Broadcasting Services

South Africa: SABC Downsizes Unfunded Digital TV's Dream For DTT

As the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) falls deeper into financial disaster, the broadcaster is cutting down its envisioned digital TV channels collection from eighteen to just a possible nine.

SABC executives together with the SABC board told parliament in September 2011 that the SABC's digital terrestrial television (DTT) would be made up of 18 TV channels including SABC1, SABC2, SABC3 and one interactive video channel. DTT would also feature eighteen SABC radio stations plus Channel Africa.

After ten years of working towards DTT, only SABC Encore (DStv 156) and SABC News (DStv 404) have materialised, both are carried on the DStv platform as part of a select channels carriage contract with Naspers' pay-TV arm.

On Tuesday the SABC told parliament that it is on the brink of financial collapse and has now decreased its proposed DTT channels offering to just nine TV channels.

The SABC has announced that it now wants its DTT channels offering to be SABC1, SABC2, SABC3, an SABC Parliamentary channel, SABC News, SABC Education, SABC Sport, SABC Health and SABC History.

Nomsa Philiso, the group executive for SABC television, has declared that the SABC's original DTT dream has no funds but that the SABC trusts will come together and assist with funding.

The SABC's reworked DTT offering plan has now given up on plans for the regionalised channels SABC4 that would have been catering to the north of the country and SABC5 that would have provided for audiences in the south.

The SABC has also shelved its idea for three languages based DTT TV channels - an Afrikaans channel, a Sotho channel and a Nguni focused channel catering to Zulu, Xhosa, Siswati and Ndebele viewers.

The SABC told parliament that the existing audiences and share of both SABC2 and SABC3 have continued to drop over the past year but that SABC2 is looking at renewing some prime time shows in an attempt to lure viewers back.

The SABC is also again repositioning SABC3 this year and will focus on drama, reality, magazine shows and talk shows for the audience that is assumed to be exclusive DStv viewers but who would watch SABC3.

Meanwhile, the SABC's free-to-air rival is still going ahead with its DTT plans.


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