SABC gives Africa a voice in the news

Channel to offer alternative to Western media

JOHANNESBURG — Africans are hoping to have a say in their news.

The South African Broadcasting Corp. on July 20 launched its pan-African 24-hour news channel aimed at breaking what is often perceived on the continent as a monopoly of Western-biased reporting on Africa by international news channels such as CNN and the BBC.

The SABC promises SABC News Intl. will provide “African news from a uniquely African perspective.”

“Our journalists will provide news with a fresh and alternative voice, with a clear understanding and coverage of African affairs,” says Snuki Zikalala, news and current affairs group executive.

Zikalala says the channel will be available across Africa on satellite television, transmitted via Sentech’s Vivid Satellite Digital Decoder, which broadcasts to Sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Europe.

SABC News Intl. will be structured in a similar way as international news providers like CNN and BBC Intl. and will feature news bulletins, current affairs and investigative programs, newsmagazines, weather updates, sports and economic news. The channel will also include French news bulletins currently streamed live on the SABC News website.

In South Africa, SABC News Intl. will replace the SABC Africa overnight feed on SABC 2 for free-to-air viewers. It has also replaced the SABC Africa channel on Multichoice’s pan-African satellite service. The channel will initially broadcast live on weekdays only and will move to a 24-hour schedule in April.

African governments have long accused Western media of focusing on the negative sides of Africa only, such as conflicts, famine and diseases, failing to provide a more balanced picture of life on a developing continent.

At the launch, South African president Thabo Mbeki, a critic of Western-based media orgs in Africa, appealed to SABC News Intl. to tell stories from an African point of view. “I trust that this new initiative by the SABC will tell the African story in as much depth and contextual detail as possible, and physically get around the continent identifying the successes and reverses, so as to reflect what is really happening on our continent,” Mbeki said.

SABC News Intl. has bureaus in Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Washington, D.C., Brussels, New York, London, Senegal and Nigeria, and correspondents have been signed up around the continent. More bureaus will be set up as the channel expands.

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