Wednesday, July 27, 2011

SA TV News Needs an Independent African Agenda

The e-News Channel is South Africa's only television news channel.
While the media is following the finances of Julius Malema with the Democratic Alliance urging the Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela, to investigate the leader of the ANC youth league – there are those with a view that South African political journalists are becoming lazy and following each other like sheep on their reports. Those views are being shared on social networks.

While there is this view on social networks it has also become apparent that the SABC and e-TV often follow what international news reporters are feeding their viewers rather than setting a truly African news agenda. There was a time the SABC called itself “Africa’s news leader”. Recently there was a temporary shutdown of certain bureaus in parts of Africa. In fact there have been no reports from Nigeria, the DRC and Senegal for a while from South Africa’s public broadcaster. They brought back Mahlatse Gallens who was in the DRC, Crystal Orderson who was in Senegal and Adele van Niekerk who was Nigeria. Sarah Kimani has at least remained to report for them in Kenya and they have replaced Thulasizwe Simelane with Shingai Nyoka in Zimbabwe.

The SABC has only reported from Kenya's Dadaab refugee camp rather
than entering to Somalia to show us the extent of the famine.
On several bulletins the SABC and e-TV have led with the killings in Norway which is what the Western media has been doing as well but they have failed to cover the famine in Somalia adequately. I haven’t seen a reporter from either of the two broadcasters filing from Somalia. Sarah Kimani was in the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya on Tuesday, but it just did not make sense why she had not crossed the border to show what was truly happening in Somalia.

Earlier this year international broadcasters told broke the beginning of the revolution in Egypt and Tunisia but it was days later that South African broadcasters sent teams that side. I applaud e-TV’s reporting on the revolutions when they eventually arrived there. Mark Klusener, Ben Said and Chris Maroleng did a good job. Zanele Buthelezi on SABC radio reported well too.

What is confusing though is that they seem to have stopped following these stories. The Egyptian youth is still holding meetings known as the Tweet Nadwa’s in Cairo but I have never seen a show or a report on these from South Africa’s broadcasters which are dominating the African continent.

These broadcasters also have to use visuals from Reuters, a British company, as they don't have reporters deployed in several African countries. Reuters is still a British compay and broadcasters' use of their visuals and information means we are not getting an independent picture as they all would rely on the same reporters and the same company for information on Africa. A foreign company supplying information to companies on the continent can never report in an African manner which means we are probably getting a foreign view of African stories through African television stations.

The SABC has been saying it is re-launching a 24-hour news station for a while now but we’ve heard of auditions that have taken place there but haven’t quite seen this television station taking off. The public broadcaster has also been accused of self-censorship by one of its former current affairs presenters Eusebius McKaiser. He said he resigned because the broadcaster didn’t want to offend politicians. If this is true one worries about the quality of journalism that will come out of the 24 hour news station the SABC plans to launch.

Siphumelele Zondi and Mapaseka Mokwele presented
Rendezvous Africa on SABC's 24 hour news station.
 E-TV has a domestic 24 hour news channel and an African news channel which cannot be accessed at home. One wonders why they have only stuck to only one show touching on continental issues rather than offering South African some African news bulletins during their daytime slots so some people can find out more about what happens in the rest of the continent.

South Africa’s television news industry is growing and e-TV is applauded for seeing that the SABC has fallen asleep where it should have dominated and decided to take over the baton, but more needs to be done to cover the continent properly and to improve the quality of journalism. It would be great to see broadcasters breaking some news stories as well rather than doing follow-ups of stories that would have already led in print.

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