Gary Rathbone, head of sport at South African public broadcaster SABC, has resigned after two years in the role.
According to the broadcaster, Rathbone will be leaving at the end of this month. His future direction is not yet known.
“During his two-year tenure, Gary Rathbone made a significant contribution to SABC Sport’s content offering. He was particularly instrumental in the launch of its 24.7 SABC Sport channel. The SABC wishes Gary Rathbone well in his future endeavours,” the SABC said in a statement.
Rathbone was head of Africa at MultiChoice-owned channel SuperSport from 2008 to 2012, after which he joined Nairobi-based Wananchi Group as the head of the Zuku Sport channel.
He became the head of sport at pay TV broadcaster StarTimes and left in 2015 to work in consultancy and advisory positions in the sports media sector.
He took on a new role as the head of SABC Sport in 2020, where he brought a wealth of broadcasting experience from production to broadcasting as a journalist, scriptwriter and TV producer.
He has been instrumental in delivering a new vision for South African sports media. He is also the founder of Sports News Africa.
The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC)’s long-running investigative show Special Assignment will come to an end on August 2.
The pubcaster attributed the decision to end the show, which has been airing for 24 years, to a decline in viewership.
SABC group executive of news and current affairs Moshoeshoe Monare said: “For years, the show has become synonymous with investigative [reporting] and excellence in journalism. However, the show has lost its mojo and signature influence, with the consequential effects being loss of audience.
“The slot on SABC 3, where the show is broadcast, will be replaced in the interim with a shortened version of another news show, It’s Topical, while [we are] exploring the possibility of a new investigative show.”
Special Assignment has aired since August 1998. The programme has covered news events in South Africa and beyond, often disclosing criminal activities, atrocities and in-depth stories to the public.
Banijay has acquired the exclusive format rights to Still Got It!, an original factual entertainment series from South Africa-based creative studio Rebelintown.
Created by Jimmy Muteba, the format, which is known in South Africa as The Coolest OGs, sees people aged between 60 and 80 competing in a series of challenges with the help of the Gen Z crowd to see which of them has “still got it.” A cash prize is up for grabs for the person who impresses a panel of influential young judges.
The show debuted in June last year on free-to-air channel SABC and was licensed to SVoD platform Showmax in September.
Banijay is exclusively responsible for format sales outside of Africa. Rebelintown has retained the rights to distribute the format in Africa and will work in partnership with Banijay on a non-exclusive basis in North Africa.
“With a burgeoning creative industry in South Africa, it’s an exciting time to bring Rebelintown’s Still Got It! to the international market,” said Carlotta Rossi Spencer, head of format acquisitions at Banijay.
Jimmy Muteba, CEO of Rebelintown, added: “There is a growing movement which sees African creativity having its moment in the spotlight. This format cuts across generations and, with its universal nature, Still Got It! holds great potential to be adapted across the globe.”
Rebelintown’s other credits include Trace Music Star, a music talent search competition where the public can enter simply by recording their song on a phone call. The show was licensed to South Africa-based music channel Trace and later launched across 14 African countries over three seasons. The series, which features judges Wyclef Jean, Akon, Keri Hilson and Dawala, was also picked up in France.
South Africa’s minister of communications and digital technologies Khumbudzo Ntshavheni has switched off the country’s last analogue transmitter, as part of plans to fully migrate to digital broadcasting by the end of March this year.
Ntshavheni switched off the transmitter in Limpopo state earlier this week. According to the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), four of the country’s nine provinces – the Free State, Northern Cape, North-West and Mpumalanga – have already switched to digital.
Ntshavheni said: “All South Africans deserve a pleasant TV watching experience with a clear picture quality, more free-to-air channels and SABC radio stations of their choice, irrespective of where they are in the country. This is the last site that we are switching off in Limpopo in terms of analogue transmission.”
Explaining the rationale behind the analogue switch-off, Ntshavheni said: “We’re going to release the spectrum. We are giving these telecommunications mobile operators obligations to connect all the 18,000 schools to have access to the internet so that our children are not affected by not having access to the internet, not being able to learn, because now education is going digital. But we have also said we must connect all the clinics and all the hospitals.”
Limpopo economic development executive member Thabo Mokone added that the internet connectivity that will come with the digital migration will help in growing the provincial economy.
“When we have connectivity, when we have internet. It means that we’re on the road to creating more employment because people will have access to information, snd this assists them to be do a lot of things. As we gather here, we are told that 70 SMEs benefited from this process, and each one of them was able to connect almost 200 people. It means, therefore, that it’s the beginning of things to come.”
