South Africa officially launches its 24 hours news channel

JOHANNESBURG: (By Faisal Muhammad)– The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) has officially launched its 24-hour news channel.

Officially launching the channel at the SABC studios in Auckland Park, President Jacob Zuma said it should take forward the constitutional right of citizens to have diversified news.

Zuma said that South Africa’s Constitution allowed for freedom of expression, including freedom of the press.

“We know the power of broadcasting,” said Zuma, referring to broadcasting milestones such as images of the snaking of queues of South Africa’s first democratic elections on 27 April 1994.

The channel kicked off its first broadcast at 6pm on DStv’s channel 404.  DStv is Multichoice’s multi-channel digital satellite service in Africa, which was launched in 1995.

The launch of the channel, said Zuma, came at the right time as the country prepared to celebrate 20 years of democracy. The President said he hoped the channel would cover more than just crime stories, and would showcase what “this beautiful country has achieved in recent years”.

He said the channel should also be exposed to ordinary citizens who were making the country a better place, and that it should provide news, educational programming and proper entertainment.

The SABC is a state entity reporting to the Department of Communications.

Speaking at the launch, Communications Minister Yunus Carrim said the public broadcaster should serve all of the country’s people, while also closing the information divide.

“The SABC must serve all of our people. The SABC is not meant to be elite,” he said, adding that the broadcaster would remain independent even though it was on pay-television.

“It is the responsibility of the SABC to reduce the divide,” he said, noting that the broadcaster formed part of an emerging democracy, which is at times fragile and as a result, should contribute to nation building.

Carrim said the new channel must win back viewers for the broadcaster. He acknowledged that there were people who have reservations about the financial sustainability of the channel, but said its sustainability will be possible.

“If we all pull together [it is sustainable] … Let us not start with the doom and gloom. Such channels are a risk all over the world. We wish you [the SABC] well. We need to make this a success in the interest of the country.”

Multichoice Group Chief Executive Officer Imtiaz Patel said the channel will bring diversity to the country’s news mix.

He said the partnership between the public broadcaster and Mutichoice ticked all the boxes in that it supported the spirit of the National Development Plan (NDP), and will allow for people to watch the news at their own time while also bringing diversity.

It is envisaged the channel will reach roughly 20 million viewers. The partnership will also help to digitise the SABC’s library material.

Chairperson of the SABC board, Ellen Tshabalala, said although the SABC had seen some challenging times in the past, today was an important day for the broadcaster as it also celebrates its 77th birthday.

Among those who attended the launch was the Prime Minister of Lesotho, Tom Thabane, and Vice-President of the South African Football Association, Irvin Khoza

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