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CHANNELLING CHANGE

THE South African TV landscape is changing, thanks to the introduction of a slew of channels dedicated to local content.

With e.tv going live with its free-to-air satellite TV platform, called OpenView HD, the broadcaster has unveiled four new channels that will launch on Tuesday: eKasi+, eAfrica+, eMovies+ and eToons+.

The channels will be available on a decoder that can be bought once-off at retailers, with no monthly rental fees.

They join MultiChoice’s many Mzansi Magic channels, home to popular shows such as Isibaya, Rockville and Zabalaza.

Scriptwriter Bonga Vilakazi says this is a good thing. “It’s helping the industry because people are getting to work. It can only get better from here.”

TV is experiencing a major shift, says e.tv head of channels Monde Twala.

“This will benefit consumers, who will have access to a varied selection of content. More channels will result in more opportunities for aspiring producers, script developers, actors, etc. This will also boost the local production sector and we are excited to be able to unearth new stars and inspire fresh conversations.”

For years, production houses have had to rely on the SABC. Companies such as Black Rage, T.O.M Pictures and Bomb Productions were at the forefront of the industry, producing game-changer dramas such as Street Journal, Hopeville and Yizo Yizo.

While the public broadcaster has continued to commission for new programmes, the platform spaces have shifted.

But Twala warns that broadcasters need to ensure that their business models are sustainable.

Mabutho “Kid” Sithole, actor and president of the Creative Workers Union of South Africa, agrees, saying that while this might be exciting, the industry needs to interrogate what the addition of these channels really means.

“We welcome any platform where talent can be utilised and families can be fed, but the biggest drag about some of these things is the issue of capitalisation; it makes sure that it has profits and that’s the problem. A few people shouldn’t monopolise the industry.”

Mzansi Magic’s programmes have become showcases for emerging artists to make their mark and for veterans to stage a comeback, as Baby Cele and Mbali Ntuli have done in Zabalaza.

Yolisa Phahle, director of M-Net’s local interest channels, says the benefit of bringing experienced actors back is that they can share their knowledge. “People with experience are vital and bringing back big faces from the past is part of creating nostalgia.”

Community TV channels such as Soweto TV, Cape Town TV and Zulu TV have also broadened the space.

Source: Sunday World – Boitumelo Tlhoaele