BBC Studios-backed South African prodco Rapid Blue has appointed experienced TV exec Mmabatho Kau as its new head of scripted.
The newly created role will see Kau develop and drive Rapid Blue’s ambitions in scripted content and sourcing new business opportunities.
Kau has over 20 years’ experience as a producer, development executive and broadcaster. She has produced a variety of shows in South Africa, including a 26-part South African educational drama Soul City 12 for SABC.
She has also worked as a script consultant on films such as Happiness Ever After (the sequel to Happiness is a Four Letter Word) Kalushi: The Solomon Mahlangu Story and Beyond The River.
Kau has also managed an entertainment TV channel and led the original content department for pan-African satellite TV network KWESE.
Ziyanda Ngcaba, MD at Rapid Blue, said: “Following more than 30 years of producing award-winning unscripted content for African audiences, Mmabatho is an important hire to fulfil our ambition for growth in scripted.
“Rapid Blue has already seen success in scripted production, having produced two seasons of Is’thunzi for Mzansi Magic, with Thuso Mbedu, who received two iEmmy nominations for Best Actress. I am confident that with Mmabatho’s varied experiences and ability to craft and produce African stories that resonate globally, she will carve a new path for Rapid Blue.”
Rapid Blue is behind Come Dine with Me South Africa, now in its seventh season, and local versions of Celebrity Game Night and The Bachelorette, amongst many others. It is also producing a local version of Family Feud with the show’s US host, Steve Harvey.
South Africa’s national public broadcaster SABC has struck an agreement with the International Hockey Federation (FIH) to broadcast all matches of the Hockey Women’s Junior World Cup, which is due to take place from December 5 to 16 this year.
The tournament is being held at the North-West University (NWU) of the academic city of Potchefstroom, situated some 120km southwest of Johannesburg. It will involve 16 teams from all over the world.
FIH CEO Thierry Weil stated: “The FIH Hockey Junior World Cups are known to be the perfect platforms for future hockey stars to rise. We’re really glad to be partnering with such a recognised broadcaster as SABC, which will help us convey the performance of these hugely talented young female players to all hockey fans in South Africa, and also to the rest of the world, thanks to the production of the international feed. We look forward to an amazing event in South Africa.”
Gary Rathbone, head of sport for SABC, added: “This is an exciting opportunity for the public service broadcaster to showcase international hockey in South Africa.
“Hockey is one of the fastest-growing sports in SA schools, and the SABC is delighted to bring all South Africans who love the game a chance to see the international stars of the future of women’s hockey in action on home soil. Being broadcast on the SABC platforms means that everyone will be able to access great sporting action that will surely inspire the next generation of SA hockey talent.”
The Walt Disney Company Africa and the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) have signed a distribution deal allowing the latter to broadcast ESPN content to viewers across South Africa.
Through the SABC Sports channel, viewers will have access to a wide range of Disney-owned ESPN’s local and international live sporting events, news programming and sports films.
They will also be able to watch football matches from the English Championship, the Dutch Eredivisie and the U20 Championships from Nairobi, plus highlights from the US Major League Soccer, premiere football news round-ups from ESPN’s magazine shows, and the popular ESPN FC.
In addition, viewers can see live broadcasts of 2022 events including the World Race Walking Championships from Belarus, the second season of the Basketball Africa League and live boxing events.
SABC sport general manager Gary Rathbone said: “This agreement is going to add significant depth to our current offering on the SABC Sports channel. Our channel will now offer unrivalled content to our local sport fans seven days a week, thanks to ESPN’s great boxing archive and film and documentary library. With the addition of long-awaited regular live boxing events, as well more live football, athletics and African basketball, it’s clear this partnership will deliver right across the board for our viewers.
“This partnership will not only give our viewers access to great sports content but will see the SABC sport channel and our teams benefiting from the resources and experience that this collaboration with ESPN offers.”
Kyle De Klerk, director of sports at The Walt Disney Company Africa, added: “With this content agreement, we are excited to not only be bringing ESPN’s unprecedented and compelling sporting offering to new audiences, but to also be taking a great step in highlighting and celebrating some of the up and coming leagues and athletes from around this continent.”
Christine Service, senior VP and general manager of The Walt Disney Company Africa, said: “We are delighted to be extending our relationship with SABC to include ESPN, bringing another diversified and exciting brand from Disney’s portfolio to local free-to-air audiences.”
The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) is celebrating its 85th anniversary.
SABC board chair Bongumusa Makhathini said the corporation is not just a public broadcaster but also a fully fledged media organisation that reaches audiences beyond the traditional limits of broadcasting by using online, streaming, mobile and other platforms.
