All About TV In Mzansi

Hard to believe that Television broadcasting in this country is only 36 years old. Our country's first television broadcast took place in the major cities in 1975, before the first nation-wide broadcast on 6 January 1976.

Though experiment had started in making viewing moving pictures possible as early as 1872 with a series of photographs viewed by stroboscopic disc, it was only until 1936 that the first television broadcast as we know it today with audio was made available in London.

We are therefore one of the last countries in the world, and were only the second in Africa after Tanzania, to access TV at that time. 

All thanks to the fact that the apartheid government feared that television would erode the morals of white people - and feared even more that it would dilute the state's control over the press and radio, and essentially blacks. 

Television was even a major issue in apartheid-era whites-only elections, with the United Party campaigning under the slogan “Want TV? Vote UP!” 

Today, South Africans now have access to a wide spectrum of local and international drama, comedy, sports and news broadcast in our 11 official languages and even including German and Hindi. 

The relatively late introduction of television to this country gave us an advantage, in that we were able to inexpensively transition from black-and-white and colour as very little had been invested in the black-and-white as we started broadcasting just as colour was starting.

The SABC's broadcasting monopoly ended in 1986 when the subscription-based MNet was launched.

Since the arrival of democracy in 1994, South Africans have seen a number of new television channels introduced by both the SABC and other private operators.

The SABC, and MNet all broadcast across Africa.

South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC)

South Africa's public broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), receives funding through both licence fees and advertising. The SABC broadcasts on three domestic channels, with a mixed entertainment and public service mandate.

The national broadcaster has had its far share of controversies recently.

In August 2005, the SABC came under heavy fire from non-affiliated media and the public for failing to broadcast a scene whereby Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka was booed offstage by members of the ANC Youth League, who were showing support for the newly-axed ex-Deputy President, Jacob Zuma.

Rival broadcaster publicly accused SABC of 'biased reporting' by failing to show the video footage of the humiliated Deputy President, but Snuki Zikalala, Head of News and ex-ANC spokesperson retorted by stating that their cameraman was not present at the meeting, a claim later established to be false when eTV footage was released which showed an SABC cameraman filming the incident.

SABC's government connections also came under scrutiny when, in April 2005, Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe was interviewed live by Zikalala, who is a former ANC political commissar. The interview held was deemed by the public eye to have side-stepped 'critical issues' and controversial questions regarding Mugabe's radical land-reform policies and human rights violations.

In May 2006, the SABC was accused of self censorship, when it decided not to air a documentary on South African President Thabo Mbeki, and in early June requested that the producers (from Daylight Films) not speak about it. This has been widely criticised by independent media groups. In response, the International Freedom of Expression Exchange issued an alert concerning the SABC's apparent trend toward self-censorship.

In June 2006 the International Federation of Journalists denounced the cancelling of the Thabo Mbeki documentary, citing "self censorship" and "politically influenced managers".

Also in June 2006, SAfm host John Perlman disclosed on air that the SABC had created a blacklist of commentators. A commission of inquiry was created by SABC CEO Dali Mpofu into the allegations that individuals were blacklisted at the behest of Zikalala.

Critics, including the influential newspaper, Mail and Guardian have accused the broadcaster of cultural myopia by failing to recognize the diverse cultural mix of South Africa and excessive favoring of certain ethnic groups in their choice of entertainment offered particularly by the TV services.


It is the most watched television channel in South Africa. The channel broadcasts in a wide range of languages though mainly Nguni, carrying news, entertainment and sports.

Last year SABC 1 was accused of rigging votes by employing Model Lunga Shabalala as the new presenter of its entertainment magazine show, Selimathunzi. After a nation wide search, it was reported that the channel had already hired Shabalala even before the search commenced but the channel insisted that the process was done fairly and though Shabalala was part of few people who were invited to audition prior to the search, he had to go through the same process as thousands of other hopefuls to nab the job after viewers voted for their favourite out of 5 shortlisted candidates

In 2011, another controversy ensued involving SABC 1's drama series, Skeem Saam. Bongani Khumalo claimed that the producers of the show stole his idea and threatened to sue the channel for breech of copyright.  The SABC acknowledged a meeting with Khumalo and his lawyer but disputed the allegations.


It also carries programming in a range of languages, including most of the SABC's Afrikaans programming. The channel has a high proportion of locally produced programming.

The reduced prominence of Afrikaans on the channel over the years since its inception has angered many speakers of the language, although the channel still features a significant amount of Afrikaans programming, including a news broadcast every weeknight at 19:00 and weekends at 18:00.

This prompted M-Net to take advantage of the situation, seeing the market need, and launched the Afrikaans subscription channel KykNet in 1999 and followed in 2005 with the music channel MK (originally known as MK89.) In 2009, Mnet launched Koowwe, a kids channel broadcasting exclusively in Afrikaans


It runs most of the SABC's English content, including many American and British comedies and dramas.

Though the channel started off on good ratings it has seen a sizeable decline in numbers over the years.  In an attempt to retain its viewers and/or attract more the channel started adding some Afrikaans programming to its lineup.  


Multichoice provides premium-service television to paying subscribers. Its main offerings are MNet - South Africa’s first pay-TV channel, and DStv, which offers a large number of channels available in different “bouquets”.


