Prison Broadcasting Network on Special Assignment


A half-hour documentary about the work of Prison Broadcasting Network (also known as PBN) will be screened on SABC3’s investigative magazine show, Special Assignment, on Tuesday, 17 November at 20h30.

PBN is a registered non-profit organisation committed to the rehabilitation and moral rejuvenation of offenders behind bars, utilising the mediums or radio and television. Offenders are trained in both radio and television production and their programmes are then broadcast throughout the prison intercom and television networks with the express intention of making a positive impact on the viewers and listeners in the most relevant manner ever possible. PBN programming is produced by offenders, for offenders.

The network was established in August 1999 with just a CD-walkman. Today PBN has a fully-fledged sound studio, radio station and television studio in Pollsmoor Prison, Cape Town, South Africa. Over the past two years the emphasis of their programmes has steered more towards the television side as the intercom system in Pollsmoor has been in a state of disrepair for the past year. PBN’s latest television series, Jail Star, is just days away from being launched to prisons across the country. This show is equivalent to Pop Stars for inmates, filmed almost entirely by the inmate students on location in Pollsmoor. The contestants are all inmates and the contest is judged by inmates and wardens.

Marius Boaden, founder and CEO of PBN says, “This is not so much about entertaining inmates, although there is obviously some entertainment value. Firstly, it gives our inmate students an avenue to hone their skills in a semi-live environment. Secondly, including both the wardens and inmates as the judges places them in an environment that encourages their working together. This makes rehabilitation much easier. The inmate contestants too get a chance to let their hair down for a few minutes and just be themselves in an environment where one always has to put up a front just to survive.

“For the viewers it will give all inmates, from hardened gangsters to petty criminals, the opportunity to unite and join together on common ground – something quite foreign where gangs rule. You can’t give inmates more relevant programming than producing a series where both the participants and the film crew are inmates. Relevant television programmes are sadly lacking in prison as external broadcasters don’t focus on the rehabilitation or moral rejuvenation of offenders when they schedule their programems. In the final episode we give them a message of vision and hope and encourage them to take some positive steps to changing their lives for the better.’

Boaden notes that PBN is in great need of equipment, trainers, funding, staff as well as relevant training videos for inmates and is appealing to the industry to get involved in this history-making initiative. “PBN would welcome equipment donations (tripods; cameras; lighting; sound; DV playback machines; Apple Macs; etc.) and consumables (MiniDV tapes; Dustoff, etc). Other ways the industry could get involved are by offering training in Pollsmoor or other prisons countrywide, employing ex-offenders and providing training videos that may be relevant to inmates. Film funding organisations are invited to contribute to the initiative.

In addition to the Tuesday, 17 November broadcast of Special Assignment, PBN will also be the focus of an article in the Weekend Argus on Saturday, 14 November.

If anyone is interested in contributing equipment or services to the PBN cause, please contact Marius Boaden on +27 (0)21-701 0163 (Truth Studios) or e-mail For more information about PBN log onto


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