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