It is excellent news that the SABC is launching a 24-hour international news channel to bring an African perspective to global coverage. There is only one detail that is being left out: will anyone be able to see it?
President Thabo Mbeki is due next week to launch the new SABC channel, which should be another important step in providing an African view of our own continent and the world. I am all for it.
But the media reports on this development missed a crucial question: how is it being broadcast?
Dr Snuki Zikalala, the head of SABC news, tells me that it is available on Vivid technology. But where can one buy Vivid? How many people have it? Have you ever seen it advertised or available in a shop? The short answer is that Vivid has only a tiny audience and does not offer enough for one to consider buying it at this stage. It is really only a technology to make it available to other potential buyers and carriers across Africa.
Meanwhile, the new channel will be flighted after hours on SABC2, replacing the current Africa channel. It is not clear to me what is the point of a 24-hour rolling news channel only available for six hours a day.
Zikalala says SABC is negotiating with Multichoice for this channel to replace their current Africa channel, and that will make it more widely viewable. But that would only be available from May next year when the current contract expires. (And will Multichoice want a new contract with a broadcaster which has applied for a licence to compete with them?)
So Mbeki is launching â€¦ what? A virtual channel? The first international channel guaranteed to have almost no audience, at least for a while? The least controversial of all SABC channels?