SABC primed for election coverage


South African public service broadcaster SABC will supply election and results information in 12 languages cross its traditional radio and television platforms for the country’s 2011 Local Government Elections on 18 May. Coverage will be enhanced through the SABC’s online services, a mobisite and a news on-phone service (NewsBreak – 082152).

“A total of 1 200 SABC staff members are involved in the television and radio coverage of the 2011 Local Government Elections. The Public Service Broadcaster has identified 26 outside broadcast (OB) points and 100 cameras will be deployed across the country. TV production will be end to end digital with conversion to analogue only at the point of transmission to air.

“The SABC will have nine OB points at the IEC centres in all nine provinces, as well as a brand new, state of the art, HD Unit in Pretoria. We will also deploy 17 remote mobile units across South Africa and will be receiving news feeds from all 12 of the SABC’s Regional offices,’ say TV Elections Editor Kenneth Makatees.

In order for results to be available instantaneously the SABC’s results system will be connected to that of the Independent Electoral Commission(IEC). Further to reflecting the results as released by the IEC, the SABC will be able to provide comparisons with previous elections, pick up on results trends as they develop and do predictions of expected outcomes in conjunction with experts from the Centre for Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR), using their scientific forecast model specifically developed for the elections. The results and predictions will be broadcast from Wednesday evening on all radio, TV and digital news services.

SABC Group Executive: News and Current Affairs Phil Molefe stresses that the SABC has a huge responsibility to South African citizens to report the elections in a manner that is balanced, accurate, impartial and fair.

“Since the 1994 historical democratic elections, the SABC has built a track record of comprehensive, fair and equitable election coverage, in the subsequent elections on all levels of government in 1995/6, 1999, 2000, 2004, 2006 and 2009 – as reported by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) and other independent bodies,’ notes Molefe.

During the 2009 General Elections, the SABC appointed a Media Monitoring Company to provide the SABC with independent research analysis of its coverage across its platforms.  97% of all items monitored were considered to be fair. The majority of the SABC services performed well and it was reported that coverage from South African citizens’ perspective, had high voter educational value.

In terms of the upcoming 2011 Local Government Elections, the SABC commenced with its national debates broadcast simultaneously on Sunday nights on SABC1 and SAfm and streamed live on on 27 February. Six of these debates, conducted in partnership with the University of Johannesburg, took place in Johannesburg and the remaining all over the country. Since the beginning of April, the SABC also introduced National pre-election shows four days a week from Johannesburg, with crossings to the regions during the shows.

Audience ratings for these programmes increased significantly over time, on both SABC1 and SABC2’s 2011 Local Government Election broadcasts, and indicated a keen interest from viewers.  The “All Adults” rating of SABC1’s “Elections Debate” increased from an average 9.1 ARs/25.6% (2,463 million adults) during April 2011 to a remarkable 10.7 ARs/29.8% (2,912 million adults) for the broadcast on 1 May 2011.  A “Total Individual” audience of 3,556 million took the opportunity to watch this specific broadcast.

The “All Adults’ rating of the SABC2  “2011 Local Government Elections” programme at 18:00 increased from an average 5.1 ARs/15.7% (1,371 million adults) in April to 5.8 ARs/16.3% (1,564 million adults) for the broadcast on 2 May 2011 and attracted a “Total Individual” audience of 1,874 million.

A comparison between the 2011 figures and those of the 2009 General Elections indicated a greater audience interest in the upcoming 2011 Local Government Elections.

“Over the last two months, extensive election and results system training was conducted at the SABC offices across the country, to equip all staff. The News Research Department compiled a comprehensive Election Handbook for Editorial staff, which will be available at the click of a mouse.’

“The Public Service Broadcaster invested in a new digital graphic programme of the highest international standard. On-screen graphics were specially designed to complement the styling of the elections logo and the custom made studio set. Each graphic type’s layout was individually designed by a production team to ensure that information is complete and easy to understand,’ explains Makatees.

Sunday 15 May will see the last pre-election debate broadcast live from the elections centre in Pretoria.  From Monday 16 May, Morning Live will be presented from the IEC centre in Pretoria. The evening Election Show (18:00 -18:30) will be broadcast from Pretoria and focus on the IEC’s final preparations and readiness to facilitate the 2011 Local Government Elections.

On Tuesday 17 May, Morning Live will once more be presented from the IEC centre in Pretoria, with crossings to the Regions. The Evening Election Show (18:00 -18:30) will focus on the SABC’s readiness to bring the elections and results “live and clear’ to South African citizens.

Voting day coverage, on Wednesday 18 May will be in live segments on SABC2 throughout the day: 06:00 – 08:00, 12:00 – 15:00, 18:00 – 18:30, with the last broadcast starting at 20:00. From 20:00 viewers can expect minute by minute updates as the unofficial results start coming in. The broadcast will continue until 09:00 Thursday morning. There will be regular crossings to the various provincial contributing points. The Election show will also be on SABC3 from 13:00 until 14:00 on this day.

