As the coronavirus pandemic spreads rapidly globally and in South Africa, the country's public broadcaster says it is continuing with all of its active TV productions and weekday soaps for now. It is, however, preparing to pre-record some shows that are usually broadcast live to stock up if needed and is postponing some future shows that would require live in-studio audiences and performances.
The South African public broadcaster told Channel24 in response to a media enquiry that it is implementing safeguard protocols after President Cyril Ramaphosa's declaration of a state of national disaster.
The SABC has several locally-produced shows on air – especially weekday soaps produced by independent production companies each with a cast and crew of over 100 people working long hours on tight-knit studios – which are not shutting down because of Covid-19.
In the United States and the United Kingdom soaps and multiple other scripted drama series seen on the BBC, American broadcast networks and pay-TV channels have shut down production for the time being.
The SABC tells Channel24 that it is continuing with current productions but postponing upcoming shows that would have started filming in April and planned to incorporate performances or making use of in-studio audiences.
"At present, the organisation is not aware of any of our active productions that have experienced any Covid-19 cases, thus there is no shutdown of the active productions," says Mmoni Seapolelo, SABC spokesperson.
"It must be noted however that the SABC has a few programmes that should have gone into production in the next month – some requiring live studio audiences and performances. All these have been postponed."
"SABC's live content productions are preparing to pre-package and pre-record content in case the production has to stop, thus affecting the long-running soaps."
Mmoni says that "the SABC is encouraging production companies to implement measures as set out by the World Health Organisation (WHO) with regards to cleanliness. If a production is cancelled and a product cannot be delivered for transmission the relevant TV channel will make scheduling plans and seek replacements".
"The SABC has not reached this point as yet; however, plans are being put in place should such an event occur. The SABC has also cancelled its SABC Education outreach activities which were due to take place in the next five weeks."
The free-to-air commercial broadcaster e.tv, as well as all of the major pay-TV channels – M-Net (DStv 101), 1Magic (DStv 103), Mzansi Magic (DStv 161) and kykNET (DStv 144) – were all asked which of their respective local shows and soaps have possibly postponed and which are continuing.
Already filming of the second season of the Afrikaans talent search reality show Maak My Famous with Emo Adams on kykNET requiring an in-studio audience in Cape Town has been postponed, indicating that pay-TV shows will likely take the same approach as the SABC.
e.tv said it would respond on Wednesday while the various M-Net channels referred the individual media enquiries to MultiChoice. MultiChoice didn't answer the specific questions and responded with a statement on Tuesday evening.
Joe Heshu, MultiChoice group executive for corporate affairs, told Channel24: "We are in touch with all our production houses and consult with them on their assessment of individual productions. We encourage all production companies to take every precaution to protect both cast and crew as we all grapple with the pandemic. We have noted how production has been impacted in other market and are assessing the impact on ours".