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DROPPING 3RD DEGREE A ‘STEP BACK’ FOR MEDIA

THE move by e.tv to end its popular 3rd Degree programme has been described as part of a trend that represents a decline in critical current affairs television content — posing a threat to public discourse in South Africa.

On Tuesday, free-to-air broadcaster e.tv announced the resignation of veteran journalist Debora Patta and the end of 3rd Degree, which she had produced and presented for 15 years.

The broadcaster called the resignation “a break” but said she was leaving to pursue other interests as a freelancer for international news companies.

The 3rd Degree production team will be reassigned to other programmes while others will work on “a revamped current affairs offering”.

eNews Channel Africa head of news Patrick Conroy said no final decision had been made about the future of the show.

“As a show, 3rd Degree was receiving acceptable ratings on both e.tv and eNCA but we felt they could improve across both channels,” he said.

“Current affairs shows are evaluated all the time and we’re going to take our time and consider our options.

“We have a number of concept shows in the pipeline and once we are satisfied, we will announce our intentions,” Mr Conroy said.

The station recently introduced Outside Eye with Nkepile Mabuse, which Mr Conroy said had been a top performer on eNCA. Justice Malala’s The Justice Factor is expected to get a boost in the months ahead and will appear on eNCA and e.tv.

While TV programmes come and go, media analysts believe the end of 3rd Degree is part of a larger trend of declining standards in critical news content.

Media Tenor CEO Wadim Schreiner said there had been a decline in resources for quality news content in recent years.

“We’ve had Carte Blanche, Special Assignment and 3rd Degree as the main critical programmes for a while,” he said. “But the bite of Special Assignment is not what it once was and neither is that of Carte Blanche.”

Media Monitoring Africa executive director William Bird said while the cancellation of 3rd Degree was a loss to the station, it made sense.

“With the expansion of e.tv’s news offering and its eNews Africa channel it makes sense to expand into a more regional show.

“With that it may make sense to find a new host. Sometimes the (3rd Degree) structure was confused between an investigative show and a current affairs debate programme,” Mr Bird said.

“Its format was possibly something viewers weren’t responsive to; maybe they found her style too confrontational.

“While some viewers may have liked Patta, politicians were quite wary of her. There was a sense she didn’t listen or give opportunity to debate,” he said.

Source: BDLive – Zweli Mokgata