inside after four weeks of competition.

Gabriel Tomaya, who produces a sports show called Tsamaya, urban

slang for “dribble”, said: “It’s a bit frustrating. But as a community station

we are used not to being able to shoot many things.”

The media machine that powers Fifa has taken little account of the

community players like Soweto TV, even though most of the station’s 1.2 million

viewers live in the sprawling township in Soccer City’s backyard.

South Africa’s first community television station began

broadcasting in 2007, and runs on an R800 000-monthly budget, financed by Urban

Brew production company.

The seven hours of daily programming are filmed on just six

cameras, with a single recording studio and 70 employees who have little formal


That puts official broadcast rights from the stadium far out of

reach – Fifa has earned about $2 billion (about R15.2 billion) from those fees

this year – and there’s no other way to get a camera near the pitch.

Accreditation for journalists was done months in advance, in a

process completely foreign to the shoestring operation.

Even national broadcasters in Africa work with few resources. Radio

and television networks from 41 countries pooled together to buy the rights to

the tournament and set up a joint studio in Johannesburg.

Many smaller operators simply gave up trying to compete in an arena

designed for international media but Soweto TV has refused to ignore the first

African World Cup.

Programming director Hermina Maboda said: “It’s in our backyard.

It’s once in a lifetime for us. It’s a first. We are the biggest community

station in the country. We had to get on the bus.”

The sports team – including Gabriel Tomaya, presenter and cameraman

– rolled up their sleeves to produce a 15-minute daily broadcast and a 45-minute

weekly broadcast on the World Cup, without any images of the games.

Instead, they filmed the reaction of fans watching the matches on

jumbo screens at the Soweto fanpark.

They also invited former footballers and

analysts to speak at a set fashioned from cardboard in the corner of a


Tomaya, a 28-year-old former cricket coach, said: “We are not able

to go into the stadia but the vibe in Soweto is much more interesting. The

feeling of the World Cup is what drives us.

Maboda added: “We managed to bring the mood of the World Cup and

keep it going for our viewers.”

Except it won’t be going during the final on Sunday, when Soweto TV

will broadcast a gospel show.

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