SABC2’s Morning Live has been gracing our screens for 18 years. Since its inception, the news and current affairs breakfast show has attracted competent anchors and presenters.
With consummate, urbane professionals such as Vuyo Mbuli, Tracy Going, Peter Ndoro and Leanne Manas, it has left viewers with no doubt that it’s the flagship programme of the channel’s daily shows.
Like many long-running TV programmes, Morning Live has had its equal share of highs and lows. May marked five years since the death of Mbuli, one of its original anchors who was instrumental in its success.
He gave the show a unique character with the original, streetwise sign-off line, “sharp, sharp”. Mbuli’s eloquence in local languages was remarkable. His death was undoubtedly the show’s lowest point.
The New Age Breakfast Briefing, a weekly talk show slot that was patronised by the corporation’s acting chief operations officer, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, Jacob Zuma loyalist Mzwanele Manyi and the Gupta brothers, was another low point in the history of the show. It damaged the reputation of the programme. The segment compromised the journalistic credibility of the show and reduced it to a propaganda instrument for the benefit of corrupt politicians and their cronies.
The re-branding of the programme with the objective of repairing its tarnished image was long overdue. The much hyped re-branding campaign became a reality this week when a new-look Morning Live was unveiled on Monday.
In an unprecedented and innovative move, SABC2 and SAfm news journalists worked jointly on TV and radio platforms simultaneously. It was a great success until the gremlins spoiled the party towards the end of the show as Manas was soliciting the opinions of SABC staff and stakeholders.
The most visible and, dare I say, controversial act of this re-branding exercise was bringing on board Sakina Kamwendo to the line-up of Morning Live presenters.
Don’t get me wrong. She’s one of the best in her field. Her probing, tenacious and sometimes confrontational style often yields positive results from stubborn and hostile guests. She demands answers without fear or favour. However, her impeccable interviewing and presenting skills are spoilt by her inability to properly pronounce local African names.
In April, the popular host of SAfm’s AMLive show was thrust into the spotlight after she was unceremoniously cut off air, presumably because of comments she made about low morale among SABC staff.
Her new TV role suggests that she has replaced Palesa Chubisi, whose move still has to be officially announced. It has been reported that Chubisi landed the Morning Live gig because of her close links with Motsoeneng. But that can’t be sufficient grounds for replacing her, especially before a commission of inquiry can make findings. One also understands that the meaning of “black is here”, the show’s new pay-off line, is the responsibility of the viewing public to decode.
It speaks to the intellectual dearth and leadership bankruptcy the public broadcaster is still facing. It will take more than nice-sounding but hollow slogans to meaningfully re-brand the SABC content.