TV channels for local languages


Themba Gadebe

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) has granted the SABC, the country’s public broadcaster, licences for two regional television stations to be broadcast in indigenous languages.

However, the stations – to be known as SABC4 and SABC5 – will only be launched once the public broadcaster has adequate funding to survive at least one licence term.

The SABC currently has three national stations – SABC1, 2 and 3 – while SABC Africa, broadcasts across the continent. The predominant language on all four is English.

SABC4 will cater for Setswana, Sesotho, Sepedi, Tshivenda, Xitsonga and Afrikaans, and SABC5 for isiZulu, isiXhosa, Siswati and Afrikaans.

SABC4 will be broadcast in the provinces of Limpopo, North West, Gauteng, Free State and Northern Cape, and SABC5 in Mpumalanga, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape, the Western Cape and the eastern border of Limpopo.

Icasa chairperson Mandla Langa said English would not be broadcast on the new channels. “This doesn’t mean English will be totally prohibited,” Langa said. “It may still be used in, for example, news and current affairs shows.

“Even taking into account our recently imposed language obligations on SABC1 and 2, English will still be the predominant language on those channels.”

‘Challenge now to secure funding’

“Now that the licenses have been granted, the challenge is to secure funding,” SABC spokesperson Paul Setsetse said. “Once that is in place, it will take a minimum of 18 months before the rollout of the transmitter network.

“Although the SABC does not expect that the channels will attract significant commercial revenues, we are nonetheless pleased that Icasa has decided to allow the channels to carry advertising,” Setsetse added.

“We believe these advertising revenues will assist in funding the channels, although it must be noted that for the vast majority of their funding requirements, the regional channels will still be dependent on public grants.”

The public broadcaster has, however, raised concern as to how it will be possible to run television channels without commissioning programming in English.

“We will need to evaluate how it will impact on the programme and schedule strategies of the channels, particularly the use of multilingual programmes using English,” Setsetse said.

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