This is an excellent piece in the Daily Maverick
by Antoinette Muller.
Wanted: a Smooth Operator for the SA Broadcasting Corporation.
When a generator cable blew up and cut off the TV feed from Harare
where Zimbabwe and South Africa were playing their only Test, it
only underscored the SABC’s complete failure to serve the public
when it comes to sports broadcasting. By ANTOINETTE MULLER.
On Sunday, cricket fans were left in the dark when a generator
cable blew up in the production fan in Harare. The cut caused the
TV feed for the broadcast for the only Test between Zimbabwe and
South Africa to be lost. The jokes that could be made are endless,
but it was a significant (and unfunny) reminder of just how much
the SABC is failing the public in its refusal to broadcast
Radio2000, the station usually tasked with such things for home
series, hold the rights for the radio broadcast of the series.
Despite that, only a couple of hours of broadcast actually saw the
light of day from the Test thus far. Those appeared on Saturday
morning at the start of the Test and, since then, nothing has been
The station does broadcast some commentary for home series, but
even those are often interrupted. When it comes to overseas tours,
broadcasters are made to sit in a dark studio somewhere in
Johannesburg and do their commentary from TV screens. This frankly,
is unacceptable, and the cut TV feed on the weekend only
underscored the failure of the public broadcaster.
For over four hours, South African fans had no live access to the
match going on in Zimbabwe, other than through various websites. It
served as a reminder that the SABC needs to rethink its strategy in
serving the public when it comes to broadcasting sport. A
commentary team at the ground – not shoved into a remote studio
somewhere – should have been present. A power cut of such
proportions could not have been predicted, but there should have
been measures in place in case of unforeseen emergencies.
Yet the broadcaster’s failure to serve the public is nothing new.
In 2012, Cricket South Africa had to beg and plead the SABC to
broadcast any sort of cricket, even on TV. The rights, which
usually sell for R30 million, were given away at R15 million.
Despite the reduced cost, fans had to chew two-hour mixed live and
highlights broadcasts in the afternoon and an extensive highlights
package in the evening.
In February of that same year, sports administrator-politician
Butana Komphela said in a review by the Parliamentary Monitoring
Group that the SABC had an obligation to provide coverage of sports
of “national interest”.
Surely the number one-ranked Test team in the world is of national
interest? Accessibility to sport is a key part in furthering that
interest and encouraging participation. But South Africa is so far
behind in making cricket accessible to the public, it’s laughable.
While the UK’s Test Match Special remains an acquired taste, it
does serve its purpose when it comes to broadcasting commentary of
England’s matches. The British Broadcasting Corporation goes above
and beyond its duty in serving the public when it comes to
broadcasting sports. It has a commentary feed for all domestic
cricket games – four-day and beyond – and that’s only their cricket
schedule. It extends far beyond that when it comes to soccer, rugby
and other sports, but it would be far too embarrassing to go onto
extended commentary details.
While money plays a part, as the public broadcaster, the SABC makes
most of its money from government grants and licence fees paid for
by the public. It is up to the SABC to manage its budgets and
ensure that money is spent adequately. And since it can afford to
increase SABC chief operations officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s salary
from R1.5 million to R2.4 million in one year, there is clearly no
shortage of it.
The problem extends far deeper than money, however. The Daily
Maverick understands the problem lies with the station manager at
Radio2000, who does not want cricket on his show. His reasoning is
not clear and some of it centres around wanting to turn the station
into a more commercial station. There is nothing wrong with that,
but then the SABC needs to make an alternative plan to get the
broadcast out to the public. Isn’t that what licence fees are paid
* Antoinette Muller
Antoinette thinks of the world and the people who live in it as a
bear with a sore paw. She has a stick covered in thorns and she’s
poking the bear. When she’s not doing that, she’s watching cricket
and longing for the days of the boring, boring Arsenal.
Antoinette Muller’s e-mail address is: missedprint>
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