After a three-year run on public tv, “South Africa Now” is going off the air in America. But the awardwinning weekly newsmagazine may find a new life in South Africa.
Globalvision, the New York-based production company that produces “South Africa Now,” has turned over the reins to Rapiste Montsho, a South African who produced the final edition of the program, which is airing on PBS stations this week.
Since its inception, “South Africa Now” has relied on an ad-hoc network of South African journalists to provide footage from the region, augmenting the reporting of its New York-based staff.
Montsho hopes he can win a primetime berth on the state-controlled South African Broadcasting Corp. He’ll have an uphill battle. While there have been a few signs that the SABC is opening up, it still is tightly controlled by the government. Moreover, it has refused to air “South Africa Now” in the past. But Montsho says SABC will have a harder time turning the show down now that it is being produced by South Africans.
“South Africa Now” has shown it can be a primetime player – the show is already a top 10 hit in neighboring Zimbabwe.
Produced on a minuscule budget ($30,000 to $40,000 per episode), “South Africa Now” managed to win several awards, including a George Polk Award for broadcast journalism. But it also managed to make some enemies. It was targeted by conservative media watchdog groups, who almost managed to get the show sacked last fall on KCET Los Angeles. After community protest, the show was reinstated.
“South Africa Now” may have been able to fend off critics, but money, always tight, ran out.
“PBS stations around the country were more than willing to continue running the show, but we couldn’t get the funding to keep doing it,” says “South Africa Now” executive producer Danny Schechter.