On Results Day, Thursday, 19th of May, broadcasts will continue throughout the day, starting with Morning Live, 06:00 -09:00, then again from 12:00 – 14: 00, 18:00 – 18:30 and again at 21:00 – 22:00.  SABC2 will carry more results programming on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

The SABC will have a total of six television anchor presenters who will be presenting from the IEC in Pretoria. Vuyo Mbuli, Leane Manas, Xolani Gwala, Nothemba Madumo, Vuyo Mvoko Lynette Francis, Eusebius McKaiser and Tsepiso Makwetla, will ensure that viewers are kept updated throughout the day.

The SABC will offer wide and balanced analysis of election issues, by a panel of thirty election analysts, as the IEC releases the results, in a way that will inform, contextualize and explain the results to the citizens of South Africa. Some of the high profile analysts secured by the Public Service Broadcaster include Prof. Adam Habib, Jabulani Sithole, Katlego Phutiagae, Lucas Nemutanzhela, Ms Precious Lugayeni, Prof. Robert Cameron, Prof. Robert Schrire, Prof. Sakhela Buhlungu, Prof. Susan Booysen, Prof. Tinyiko Maluleke, Zamikhaya Maseti, Mari Harris, Dr. Joleen Steyn Kotze, Zitha Skhosana, Michael O’Donovan, Ralph Mathekga, Dr. Zacheus Matebesi, Dr. Fanie Cloete, and Zweli Mncube to name but a few.

“More than four hundred editorial staff and almost one hundred technical and support staff will be involved in the SABC Radio coverage of this year’s Local Government Elections.  Teams will be deployed at all IEC Centres countrywide and roving journalists will be covering various voting stations to inform the listeners about developments on both Elections Day and Results Day.  The deployment of journalists will commence on Friday 13 May, when political parties are expected to wrap their electioneering or campaigns’ said Mr. Solly Phetoe, National Editor: Radio Current Affairs.

SABC Radio Broadcast Facilities (RBF) commissioned broadcast facilities at all IEC centres that will enable News programmes to broadcast live from these centres.  The main IEC centre in Pretoria will be equipped to cater for all 15 SABC PBS stations,

Almost one hundred roving journalists have been allocated portable recorders and advanced laptops to write and file stories remotely. “These laptops are connected directly to the SABC Radio News system through 3G cards and satellite connectivity where necessary.  This technology enables SABC radio journalists to file stories anywhere in the country. Technician SABC will be using the latest state of the art technology in Pretoria to link all the SABC Regions.  ATM technology will enable the Pretoria Broadcast Hub to connect digitally with the rest of the country.

Since the beginning of the year, SABC Radio has been involved in vibrant pre-elections programmes in the form of live political debates on all PBS Radio platforms. The debates took the form of Town Hall meetings involving communities who had a chance to engage their political leaders.

In other instances, representatives from political parties have been invited to studios and listeners were given a chance to quiz them directly.  They used social media, i.e. facebook, twitter, sms, emails, etc. These social media platforms encouraged interaction during election debate and indeed empowered listeners to actively participate in the debate and/or discussions. Some of these Live Outside Broadcasts, gave a platform or voice to the voiceless.  The other advantage of SABC Radio is that Special Election programmes are broadcast in all official languages including Khu & Khwe which were formerly marginalised.

“Eight Town Hall debates were broadcast per SABC Radio station, and involved robust engagement with the communities. Representatives of political parties, big and small participated.
The SABC Radio Newsroom also produced stories focusing on various municipalities, both urban and rural.  This is the time when South Africans can come together and interface, because as SABC Radio, we’re able to reflect those areas in the far flung parts of the country’, added Mr. Phetoe.

SABC Radio Stations will carry voting and election results by means of special programmes and 24 hour News Bulletins during the Elections week. All SABC PBS Radio Stations will make use of Outside Broadcast Facilities.

All shows on SABC Radio Stations will include voting coverage and updates in live segments throughout the day, results and analysis and crossings to live OB points. SABC Radio Stations will broadcast extended Election programmes. Election Broadcast schedules will differ from station to station.

Each of the SABC Radio Stations will use their own presenters. Some of the seasoned journalists include SAfm Current Affairs presenter  Xolani Gwala, who will be co-anchoring the morning Elections Special slot on the 18th  & 19th  of May 2011 from Pretoria and Glenn Lewington from SAfm’s afternoon drive show.  He’ll also be presenting a Special Elections slot from 20:00 on Wednesday and Thursday (18 & 19 May 2011. Other radio presenters to be used are Tsepiso Makwetla (SAfm), Krivani Pillay (SAfm), Cobus Bester (RSG), Matlakala Motabogi and Suzanne Paxton (RSG).

Group Executive for News and Current Affairs, Mr. Phil Molefe said, “As the Public Service Broadcaster, it is our responsibility to inform and educate the electorate. The SABC wants to add value to our traditional platforms; hence we decided to create a special website ( Citizens can also access the latest elections news through the existing SABC News website , as it brings Election News to the public in real time at all levels. Audiences are able to call NewsBreak on 082152, select option 6, and follow the prompts, for additional news.

The SABC’s Digital News Unit also launched a 2011 Local Government Elections mobisite, Users are already able to access election related stories and voter information via their cellphones. As and when the IEC announces the election results, users will get minute-by-minute updates and they will be able to find out who their ward councilors are, and which party has won the election in each council.


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