Tag Archives: SABC

Casting call for SA’s Ugly Betty

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).

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 show is set to debut in April 2021.

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SA’s Uzalo extended to 2023

Uzalo comes from Stained Glass Production

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.

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Ugly Betty adapted for South Africa

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.

uBettina Wethu will air on SABC

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.

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South Africa revamps Broadcast Act

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.”

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MultiChoice blamed for SA digital delay

Former South Africa communications minister Yunus Carrim has blamed pay TV company MultiChoice for the slow progress of the country’s migration to digital.

Yunus Carrim

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.

Joe Heshu

“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.”

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