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Once you ex­am­ine South Africa’s TV news trin­ity – eNCA, SABC News and ANN7 – it be­comes clear that we have a cri­sis.

Nei­ther of the three cov­ers Africa in a com­pre­hen­sive way, nor do they have re­porters cov­er­ing events first-hand. The lack of cov­er­age of the re­cent build­ing col­lapse in Hu­ruma, Kenya, is a case in point.

China now cov­ers Africa best when it comes to TV news. No chan­nel in South Africa comes close to the ex­cel­lent, hour­long Africa Live ev­ery week­day on CCTV News (DStv chan­nel 409 / StarSat chan­nel 266), with its ac­cu­rate and bal­anced first-hand re­port­ing from many African coun­tries, in­clud­ing South Africa.

Bud­gets and in­ter­nal pol­i­tics have caused eNCA, ANN7 and SABC News to in­creas­ingly turn their gaze in­ward.

The big prob­lem is that they’ve come to cover news in the same way that Fox News and MSNBC do for Amer­ica – treat­ing South Africa as if it’s de­tached from Africa, with more cov­er­age from be­hind the an­chor desk than out in the field. And, when it is in the field, it’s cushy, agree­able, spon­sored or part of a PR-in­vited walk-through tour.

eNCA – still the most watched of the three – has at­ro­phied, shed­ding a num­ber of tal­ented and skilled peo­ple both on-air and be­hind the scenes. The cur­rent af­fairs pro­gram­ming it used to have is al­most all gone. There are more news ticker spell­ing mis­takes than ever.

eNCA’s big trap is how it has been court­ing cor­po­rates. When a news chan­nel like eNCA be­comes a “me­dia part­ner” for some­thing like the up­com­ing Sun In­ter­na­tional CEO Sleep­Out in July, you have to won­der if pos­i­tive sto­ries (and, make no mis­take, they will only be pos­i­tive sto­ries) will carry a dis­claimer and if these agree­ments build or di­lute the on-air news of­fer­ing.

eNCA can get its erst­while hard news, fire­brand mojo back if it’s will­ing to in­vest again in jour­nal­ists and re­sources, scale back on the re­peats and put more cur­rent af­fairs pro­grammes back on its sched­ule.

Un­like the pre­vi­ous lo­cal elec­tions, SABC News can’t and won’t cover them on the same scale or in the same way – let’s not even talk about the di­rectly in­ter­fer­ing po­lit­i­cal head­winds con­stantly push­ing Auck­land Park in cer­tain di­rec­tions.

Mul­tiChoice pays the SABC to pack­age and pro­duce SABC News (DStv chan­nel 404) for its DStv au­di­ence. Here’s the kicker: In May 2015, SABC News’ cov­er­age was broad­ened to the DStv plat­form across Africa. Hence­forth, the chan­nel can no longer make and broad­cast news for just a South African au­di­ence; it must do news that

BREAK­ING THE NEWS Spell­ing mis­takes and bloop­ers are the least of our prob­lems; it’s shal­low, nar­row re­port­ing that adds to the TV news cri­sis

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