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e.tv CELEBRATES 10 YEARS OF ‘FREE’ TV

Once upon a time in South Africa, there was a relatively unknown private TV station called e.tv that came from nowhere and began broadcasting on 1 October 1998.
But today, a decade later, that channel has become a well-established brand and a key player in the broadcasting industry – fearless of any challenge and competition.

“Everyone at e.tv is proud of becoming SA`s most watched English medium channel over the past 10 years and the mood is buoyant,” Bronwyn Keene-Young, e.tv COO tells Bizcommunity.com. Certainly in the beginning, many sceptical observers – including advertisers – believed that e.tv was sailing into unchartered waters and therefore wondered whether it would withstand the industry`s compressed pressure and survive.

But Keene-Young is satisfied that the channel is now a household name and says e.tv`s core of success lies in factors such as respect of its audience, the management team`s constant focus of serving that audience, driving ratings and delivering value of its advertisers.

“Our unique programming has also made the difference from our competitors. Most significantly, our news – known for its reliability and independence – has become such a strong brand that we have launched our own 24-hour news channel,” she says.

Glitches However, the road to glory and success had not been without glitches for a newcomer and a private-funded organisation that initially operated with very limited resources.

Keene-Young says: “The channel initially had difficulties complying with its license conditions, the budgeted funding was inadequate to see e.tv to its breakeven point and advertisers were reluctant to support e.tv as there was concern about whether it would survive. “There were very few people outside e.tv who really believed that we could make it.”

For now though, the channel`s future looks bright and Keene-Young says Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) is the next big technological challenge e.tv is looking forward to. On 1 November 2008, the SABC and e.tv will put their rivalry aside and join forces with Sentech to launch the DTT switch-on trial. However, many observers believe that any attempt by e.tv to do battle with its foe, the ‘mighty` SABC, will be a reminder of the David vs Goliath fight.

But Keene-Young is unfazed by the public broadcaster`s ‘absolute power`. She explains: “We have always (since we launched), operated in an uncompetitive environment, so while we are concerned about the dominance of the SABC, this is not something that deters us from future challenges.”

Nevertheless, despite its ‘no fear, no favour` news philosophy, which allegedly tells it as it is, e.tv has been heavily criticised, with many Government insiders silently branding the channel an ‘enemy of the state` due to what they call its blind criticism with no suggested solutions as how to tackle the problems.

Independent Keene-Young rejects these allegations, saying: “This is untrue. Our news is independent and reliable. It is not the job of a news service to suggest solutions – it is our job to report honestly without fear or favour. Viewers must make their own judgments on the issues.”

Furthermore, it is understood that the most important assets of a company are not its buildings, nor its vehicles or machines, but its employees.

When asked to comment on the company`s human resources training policy, Keene-Young replies: “We have a hand-on and in-house approach training. Many of our staff have never worked in broadcasting before they joined e.tv. “We train them in their various fields using mentors and more experienced staff. They then develop a range of skills in this manner and that has made us susceptible to poaching by other broadcasters.

“80% of our current senior management have started at e.tv in junior positions and have worked their way up through the company into management. Most of our managers have been with us for seven years or more.”

“We provide young people with extraordinary opportunities in the broadcasting sector. As a result, we have a loyal employee base who are committed and hard-working and who, from the outset, have had an unwavering belief that we could achieve something extraordinary despite the odds stacked against us.”

For a channel that does not receive a cent from the state but relies solely on advertising as its source of income, which continues to give untested young people a chance to shine in the broadcasting sector and which has been credited by many observers for its biggest achievement (the launch of a 24-hour news channel), the road ahead for e.tv looks intrinsically rosy.

Bon Anniversaire!

Source: Marketing Bizcommunity.com – Issa Sikiti da Silva