Tuesday, January 21, 2003

I am concerned about the direction in which the SABC3 newsroom is heading. Issues of timing of the broadcast and competion from etv News aside, there was last night a seeming political slant to the priority of news items that were presented. On a day when it was without doubt (even on a continent that Carl Jung characterised as "reeking of blood") that the headline news item was the savage and brutal murder of 8 people in a Cape Town massage parlour, the SABC chose to lead with a story of how the Special Investigations Unit (Scorpions) had been rapped over the knuckles by the a judge for a poorly executed and seemingly unjustified confiscation of Grootvlei prisoners "perks" such as radios and toasters. I cannot logically see how this event could be relatively even close to as newsworthy and tragic as that of the Cape Town murders. I can only, and hell I hope incorrectly, surmise that someone at the SABC has something in for the Scorpions and wished to ensure that their clearly embarrassing behaviour was seen as the most significant event in South Africa yesterday. The other issue of concern is that much emphasis was made of the fact that this was a gay massage parlour and that "bondage equipment" was found on the scene. The insinuation, too me, was that this was supposed to somehow make the murders less horrific or more acceptable.

The other clear memory I have of such political prioritising of news items was in 1989 when the SABC news revealed as their main news item on a day of some degree of political unrest and turmoil that the ANC had been included amongst a long list of world terrorist organisations in the CIA's red book. There was ten minutes spent on analysing and emphasising this point. Television is a powerful tool and I would hate to see things regress to the dark era of apartheid. I had thought things were going quite well, now I am not so sure.

On the issue of the news war between SABC and etv my greatest fear is that the SABC, and by early indications this seems to be the case, will try and clone the ideas and casual atmosphere that exists in the etv newsroom. The reason that etv has done well is that they were different and offered an alternate perspective. Two of the same will be, quite frankly, awful. The SABC would do better to sharpen up their unique style and character than to copy someone else's character.

No comments: