Repeat screenings of shows such as Desperate Housewives leaves late-night viewers generally starved of topical, quality programmes, says the writer.

The inordinate amount of repeated shows leaves late-night viewers starved of topical, quality programmes, says Patricia Pleasance.

Johannesburg - As the quality of SABC television programming plummets, one has to ask if the public broadcaster is in a dire financial crisis.

That is the only conclusion I can arrive at because, despite a welter of anger from the many unfortunate folk whose financial circumstances force them to watch the putrid television fare, the shameless programme directors persist in providing what must surely be among the worst television viewing anywhere in the world.

One of the biggest complaints, which the SABC stubbornly ignores, is the inordinate amount of repeated shows.

There is never a movie shown that we haven’t already seen countless times. Correction. Last week they screened the South African-made film, Nothing for Mahala, which was recently on the circuit. Perhaps they got a bargain basement price from the film producers because it flopped on the local circuit.

I mention, by way of example, three of many such repeats which make one want to find the nearest cliff to jump off – the travelogue-type documentary Shoreline is now being rescreened, in close succession, for the third time in the slot which has traditionally been reserved for quality National Geographic wildlife shows.

There might be some excuse to repeat a show in a non-peak-time slot, but this type of ultra repeat screening is an insult to our intelligence, and certainly to the commercial advertisers who are called to fund the SABC’s abysmal menu.

Dali Tambo’s People of the South, which was originally flighted only late last year, is being shown in the same prime-time Sunday evening slot. For some unexplained reason, Noeleen Maholwana-Sangqu’s Three Talk magazine show has been showing repeats since December.

The Afrikaans film-makers have an excellent track record of producing far superior movies and television dramas than their English counterparts, but all the corporation dishes up are ancient productions dredged up and dusted down from their archives.

And instead of purchasing new season episodes of the few popular international drama series that come our way, it has become commonplace merely to rescreen past season episodes on the 10pm slot, such as Brothers and Sisters and Desperate Housewives. This leaves long-suffering, late-night viewers generally starved of topical, quality programmes.

I also blame independent channel for this mess. It has failed to provide any decent competition to the SABC on its terrestrial platform, which would push the national broadcaster to compete with quality shows. Its appears to be a race to the bottom of the barrel between the rivals.

As the government is the prime shareholder of the SABC, and it professes to represent the public’s interests, I expect it to do something constructive by insisting on a clean-out of the woefully deficient SABC management structures, and to ensure a new breed of innovative new brooms is installed who have the professionalism to restore a degree of programming excellence. If they can’t find them locally then perhaps they should recruit some talent from overseas countries that place a premium on quality entertainment for television viewers.

Patricia Pleasance

Northmead, Benoni

* The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.

The Star