Millions of South Africans who rely on free-to-air television may be deprived of prime-time news broadcasts any moment from now. This follows SABC’s latest move to have the broadcast canned.
In a presentation at a public hearing last week, the SABC requested the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) to allow broadcasters decide whether to air prime news broadcasts or not.
In addition, the public broadcaster requested an amendment to its licensing agreement – which many believe would give room for the canning of prime-time news.
With this, over 12 million of viewers in the country who rely on free-to-air television now stand the chance of losing the fun. And if at last, the ICASA approves SABC’s application, the public broadcaster will no longer be obligated to air news broadcasts during prime time.
Recently, e.TV also filed a similar application, citing a drop in the number of viewers as one of the reasons for the decision.
In response, the DA lamented that the move would have the effect of “dumbing down” South Africans. The blue block, however, vowed to object this move on Tuesday when Icasa appears before the Portfolio Committee on Communications.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) spokesman for communication, Phumzile van Damme maintained that it is of national interest that news is aired during prime-time.
“The DA will voice its objection to this when Icasa appears before the Portfolio Committee on Communications on Tuesday.
We will also request that Icasa, which has the constitutional obligation to regulate broadcasting in the public, spell out its position on the canning of prime time news,” van Damme said.
It is understood that majority of South Africans watch TV between 6pm and 9.30pm. In fact, according to the SABC, only one in 10 people depends on social media as a news source while over 12 million people watch television during prime time.