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The decline of South Africa as regional media power?

While the competition between the established Western and rapidly expanding Chinese media into the African media and cultural space is intensifying, the African regional media is either slowly retreating into the nation-state territory or showing signs of fragility: The main casualty has been pan-African news journalism, which has never fully' developed. This has wide implications for the representation of Africa in the global public sphere.

As noted earlier, African regional media have been dominated by South Africa, a regional media power (Teer-Tomaselli, Wasserman and de Beer, 2007), with Multichoice (Africa) being the most prominent. While Multichoice is still the dominant pay-TV content supplier on the continent, it is considering withdrawing from the continent and selling off its Multichoice Africa arm (Money'web, 2017: 1). This decision as such is not problematic if it were to allow new African-based entrants to offer Africa-wide news and entertainment; but, as shall be shown below, it is the global media organizations that are most likely' to take up this space given the economic fragility' and dependence of African pay-tv content suppliers. Multichoice Africa, however, is not the latest to withdraw.

Through its Africa2Africa and SABC Africa channels, the state broadcaster SABC had in the past engaged in a regionalization and trans-nationalization project. Conceptualized within the African Renaissance philosophy and underpinned by' the imperative to de-colonize the African informational sphere process, the channels were SABC’s most ambitious and unambiguous project aimed at counteracting Western media ‘imperialism’ and negative framing of the continent. However, the two channels disintegrated, in part, because of poor financial planning and organizational weaknesses within the SABC (Ndlovu, 2011).

In recent years, the SABC - whose slogan is ‘Africa’s News Leader’ - has revisited its ambition of being a regional news supplier. It (re)launched a 24-hour news channel - SABC NEWS International - in 2013 on the satellite channel DStv Africa, an example of a well-established broadcaster’s determination to advance into the African media and cultural space. The SABC, however, does not have the resources to execute this ambition, as its financial woes continue to increase. The other South African company that had aimed to capitalize on SABC’s difficulties on the one hand and Multichoice’s continued success on the other, is Sabido, owners of e.tv.To augment its Africa focus, e.tv launched e.tv Africa in 2010 and its syndicated broadcasts were provided on a free-to-air, predominantly terrestrial basis in Kenya, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Ghana,Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Guinea, Burundi and the Central African Republic and Botswana. The company’s e.News Channel Africa (ENCA) projected itself not as another South African news channel, but a carrier of African news and current affairs (Ndlovu, 2011). Its signature magazine programme ‘Africa 360’ and the programme’s slogan ‘see Africa like you have seen it before’ was testimony to this point. The channel was available in Africa on DStv, as well as on the Sky digital satellite platform in Britain. However, its economic sustainability has been a constant worry. It is not only the South African broadcast media organizations that are in regional decline. Print media with regional ambitions are floundering too. The African Independent weekly newspaper, launched in 2015 for Africa-wide audiences, was being repackaged and folded into a glossy magazine in 2017, while the Sunday Times withdrew its Sunday Times A frica edition. The Mail and Guardian A frica is a spent force too.

 
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