In a speech during the SABC’s 85th anniversary celebration, which was held at Oakland Park in Johannesburg, Makhathini said: “Today, we mark the 85th birthday of an institution that stands tall as a pillar of our constitutional democracy; as a vital public media organisation that weaves our nation together, reaching over 30 million people on radio and more than 20 million people on TV every week.”
As part of the celebration, two new premier radio sport shows were unveiled: Sports Night Live with Andile and The Ultimate Sport Show with Thomas Mlambo.
Sports Night Live airs on Radio 2000 and is anchored by Andile Ncube, who intends to “keep listeners on the pulse of sporting events, globally and locally,” while The Ultimate Sport Show is anchored by Mlambo and broadcasts on Metro FM.
Madoda Mxakwe, SABC’s group CEO, said: “As the corporation celebrates its 85th birthday – a key milestone for an organisation that dutifully serves citizen by providing content that is educational, informative and entertaining in all our official languages – over the coming months, the SABC will embark on campaigns and projects that will further improve the lives of citizens as it fulfils its mandate.”
“As we forge ahead, we will ensure that the SABC continues playing its critical role of promoting nation-building and social cohesion by acquiring and scheduling content that reflects South African stories on our radio, television and digital platforms. Let us join together South Africa, as we celebrate a lifetime of memories and we as the management and staff of the public broadcaster, wish it another long 85 years of broadcasting.”
SABC was established on August 1, 1936 and has since informed, educated and entertained viewers, providing news from around South Africa and the world.
It operates 19 radio stations and six TV channels, namely SABC1, SABC2, SABC3, SABC News, SABC Sport and SABC Education. The broadcaster plans to launch a video-on-demand service this year.
Johannesburg-based production company Known Associates Entertainment (KAE) and Radiodiffusion Télévision Ivoirienne (RTI), the national broadcaster of Ivory Coast, have signed a deal to co-develop and coproduce a sci-fi drama series.
South African public broadcaster SABC has pre-bought Ambre (6×60’) to air in 2022, while RTI Distribution is handling sales internationally. KAE is best known as the producer of the SA version of Ugly Betty.
Ambre is produced by Matchbox Multimedia director Lebone Maema, co-created by Maema and Ivorian writer Binta Dembele and will be shot in South Africa and in Ivory Coast with actors from both countries. The language mix will comprise equal proportions of English and French, according to the producers.
The show is a futuristic action thriller about courage, hope and the heroism of youth in desperate times, according to KAE, and “epitomises the company’s vision for creating premium African global content.”
The story is anchored in the love of hip-hop music and informed by the controversial history of chemical and biological weapons in Africa, all wrapped up in the mysticism of Zulu healer Credo Mutwa’s literature.
Maema described the show as “in the vein of American Gods and Black Earth Rising.”
KAE chairman Joel Phiri said: “Through this deal, a South African production company supported by a national broadcaster will work directly with a francophone West African national broadcaster, as well as international partners, on this milestone coproduction. We are going big, superhero big, big budget-big and we are looking forward to finding other global broadcasters and distribution partners.”
Ana Ballo, director of RTI Distribution, added: “It is a real pleasure but also a real challenge to pull off such an ambitious project with our South African partner and counterparts. We really hope that this project will be backed up by both governments and by private sector sponsors to reach the level we are aiming for.”
“We continue to seek meaningful partnerships on the continent where we can co-create new formats and stories that drive African storytelling. Our aim with this partnership is to create an environment to maximise opportunities for the best ideas, talents and partnerships in an increasingly competitive and global environment,” added Renée Williams, head of local productions at SABC.
KAE was co-founded by Tshepiso Chikapa Phiri and Dan Jawitz and is the prodco behind SABC1’s hit show Ubettina Wethu, adapted from Yo Soy Betty La Fea, on which Ugly Betty is also based.
An open casting call has been issued for the forthcoming South African adaptation of Latin American comedy-drama format Yo Soy Betty la Fea (aka Ugly Betty).
The series, the first Ugly Betty adaptation that will feature a black lead, is looking for a young black woman in South Africa aged between 22 and 26 to play main character Bettina Sikhakane. According to the call, the actress should be able to portray the ‘before’ look prior to the character’s makeover as well as the ‘after’ look.
In addition, the producers are also looking for Dingaan, a main character and a love interest of Bettina who must be a black actor between the age of 27 and 30. A black actress between the ages of 52 and 56 is also being sought for Dingaan’s mother.
South Africa’s version of the show, titled uBettina Wethu, follows the journey of a wholesome and intelligent but gawky people-pleaser with a dated, unsophisticated sense of style who finds her self-worth and image challenged when she is hired by a brand management company.
