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Money can buy you many things. (Political) power, your own media house and a posse of “yes-men” among them. But despite their billions and ruling-party affiliations, the Guptas failed to grasp the fundamental lessons of (credible) broadcast journalism 1-0-1.
First, a pretty face does not necessarily a good presenter make. Or a literate one, for that matter.
There may very well be a man Louise Hamilton whose parents found it funny to lump him with a female moniker, and who had the unfortunate honour of taking the title in a Grand Pricks competition. But when positioning yourself as a sports commentator, having at least heard of the world’s top-ranked racing driver, Lewis Hamilton and that he won the latest Grand Prix, would probably be a plus.
Second, even cutting-edge technology can’t always counteract basic human error.
Watching an entire segment where the unsteady camera work leaves you wondering if the guy behind it is coming off a heroin high, the words at the bottom of the screen are partially chopped off and people being shown in a video clip are given the latest “look mom – no forehead!” make-over, certainly offers a novel approach to reporting the news. If your market happens to be, say, JRR Tolkien’s reclusive Nandorin-speaking Elves of Middle Earth.
Also, self-operated tele-prompters may have seemed like a good idea on paper. But in practice, asking inexpert models – pardon me presenters – to multitask in this manner just leaves them looking like they’re playing X-box on air.
Third, if part of your portfolio entails outlining geographical areas, actual knowledge of geography is an imperative.
Like the fact that Cape Town is our Mother City, not Joburg, or that Mpumalanga and Botswana are not one-and-the-same, as one poor misguided weather girl would have us believe.
And finally, don’t knock the competition when you’re yet to take up a place on the pitching field, much less play in their big-leagues game.
Particularly when even your choice of the catchphrase “No fear. No favour” at your launch party was a word-for-word rip-off of a rival (and well-established) network.
In fairness, the limited South African media landscape makes it rather parochial in nature, which in turn means any newcomers (read: potential usurpers) are generally greeted with unwelcome disdain.
But the “train wreck television” that has marked the introduction of ANN7 goes beyond the threat of fresh competition.
(Not that it can accurately be deemed as “competitive”, since the fact that it marks the second Gupta project – The New Age newspaper being the first – which has the conspicuous backing of JZ and his ANC cronies, makes it more of a thinly-veiled govern-ment mouthpiece, than an independent challenger.)
As one commentator phrased it: “I didn’t know (while watching ANN7) whether to laugh, cry, or simply stick my head under my cushion and hope the electricity would go off. It was that amateurish.”
Perhaps the station’s instantaneous status as the butt-of-the-broadcast world wouldn’t be quite such a laughing matter if they’d positioned themselves against the Comedy Central Channel instead…