- The SABC announced that they would cut down Afrikaans weekday soap 7de Laan to 3 episodes per week.
- The show will be replaced by a new Afrikaans telenovel, Die Sentrum.
- Fans have now started a petition to try and save the SABC2 soapie.
The financially struggling SABC that is going through an acrimonious retrenchment process, in a shocking scheduling move on Friday night confirmed to Channel24 that it's cutting back 7de Laan on SABC2 from five episodes per week to just three from April.
SABC2 is also cutting down its Venda language weekday soap Muvhango, which is being reduced from five episodes to just three from August.
Well-placed insiders told Channel24 on Monday that staff working on both shows – on-screen talent as well as crew and writers working behind-the-scenes – are extremely worried since they're set to lose work and income due to budget cuts on both series produced by Danie Odendaal Productions and Duma Ndlovu's Word of Mouth Productions.
Merlin Naicker, the SABC's head of TV, in a statement says cutting down on 7de Laan and Muvhango "is part of our longterm plan to invest in quality local content" since SABC2 wants to bring viewers more shows.
"Serving a diverse South African audience, it is imperative that we come with innovative and exciting content, which will not only draw the viewership, but bring in the revenue required to keep the public service broadcaster financially sustainable."
7de Laan is being replaced by a new Afrikaans telenovela entitled Die Sentrum on Thursdays and Fridays from April in the 18:00 timeslot, while Muvhango is getting replaced from August on Thursdays and Fridays in its 21:00 timeslot by the second season of Giyani.
Neither the SABC nor SABC2 have explained why the new shows are replacing dedicated primetime soap timeslots. Previously SABC2 scheduled the first season of Giyani at 21:30 airing it as the Muvhango lead-out.
SABC2, last year saying that it specifically developed the new local drama series Melody and The Riviera "in an endeavour to expand the drama and comedy offering to a broader Afrikaans demographic" broadcast those shows in the 19:30 timeslot in 2020.
'Keep 7de Laan on-air'
A dedicated 7de Laan viewer Jermaine Christians from Lavender Hill in Cape Town has started an online petition at change.org against SABC2's scheduling move, with the petition that has grown to over a 1 000 signatures since he started it on Saturday under "Keep 7de Laan on-air for 5 days #Save7deLaan".
Jermaine says that "as fans and viewers we are highly, highly unhappy about this decision that was taken".
"Our goal is to stop this from taking place so that they keep 7de Laan on-air for five working days."
The petition that is against the axing of 7de Laan weekday episodes, states that fans and SABC viewers find it "unacceptable and we highly condemn this action as loyal viewers and as SABC TV Licence payers we have the right to say what we do and don't want to watch".
"It is sad that we weren't even approached as fans regarding this matter, as we are partially the reason behind the success of the long-running, multicultural soapie. This comes after the soap just recently achieved the milestone of airing their 5000th episode and are part of our households for over 20 years."
"This is not just an attack on us as loyal fans and viewers but on the Afrikaans community as well," says the petition. "This is the soap that taught thousands of us how to speak Afrikaans since a young age. This soapie is known for its large roadshow campaigns to interact with fans and viewers, and the soapie is also known for its internship opportunities to help create jobs and boost the country's economy."
"We don't foresee 7de Laan only being on-air for three days and later totally off from our screens because ultimately that's what it will lead to when viewers lose interest. We highly condemn this and will fight this fight until the SABC decides to leave our soapie on-air for five working days!"
Among the over a thousand who have signed already are Yvonne Roux who said: "Been watching since it started, why remove the Afrikaans programmes?" and Janke Jordaan who said, "I've been watching 7de Laan since the age of 2, I can't imagine not watching it. Even though I moved across the country and live in the United States now, I watch 7de Laan every day."
"The SABC should stop making unilateral decisions. This soapie has been part of our lives for too long," said Peter Lucas, with Nasreen Davuluri stating: "If I have to wait four days to watch Monday then I'll be really sad. In my personal opinion 7de Laan will lose viewers!"
Michelle Jacobs chimed in saying that 7de Laan "is the only programme I keep my TV on for". "Otherwise I can cancel my SABC TV Licence and just not watch."