View­ers love to com­plain that there’s noth­ing good to watch on telly. But Thi­nus Fer­reira ar­gues that the op­po­site is true – there’s far too much qual­ity tele­vi­sion to get through

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If there’s one thing that South Africans love to gripe about more than Bafana Bafana’s dis­mal track record, it’s that there are “too many re­peats on tele­vi­sion”. Yes, SABC3 is show­ing Shaka Zulu for the umpteenth time since the 1980s, but it’s ac­tu­ally ex­cel­lent, lo­cally made tele­vi­sion of a by­gone era – with Henry Cele in his most iconic role.

Yes, week­ends are lit­tered with om­nibus broad­casts of the week’s soaps – which, yes, were al­ready re­peated dur­ing the week.

But the re­al­ity of the mat­ter is that the pop­u­lar punch­ing bag phrase of “too many re­peats” ob­scures what has re­ally hap­pened to South African tele­vi­sion: there is now ac­tu­ally too much good tele­vi­sion to get to and sim­ply too lit­tle time.

If you took stock of your piled-up and recorded TV shows, took just five min­utes a week to look through your TV sched­ules, and high­lighted what you wanted to watch and planned your view­ing – in­stead of just ran­domly fall­ing on your couch and flip­ping through chan­nels – you would dis­cover that there’s more great tele­vi­sion to watch than what the av­er­age South African viewer can ever hope to get through.

Stop shout­ing in­dig­nantly: “But there’s noth­ing on now, but re­peats.” Get a high­lighter and start pri­ori­tis­ing. Take per­sonal re­spon­si­bil­ity for what you want to watch and when you would like to do so.

In 1961, New­ton Mi­now, US at­tor­ney and for­mer chair­per­son of the Fed­eral Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Com­mis­sion, fa­mously called tele­vi­sion a “vast waste­land”, but that has given way to a new golden age of tele­vi­sion with more qual­ity tele­vi­sion than ever be­fore.

Such has been the glut of good tele­vi­sion that even M-Net re­alised ear­lier this year that sim­ply too much of it was just wash­ing away, un­watched.

The pay TV broad­caster will be re­struc­tur­ing its M-Net Se­ries TV chan­nels in Oc­to­ber af­ter the rat­ings for two of the chan­nels on DStv – filled with some of the very best in­ter­na­tional drama and re­al­ity se­ries, daily talk shows and other pro­gram­ming – re­mained flat. The rea­son? Ab­so­lutely great tele­vi­sion that view­ers sim­ply don’t watch be­cause they don’t have time goes down the drain and out to sea like pre­cious rain­wa­ter. The gov­ern­ment is drag­ging its feet and keep­ing the coun­try back with a switch to a new TV sys­tem stan­dard – a new broad­cast­ing struc­ture called dig­i­tal ter­res­trial tele­vi­sion (DTT), which will mean that broad­cast­ers can bring view­ers more TV chan­nels.

When DTT fi­nally ar­rives, the SABC, and M-Net will all start broad­cast­ing roughly five to eight new TV chan­nels each. Th­ese broad­cast­ers know full well that in or­der for th­ese new chan­nels to get trac­tion, view­er­ship and ad­ver­tis­ers, they sim­ply will have to have at least some great, orig­i­nal and new TV shows on each – or view­ers won’t bother.

Tele­vi­sion’s con­tent, what you’re now able to see and have ac­cess to as a South African viewer col­lec­tively, has moved far away from be­ing a vast waste­land to what’s re­ally an over­sup­ply of ex­cel­lence.

Learn to know where to watch and how to watch. Put in a lit­tle bit of ef­fort by look­ing at the whole TV store shelf and you’ll find an al­most re­peat-free pro­fu­sion of qual­ity choices on your telly – more than even the most ar­dent couch potato can ever hope to get through.

QUAL­ITY VIEW­ING Saints and Sin­ners (right) on Mzansi Magic is an ex­cel­lent lo­cal show. There is also a wide of­fer­ing of global shows like MasterChef SA, Ellen and Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (be­low)

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