The launch of SABC Encore, which was to have been called SABC Entertainment, forms part of a now controversial deal with the public broadcaster under which the SABC is supposed to supply MultiChoice with two TV channels.
The SABC launched SABC News (DStv 404) in August 2013 and now SABC Encore will finally start broadcasting from May. It was supposed to start on DStv a few months after SABC News was launched, but was delayed.
SABC News and SABC Encore are both essentially a do-over for the SABC.
The SABC had SABC News International as a struggling 24-hour TV news channel and SABC Africa as a general entertainment channel on DStv before they were both closed after a few years due to non-performance.
MultiChoice terminated SABC Africa as an SABC-supplied TV channel on DStv at the end of July 2008, saying the channel was “no longer viable” due to poor performance.
The SABC closed SABC News International in March 2010 because it became too expensive to operate during the period when the the public broadcaster’s cash crunch and management woes started to escalate.
The launch of SABC Encore was largely dependent on the digitisation of the SABC’s archives, which MultiChoice is helping the public broadcaster to do and which forms part of the overall content supply contract.
SABC Encore will be a retro, “golden oldies” TV channel. It will be filled with programming from the SABC archives, mostly titles from the 1980s and 1990s in various genres and in various South African languages.
“SABC Encore is a celebration of the SABC content that has been produced over the years,” Verona Duwarkah, the SABC’s group executive in charge of television, told SABC News. “SABC Encore allows us as South Africans to celebrate the past.”
SABC Encore as a TV channel will be available on all DStv bouquets, said the SABC.
It will will broadcast from 5pm to 11pm on weekdays, with programming spanning children’s shows like Pumpkin Patch to Afrikaans drama series like Agter Elke Man.
“It is a celebration of the SABC’s content which has been produced over the years,” said Duwarkah. “Sometimes you’ll even laugh at the quality of the actual production in the old days, because we’ve learnt so much.”
SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago didn’t respond to a media enquiry made on Tuesday afternoon asking about SABC Encore.
MultiChoice spokesman Jackie Rakitla said MultiChoice welcomes the channel to DStv.
“We welcome SABC Encore to the DStv platform. Viewers can expect to see some of the SABC’s classics when it’s launched on channel 156 on 11 May. It will be a real trip down memory lane for parents, who will be able to share watching some golden oldies with their children.”
The launch of SABC Encore takes the SABC back to five active TV channels — the two broadcasting on MultiChoice’s DStv exclusively — and SABC 1, SABC 2 and SABC 3 as analogue TV channels also carried on the satellite TV platforms of On Digital Media’s StarSat and the Sabido-owned OpenView HD from Platco Digital.
The contract for the SABC’s supply of the two channels — SABC News and SABC Encore — to MultiChoice’s DStv is part of a case before the Competition Tribunal brought by Caxton, together with Media Monitoring Africa and the civil society public broadcasting pressure group the SOS Coalition.
They argue that the contract constitutes a merger between MultiChoice and the SABC and that it not only gives MultiChoice “undue exclusive access to SABC content”, but also places MultiChoice in a position to influence SABC policy.
Caxton, Media Monitoring Africa and the SOS Coalition argue that the deal is not in the public interest and that it works against the long-term interests of the SABC and the public.
MultiChoice has rejected the allegations and said there is nothing wrong with its relationship with the SABC. “This is a standard commercial agreement for the supply of two television channels,” it said. — Thinus Ferreira, Channel24