Cape Town – The SABC is planning to launch 5 new TV channels – 4 channels catering to different language groupings as well as SABC Sport as a separate TV channel.
The plan for new language segmented SABC TV channels comes years after the public broadcaster unsuccessfully tried to launch SABC4 and SABC5 as regional language channels catering to the northern and southern regions of South Africa respectively.
The SABC's four language segmented channels will be run in addition to the existing SABC1, SABC2, SABC3 and the SABC News and SABC Encore channels, the last two of which are packaged for MultiChoice's DStv satellite pay-TV platform.
The additional new TV channels, when launched, will be available on the SABC's digital terrestrial television (DTT) platform and will also have to be available on various pay-TV operators' bouquets as part of the existing "must carry" rules as mandated by the broadcasting regulator, Icasa.
The additional new channels are a far cry from the ambitious 18 TV channels the SABC told parliament in 2011 it wanted to launch with the advent of DTT in South Africa.
The new TV channels plan comes as the SABC's latest new CEO, Frans Matlala remains suspended since November 2015, and with the SABC that reported a staggering loss of R403m for the last reported financial year.
It's not clear where the struggling SABC that is under great financial pressure, will get the money to run the additional new channels and to produce the costly programming needed for the channels.
A single TV channel requires 8 760 hours of content per year. With the existing SABC channels filled with repeats and rebroadcasts already, its highly unlikely that the SABC will be able to programme multiple further channels scheduled with just brand-new local content.
The SABC that has not given specific channel names or any launch dates, says one TV channel will primarily be the Sotho TV channel, catering to Sesotho, Setswana and Sepedi languages. Zulu, Xhosa, Siswati and Ndebele will form part of a second Nguni focused TV channel.
A third channel will focus on Tsonga and Venda language speakers. A fourth SABC TV channel will be for Afrikaans viewers.
The SABC is also working on establishing its SABC Sport brand as a separate sports channel.
Reporting the news on the SABC, SABC2 Morning Live news reader Lebo Thinane made a Freudian slip, telling viewers that the "several language based TV channels will serve the ANC's audience".
Increased local content
Meanwhile local content will be increased for SABC1, SABC2 and SABC3. The SABC's controversial chief operating officer (COO) Hlaudi Motsoeneng says most of the new content will focus on languages the SABC marginalised like Afrikaans, Tsonga and Venda.
"As the public service broadcaster we continue to thrive in ensuring that all national languages achieve equal treatment as per our constitutional obligations," says Hlaudi Motsoeneng in a statement.
The SABC is under pressure to maintain its TV audience share that's under pressure as subscription and satellite television in South Africa keeps growing, with MultiChoice's DStv and Platco Digital's OpenView HD aggressively adding viewers year after year and with On Digital Media (OMD) and StarTimes Media SA's StarSat also in operation.
The SABC failed to meet its commercial revenue targets according to its latest financial report, citing increased TV industry competition. The SABC told parliament it will no longer present its commercial plan publicly out of fear over competitors.
The SABC said SABC News bulletins will now "have a segment that is dedicated to news from provinces" and that the public broadcaster wants more local content that reflect various provinces.
The SABC is also dumping the use of all external marketing agencies for marketing campaigns and will do it in-house.
The SABC is also dumping print advertising and advertising on all platforms outside of the SABC for vacancies. With immediate effect the SABC will only advertise available jobs on the SABC's TV and radio stations and its own digital platforms.