Government working on a new streaming service for South Africa

 ·15 Oct 2023

The government communication and information system (GCIS) is reportedly working on a new streaming service.

According to City Press and Rapport, an email invited people to audition for an “over the top” (OTT) platform on Monday, 9 October, with roles for presenters and background voices in 11 of the nation’s official languages on offer.

An OTT is a platform that is internet-based and goes over the top of primary platforms, such as cable, satellite and broadcast.

Although the GCIS did not confirm how much the project would cost, Media Monitoring Africa’s William Bird said that the project has a R1 billion budget.

BusinessTech has contacted a representative of GCIS for confirmation and will update the article should any new information emerge.

SABC struggle

There have also been questions over the point of a new streaming service, as the government’s public broadcaster, the SABC, is in dire financial straits.

“From what we’ve heard, R1 billion has been budgeted for the streaming service. Who are the viewers, and what existing service will it replace? Wouldn’t it be better to improve the existing communication channels at the various government ministries instead?” Bird questioned.

In its 2022/23 Annual Report, the SABC reported a R1.13 billion loss.

Despite several years of improving net losses, the group saw a severe regression in the last financial year, with a 7.9% drop in revenue from the 2021/22 financial year.

Not only did its losses grow from R949 million to R1.13 billion, but its cash reserves also declined by R709 million compared to the R300 in the prior financial year.

“The significant underperformance of revenue can be attributed to a variety of internal and external factors including but not limited to the growth in audience ratings that did not meet expectations, the impact of analogue switch off and load shedding, the inability to successfully monetise sport properties and other content and the increasing TV License evasion rate,” the entity said.

However, the SABC said that it is still delivering on its mandate and continues to be a dominant force in the sector with millions of viewers and listeners.

It added that the return of the METRO FM Music Awards and the launch of its own streaming service, SABC Plus, were particularly highly of the year.

“The SABC is also excited about the opportunities SABC Plus holds, early successes with new content are yielding results and planning for the 2024 National Elections are on track,” it said.

In addition, the South African Broadcasting Corporation Bill of 2023 was introduced to the National Assembly last Friday, 13 October.

“Once passed into law, the Bill will result in the repeal of the current Broadcasting Act. The amendments will strengthen the efficiency of the operations of the public broadcaster,” Cabinet previously said.

“The Bill further proposes reforms in the SABC’s funding model and the TV-licensing system.”

Despite previous reports that TV licences would be scrapped, they can still be found within the new Bill.

“The Bill completely falls short, as the Public Broadcaster continues to operate on its funding model from 1999. The new Bill also creates a Commercial Board, but shockingly, does not task it with resolving the SABC’s funding model,” the DA’s Natasha Mazzona said.

Read: New licences coming for Netflix, Disney Plus and other streaming services in South Africa

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