The cliche “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone” must be hovering over the SABC offices like a big neon sign since they refused to commission another season of The Big Debate.
The show, which is a televised indaba, invites into the studio people from all walks of life to chat about a particular topic.
These topics range from hard government policies to service delivery and the show gives the viewer a picture of what is happening on the ground with regards to the welfare of South Africans.
A few weeks ago we published a story about the SABC changing its “mind” at the last minute and pulling The Big Debate off its schedule. This raised suspicions as to what it is that the national broadcaster was trying to hide or who it was trying to protect.
As usual with PR statements ensuing from an embarrassing situation, their explanation made no sense at all.
Seeing an opportunity, the SABC’s biggest competitor, e.tv, jumped at the opportunity and adopted The Big Debate. So it looks like we are still going to hear what the SABC was afraid to show us.
“As we head into 20 years of democracy we feel it is critical to debate the issues facing our country. How can that be a bad thing? It is just a contestation of ideas and that’s what freedom is all about,” said e.tv’s Group Head of News, Patrick Conroy.
This is the purest form of democracy and South Africans deserve the right to be heard, especially on a national broad- caster like the SABC whose mandate is to inform at all costs.
The Big Debate will air on three platforms, eNCA (DStv 403), the free-to-air channel e.tv and the eKasi+ channel (OpenviewHD).
“We agreed to broadcast the show because we feel it is in the public interest to do so. The channel is committed to ensuring that debate-driven content is widely accessible to the majority of South Africans,” said e.tv’s Group Head of e.tv Channels, Monde Twala.
For Hosken Consolidated Investments, the company that owns e.tv, among other media companies, this acquisition was a no-brainer. There are many stories that need to be tackled, from Gauteng’s e-tolls to police brutality and talking openly about these issues is the first step towards solving them.
With the elections around the corner, you would think potential contenders for political seats would use a programme like The Big Debate to gain an insight into what’s happening on the ground, but obviously they are too concerned about hiding their secrets to care about the electorate.
“This is the fifth series of The Big Debate. I think right now South Africa needs more than ever a space in which marginalised voices can be heard. Hopefully someone is listening,” said executive producer of the show, Ben Cashdan.
The presenter of the show, Siki Mgabadeli (pictured), was happy to be back in business as she holds The Big Debate close to her heart and the last thing she expected was for the show to be “homeless”.
“When the show was pulled off air at the last minute, I was extremely disappointed and frustrated with the SABC. It seemed that the voices of ordinary people across the country would not be heard. Thanks to eNCA and e.tv, those voices will now be part of the national debate,” she said, sounding relieved.
• The Big Debate will air on eNCA (DStv channel 403) at these times: tomorrow at 9pm; repeats on Thursdays 11am to noon; Saturdays 6pm to 7pm; Sundays noon to 1pm. It will air on e.tv and eAfrica on Sunday at 10am from January 5. It will air on eKasi+ on Sundays at 1pm from January 5 for 10 weeks.