South African independent television channel e.tv is taking a step forward in news broadcasting with the launch of a 24-hour news channel – the first of its kind in Africa – in June.
Joining the ranks of international news channels like CNN and Sky News which broadcast news around the clock, eNews Channel will offer viewers South African, regional and international news, sport reports, financial information, weather, entertainment and investigative reports. Some of the country’s popular TV personalities like Jeremy Maggs and Redi Direko will anchor the eNews Channel’s bulletins.
e.tv is one of two terrestrial free-to-air television networks in the country, the other being the state-owned SABC which runs three channels. As an independently run station, e.tv is known for its probing investigative reports, and viewers of the 24-hour news channel can expect similarly independent news reporting.
The channel will be broadcast on DSTV, the country’s multi-channel digital satellite TV service which has more than 1.5 million paying subscribers.
“This is an historic moment for the broadcasting industry in South Africa,” says Marcel Golding, Chief Executive Officer of e.sat the sister business to e.tv. “In a developing country with so many challenges and issues, a 24-hour news channel will contribute to keeping society abreast of what is happening and can play a critical role in informed debate and discussion. We believe the eNews Channel will become an important voice in South Africa’s democracy.”
Multichoice South Africa Chief Executive Nono Letele says, “We are very excited to add the eNews channel to our DST platform. We believe the channel will enhance our news offering by bringing high quality insightful and independent reporting alongside our other successful news channels.”
Although the free-to-air channel has several news programmes, 24-hour news is new to South African broadcasters. The 24-hour news channel has been two years in the making, during which time management visited newsrooms that run similar operations, like ABC, BBC and Sky News.
According to reports in the Sunday Times, special attention has been paid to equipment and the layout of the newsroom. Some of the innovative equipment includes touch-screen plasma screens – similar to those used by CNN in their coverage of the US primary elections – on which presenters can highlight information.
South Africa has a largely independent press with several independent newspapers, magazines, websites and alternative media like community newsletters in many of the 11 official languages. In last year’s Press Freedom index published by Reporter Sans Frontieres, South Africa ranked 43 out of 169 countries surveyed, beating media heavyweights like the US.
Although South Africa was one of the last countries to receive television, and colour broadcasts only began in 1975, it has developed the largest media network in Africa and viewers have access to a wide spectrum of local and international drama, comedy, sports and news.