Root­ing for e.tv as SABC fails to think out of the box

The Star Early Edition - - LETTERS - Roland Solomon

IN­DE­PEN­DENT e.tv chan­nel is rub­bing SABC noses into the ground – and Hlaudi Mot­soe­neng opened the door wide for them.

Not only has it snatched away the much fol­lowed se­ries, The Fixer, but from Septem­ber 4, soapie Days of Our Lives will find a new home on e.tv early prime time on week­days at 5.30pm af­ter the SABC de­cided to drop it, again.

This will clash with 7de Laan on SABC2 which un­for­tu­nately, I will skip af­ter be­ing a loyal viewer for years. It has de­gen­er­ated into preach­ing on cur­rent top­ics like abuse against women, poverty and miss­ing chil­dren, sub­jects all com­mented on reg­u­larly in-depth on talk shows and dis­cus­sion pan­els.

I ac­knowl­edge the top­ics are im­por­tant, re­fer to them if you must, but don’t use the char­ac­ters to lec­ture us. Soapies are not meant to be quasi doc­u­men­taries and cer­tainly not di­dac­tic.

To cap the e.tv takeover, they are screen­ing some of the lat­est movies, as op­posed to re­peats of old films on all SABC chan­nels.

But back to Days of Our Lives.

Last year, un­der Mot­soe­neng’s edict de­mand­ing 90% lo­cal con­tent on TV, Days was the first to be banned and only re­in­stated af­ter a pub­lic out­cry – at the im­pos­si­ble time of 11.30pm.

To hell with the fact that the show drew more than a mil­lion view­ers daily in its late af­ter­noon time slot, bring­ing in much needed rev­enue in advertising for the pub­lic broad­caster but also push­ing up its view­er­ship.

In the lat­est rat­ings I have seen, for March or April this year, SABC view­er­ship fell to an all-time low of 45% of the TV pie and lost more than R1 bil­lion in three months. In fact, it has been ad­mit­ted that the broad­caster is in cri­sis. e.tv was quick to cap­i­talise and has in­tro­duced ex­cel­lent prime time over­seas se­ries for two hours, start­ing at 8.30pm daily, while still ac­com­mo­dat­ing good lo­cally pro­duced ma­te­rial.

Mak­ing its sched­ul­ing more at­trac­tive re­port­edly has pushed e.tv’s slice of the TV pie up by 2% to about 24%. And all be­cause it took no­tice of what view­ers wanted.

Now another top lo­cal soapie, Mu­vhango, on SABC2 is be­ing threat­ened by short-sight­ed­ness. Mu­vhango has more than 8 mil­lion view­ers; it is not clear whether the fig­ure in­cludes the re­peats and the om­nibus.

I got locked into the Venda-lan­guage se­ries sev­eral years ago and was so im­pressed by its con­sis­tently in­ter­est­ing sto­ry­line, highly ex­pe­ri­enced ensemble cast, stun­ning wardrobe and pro­fes­sional film­ing and di­rect­ing that I rec­om­mended friends to give it a shot.

The sub­ti­tles en­abled those who could not fol­low Venda, to be­come diehard fol­low­ers.

In fact, at my stomp­ing ground, Blair­gowrie Plaza in Rand­burg, you could say we have a Mu­vhango club go­ing, each day the 15 or 20 of us who avidly fol­low the soapie, dis­cuss the plot’s devel­op­ment, guess­ing what will un­fold next, hat­ing this char­ac­ter, lov­ing that one…

Now, as the show cel­e­brates its 20th birth­day, the SABC has de­cided to fol­low the nightly cur­rent sea­son’s episode with a re­run of the launch of the soapie on a Fri­day, in the orig­i­nal Venda lan­guage sound track. No English sub­ti­tles, so that the many who can­not speak or un­der­stand Venda are left out – cut off from the show’s fam­ily tree, as it were.

Our little Mu­vhango club com­pris­ing blacks from other prov­inces, and English speak­ers and im­mi­grants from out­side South Africa re­sent be­ing left out. Some have de­cided to ex­press their anger by boy­cotting Mu­vhango.

The pub­lic broad­caster failed to take into con­sid­er­a­tion how the dif­fer­ent chan­nels have changed over the years, with for ex­am­ple SABC3 no longer be­ing the chan­nel de­voted to the use of English only.

This has led to chan­nel hop­ping as view­ers look for what in­ter­ests them most.

I have se­ri­ous doubts that cur­rent SABC3 de­ci­sion-mak­ers will be able to turn the chan­nel around. They are the same peo­ple whose pro­gram­ming brought the chan­nel crash­ing.

They seem un­able to think out of the box and, judg­ing from pro­mos for up­com­ing shows, we are in for yet more re­al­ity shows, talk shows (like Trend­ing which tends to be rau­cously not amus­ing,oo­dles of off­beat comedy, games shows and yet more cook­ing and fash­ion.

And oh spare us, another typ­i­cally bitchy Sur­vivor and shown-to-death Big Bang The­ory and The Of­fice.

Yawn… noth­ing new or orig­i­nal. It was pre­cisely this un­happy mix which sank the chan­nel in the first place.

On the sub­ject of talk shows, when the Real Talk with Anele be­gan, I damned her based on one in­ter­view.

She has proved me wrong. Anele, you are one of the best.

I am root­ing for you e.tv, no more hav­ing to watch free older movies and older Bri­tish and US se­ries on my tablet night af­ter night. Rand­burg

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