It started in 1986, is a subscription channel broadcast on an encoded signal that requires a decoder for viewing. The content is a mix of children's entertainment, drama, sport and movies, most sourced from the US and, to a lesser extent, the UK. The channel does not carry any news programming, although it does run some current affairs programmes such as the well-regarded Carte Blanche.

The channel had not been making any profit in its infancy and actually reported a R37 million loss in its first year but was able to turn it around 2 years later with a R20 million profit. Its popularity have grown since then. 

The growth was aided in no small by its OPEN TIME slot which ran for 2 hours a day between 17h00 and 19h00. After 20 years with about 500 000 viewers of the service, Open Time was scrapped off the channel in 2007.

Glen Marques, executive chief of MNet was reported to have said that the biggest impact of ending open time would be a loss of advertising revenue. Though the channel would not release any figures it would appear that they are still doing well without it.

The channel has spun off other sister channels on the DSTV service; 
  • M-Net Movies 1 - Premium movie channel featuring first-tier movies.
  • M-Net Movies 2 - Premium movie channel featuring second-tier movies.
  • M-Net Stars - Movie channel.
  • M-Net Action - Premium general entertainment channel featuring movies and premiere series with a strong focus on men and the action genre.

DStv is Multichoice’s digital satellite service, launched in 1995. The subscription-based service is available in South Africa and throughout Africa.

It carries a wide variety of channels, ranging from South African produced content, to international syndicated content, sports and news. There are also various "bouquets", a bundle of channels available for catering to some of South Africa's expatriate communities.

It has recently introduced high-definition and mobile television services, although subscribers wishing to view these will have to buy new hardware.

DStv channels with South African or African content are:
  • Afrika Magic - an entertainment channel dedicated to African programming
  • Mzansi Magic - a channeled dedicated to South African programming
  • Channel O - African popular music channel
  • CNBC Africa - Africa’s first 24-hour international business channel, providing real-time information and analysis about African business and Africa’s financial markets
  • Fin24 - an interactive service offering local and international financial news and indicators
  • Kyknet - entertainment programming in the Afrikaans language
  • Mindset Learn - educational channel based on the South African curriculum and aimed at grades 10 to 12, covering the maths, science and English syllabuses
  • MK - popular music in Afrikaans
  • News24 - local, regional and international news, sport, entertainment, science and technology, finance, health and weather coverage
  • Parliamentary Service - live and recorded sessions from South Africa’s parliament
  • Weather Channel - detailed weather information on 35 cities and towns in South Africa, as well as in Africa and elsewhere
  • 1Gospel - a religious channel
  • VUZU
Multichoice had a Web TV service, Kuduclub, for South Africans living further afield. This ended in March 2011.

Launched in 1998, is South Africa's only free-to-air television channel. The station carries a mix of news, sports and entertainment. broadcasts mainly in English, although it does carry some programming in other languages in order to comply with its licence requirements.

Since its launch the channel has had to deal with its fair share of controversies over the years. In January 2001, showed floor plans and other blueprints for renovations of Genadedal, the official residence of President Thabo Mbeki, on air. The government responded by threatening legal action, citing that the station contravened The Protection of Information Act.

After the September 11, 2001 attacks, joined other South African broadcasters in agreeing to continue broadcasting statements by Osama bin Laden. In the same year it was reported that there was an anthrax scare at its offices.

In 2002, the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa exonerated from overstepping its code of conduct after complaints were received following its screening of series from the Emmanuelle soft-core porn series.

In June 2002, it failed in its attempt to stop M-Net from acquiring a new broadcast licence leaving a lot of people in the industry wondering if the attempt was in good competative spirit to begin with.

In 2004, was reprimanded by the Advertising Standards Authority after launching a series of newspaper advertisement in which the SABC was purported to be a "state broadcaster" and "lacking editorial independence."

In November 2004, it was reported that Midi TV owed ICASA R7 million in licence fees.

In 2005, it was fined R55 000 for two offences of broadcasting 18-rated movies before 9pm. It was also prevented by court ruling preventing it from airing a documentary concerning a prominent baby murder, but upon appeal was ordered to show the documentary to the case's prosecutors for review.

More recently in 2010 to be exact, the channel was called to task for airing  in interview with criminals who threatened to "kill and rob tourists during the world cup"


TopTV, run by On Digital Media, launched its pay-TV services in May 2010. Subscribers have a choice of seven bouquets, ranging from R99 to R249 per month. The equipment bundle was affordable, and has become significantly cheaper still in the months since.

The introduction of competition in the pay market sparked a reaction from DStv, which wasted no time in launching a cheaper alternative, with fewer channels, to its premium package. It also offered new subscribers a cheaper equipment bundle, which has also dropped in price since its launch.

TopTV is currently embroiled in a controversial battle with its proposed Porn Channel.

*A fifth television provider, Walking on Water Television, or WowTV, is scheduled to launch before March 2012 with a variety of Christian-based programming.

Top 10 Regular Shows In South Africa (excluding News bulletins) 
(As captured by TAMS Ratings - Week 47: November 21 - 27, 2011

7 071 000
Soul City
5 794 000
Skeem Saam
5 598 000
Zone 14
5 235 000
5 039 000
Turn It Out
3 807 000
My Perfect Family
3 415 000
3 408 000
Rhythm City
3 241 000
The Real Goboza
3 023 000

No comments:

Powered by Blogger.