Mbongeni Ngema’s Zulu TV channel won’t just be for locals, he promises

2013-09-24 00:00

PLAYWRIGHT and producer Mbongeni Ngema has announced that his company Committed Artists Records and Films is set to unveil a new Zulu TV channel on Monday, September 30 at KZN Music House in Durban.

The channel will be flighted throughout sub-Saharan Africa via Freevision, the new satellite platform launched by Sentech. The Freevision set-top box retail price and channel line-up will be announced at the channel launch, spokesperson William Charlton-Perkins said.

“Due to the vast reach of the channel, we will be broadcasting predominantly in English, while we will of course carry a healthy contingent of Zulu programmes as well,” Ngema said.

“We plan to devote a lot of our broadcast material to local content, with a strong focus on material relating to KwaZulu-Natal. Demographically, the province has a rich cultural mix.

“To ensure a degree of international coverage, we will also be linking up with Voice of America and other networks.”

Besides programming music, talk shows and news items, Ngema says his plans for Zulu TV include the introduction of television drama productions, again focusing largely on the work of local artists.

“There is a wealth of material to draw from here, when one looks back on 30 years of working in the theatre. Besides creating new material, there is the strong feasibility of adapting established stage pieces for television.”

Plans for KwaZulu-Natal’s Zulu TV station accord well with Ngema’s objectives of developing a vibrant cultural work environment in the province. In this regard, the new television network initiative can be seen as a positive step forward following the opening seven years ago of the Durban-based KwaZulu-Natal Music House, another Ngema-led initiative, run in association with the KwaZulu-Natal departments of Economic Development and Tourism, and Arts and Culture.

“Our core target market will be primarily language and geographically based — that is the whole of South Africa. We are also targeting the entire southern African region, where a vast number of both Nguni and non-Nguni based languages are spoken,” says Ngema.

English subtitling will be used where necessary to make programmes accessible to all language groups, as well as to open up opportunities for international licensing.

Ngema says the choice of Zulu TV as a brand name is informed by the fact that it has evolved to become one of the best known brands internationally and locally. “It is interesting that in spite of the potential of the Zulu brand there has not been a dedicated communication of this brand to date which has assumed international stature and popularity,” he said.

Discussions are afoot with the KZN provincial government to buy space on the channel for their service delivery programmes, communication and adverts.

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