Bettina Sikhakane is described as a “kind-hearted, smart, career-focused woman with a dream of running her own company, but… she has to contend with her colleagues’ assumption that, because of her quirky style and kindness, she must be stupid.”
The casting process will involve a public vote to narrow down the search to the top three actors for each role, after which a closed audition process will determine the final choice.
Interested parties can access the script at ubettinawethu.co.za. The must then send a video of themselves performing one of the parts to the WhatsApp number 087 240 5150.
The show is being coproduced for South African public broadcaster SABC by boutique Johannesburg studio Known Associates Entertainment (KAE) and Cape Town production services company Moonlighting Films. It is being supported by South Africa’s Department of Trade, Industry and Competition and PCCW-backed OTT service VIU Africa.
Ryan Solovei, country manager for VIU Africa, said: “These public auditions are an exciting and appropriate way for us to welcome uBettina Wethu into our lives and onto our screens. This production is already capped with many firsts and, for VIU, it echoes our commitment to developing local productions and unearthing local talent in South Africa.
“We’re excited to see the entries and the final outcome for the three main characters of the story, and we look forward to the public’s participation as they have their say in who get to be the next big stars of Mzansi.”
KAE CEO and show producer Tshepiso Sello added: “The social climate in which we find ourselves necessitates a coming-of-age story with a twist. It is meant to allow the audience the chance to see themselves in the characters of the story – to not only root for their success or downfall but also to see the characters as an extension of themselves.
“The road to achieving this starts with finding the right talent. By engaging the public, we want our audiences to feel part and parcel of the show from the onset of our production process before it even hits their screens.”
The producer of South African soap opera Uzalo has signed a three-year deal with South African public television channel SABC1 that will see the show remain on air until at least 2023.
The deal will help improve the quality and storylines of the Stained Glass Production series, which some viewers have said have become boring, according to the broadcaster.
Uzalo, which is jointly owned by creators Kobedi ‘Pepsi’ Pokane and Gugu Zuma-Ncube, will begin production of its new season during the first week of January ahead of returning to screens in March.
“Production halted as part of its annual break and was to resume on 18 November 2020. However, due to the contracting process taking longer than anticipated, production has extended its break and will resume the first week of January 2020,” Stained Glass Production said.
SABC executives have previously expressed dissatisfaction with some of Uzalo’s storylines, described by viewers as boring and recycled, while Uzalo cast and crew members have complained about inadequate pay.
However, in a statement on the new deal, SABC said: “It is the first time that such a long-term arrangement has been put in place and it represents an unequivocal vote of confidence that we place in the series.”
SABC added that the long-term deal would provide the production team ample time to invest more in storyline workshopping to produce more powerful plots and improve the overall quality of the show.
Sane Zondi, SABC1 programme manager, added: “Uzalo has earned [the renewal] and its performance speaks for itself. The property has broken a set of records in the industry for a soap or long-running series. It’s the youngest entry in the SABC stable and it is phenomenal what the property has managed to achieve despite the challenges this year has shown – not only in the broadcasting landscape but the country as a whole.
Uzalo was forced off air for five weeks this year after it ran out of episodes because of production issues caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. It has nevertheless remained the country and SABC1’s most-watched TV series, with 8.8 million viewers (22.75 AR) during October and around four million viewers watching Uzalo on SABC1 via MultiChoice’s DStv satellite pay TV service.
Latin American comedy-drama series Yo Soy Betty, la Fea (aka Ugly Betty) is being adapted for South Africa and will feature the show’s first black lead.
Pre-production will begin next month on uBettina Wethu (Our Betty), the South African remake of Yo Soy Betty, la Fea, the megahit Colombian telenovela that inspired the America Ferrera-fronted ABC series Ugly Betty.
The show is being coproduced for South African public broadcaster SABC by boutique Johannesburg studio Known Associates Entertainment (KAE) and Cape Town production services company Moonlighting Films, to debut in April 2021.
Our Betty is the story of a naive rural girl who gets a job working for one of Johannesburg’s most eligible bachelors. Despite the challenges, she succeeds in winning his heart and excelling in business beyond her wildest dreams.
Producer Tshepiso Sello said: “Acquiring the rights and putting the finance together for uBettina Wethu has taken four years but thankfully we are there now.
“It’s a wonderful, universal story that has been told in more territories worldwide than any other franchise and we are so happy to be bringing it to life in South Africa.”
Genevieve Hofmeyr, MD of Moonlighting, said: “KAE has a great depth of experience in development and financing, which will allow us to focus on our core competency: physical production. The partnership will allow two entrepreneurial companies to work together at a time when the global market for entertainment content is hungry for new perspectives, and we are well placed to deliver on this opportunity.”
Joel Phiri, exec producer at KAE, added: “Any growth strategy has to involve an alignment with the right kind of partners. We couldn’t be more delighted to be working alongside Moonlighting, a company that has played a key role in putting South Africa on the international coproduction map and who leads the field in servicing Hollywood productions.
“It marks a new chapter for KAE as we are releasing our new joint slate together, one that celebrates compelling storytelling, identity, diversity and youth culture across a range of genres. We’re so honoured to launch this collaboration, and I truly believe we can co-develop some great film and TV projects together.”
Other projects on the two companies’ joint slate include the Gaumont coproduction 418, a limited series set in Europe and South Africa in the 1980s about two South African patriots on opposite sides of the Cold War.
Another show on the slate is 76, a limited series from producer Rebecca Rivo about four students who join a peaceful protest in apartheid-era South Africa, only to see their lives torn apart when the government responds with violence.
Desert Run, meanwhile, is an action-drama series about four young gamers whose lives are turned upside-down when they are recruited as drone pilots by the US military.
South Africa’s department of communications and digital technologies has proposed a revamp of the country’s Broadcasting Act in an effort to boost the powers of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC).
In a white paper published recently, the department said: “The Broadcasting Act will change to the South African Broadcasting Corporation Act and government will amend the legislation to reflect the public broadcasting service role to be played by the SABC in the growing audiovisual content services market in South Africa.”
The amendments will include changes to the TV licence fee section of the Act and proposes broadening the definition and the collection system for television licences and strengthening enforcement mechanisms and penalties for non-payment.
Although the current Broadcasting Act already allows the SABC to pursue much stricter punishments for people who fail to pay their licence fee, this is rarely enforced.
The Act reads: “Specifically, a person who fails to comply with any lawful demand made by an inspector is guilty of an offence in relation to each television set in respect of which the offence is committed and is liable upon conviction to a fine not exceeding R500 in relation to each such offence or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months or to both such fine and such imprisonment.”
The SABC stated that TV licence fee cash collections were severely impacted during the coronavirus lockdown as its usual collection methods were closed. “Cash for all the revenue streams started to improve slightly in the month of June, the period where many restrictions were eased and suppliers were able to operate,” it said.
“However, owing to the economic climate that has had an effect on licence holders’ disposal of cash, compliance levels have not improved and are expected to steadily decline for the remainder of 2020.”
The SABC stated that TV licence fee collections are pursued on a monthly basis despite all the challenges faced. It added that there are plans to minimise the shortfall in cash collections.
“Licence holders who have not made payment during the renewal phase will be referred to debt collectors 60 days after the renewal date. This is the only recourse available to the SABC to pursue payments from non-compliant licence holders.”
Former South Africa communications minister Yunus Carrim has blamed pay TV company MultiChoice for the slow progress of the country’s migration to digital.
In his testimony to SA’s Zondo Commission, an ongoing judicial inquiry into political corruption, Carrim claimed a hefty R553m (US$35m) deal between MultiChoice and pubcaster SABC was intended to ensure the latter’s support in the pay TV giant’s anti-encryption strategy.
MultiChoice has long been opposed to signal encryption, and Carrim said this was because it would make it easier for rivals like E.tv to enter the African pay TV market and compete with its DStv pay service.
To prevent that from happening, the company inserted a clause into its SABC agreement that ensured the public broadcaster followed its stance on encryption, according to Carrim.
The former communications minister said MultiChoice’s then CEO, Imtiaz Patel, made it clear that the clause was a deal-breaker.
“This, for me, is a very clear example of regulatory or policy capture whereby irregular means are used to shape government policy. There is absolutely no reason to include, in a commercial transaction between the SABC and DStv, a clause which deals with government policy on encryption,” Carrim said.
“Lobbying by MultiChoice was very primitive. Very backward. It is not consistent with the social democracy we are. It has caused a huge setback to the digital migration process. It suits them because they can retain their monopoly.
“The delay in digital migration and the subsequent allocation of valuable new spectrum to operators is costing South Africa dearly.”
In response, Joe Heshu, MultiChoice group executive for corporate affairs, said Carrim’s allegations were baseless.
“MultiChoice and its officials deny these allegations. Carrim confirmed under oath that he cannot attest to having personal knowledge of any fraud or corruption in respect of the SABC/MultiChoice agreement.
“We have informed the Zondo Commission that we will respond to the allegations made against us in due course and reserve all of our rights.”