Saturday, February 12, 2011


Swazi Television, the only TV station in Swaziland, could be making a huge mistake if it thinks ‘going global’ on South Africa’s satellite broadcaster DSTV will bring it benefits.

The Swazi Government that controls Swazi TV seems to think that by introducing the channel that is at present only available ‘free to air’ to people in Swaziland to viewers across the world it will herald a bright new future.

But why does it conclude this? According to a report in the Times Sunday, an independent newspaper in Swaziland, more and more people in Swaziland are signing up to DSTV, the satellite-channels based in South Africa. It is supposed they do this because they prefer the programmes on the satellite channel to those Swazi TV puts out. The solution, according to Bongani Mdluli, chairman of the Swaziland Consumer Association, is to buy programmes that would bring back the DSTV viewers.

What he didn’t say is which programmes these would be.

It seems that the Swazi Government and the Consumer Association want Swazi TV to broadcast broadly speaking the same kinds of programmes as all the other channels on DSTV – stuff that would appeal to a global audience.

If that is what they think is the way forward, they are probably badly mistaken.

Swazi TV is financed by a licence fee levied on the viewers. That means it is the people’s TV station. At present the station’s programming is mostly bought-in material from the United States, plus a small number of home-grown programmes: plus, the state-controlled news bulletins.

As a viewer myself I can see why people want something different. I do too. But ‘different’ doesn’t mean doing what everybody else does.

The Swazi Government has missed the point of local television. It is TV for the people.

The problem with DSTV programming is that it promotes cultures that are alien to Swazis. A vast amount comes from the United States or the United Kingdom and reflects language, values and lifestyles which are often vastly different from those of ordinary Swazi people. Think about the programmes that have nudity / sex scenes, for example.

Swaziland’s cultural values can be seriously damaged if Swazi children continue to be exposed to TV programmes with massive foreign content which do not promote local cultural values.

The majority of Swazis who live in towns are virtually inundated with information that is culturally irrelevant to them. The expectations promoted on TV are beyond their means and the values and lifestyles portrayed contradict and conflict with those of their own culture.

The problem with the ‘global’ TV as DSTV shows is that it wasn’t intended to be shown in Swaziland, or any other developing nation.

Today’s Swazi are becoming ‘Anglo American’ in their mentality without ever setting foot in England or America, instead of identifying themselves with Swazi values and traditions.

Swazi TV should create programming locally because that content can better meet the community’s local needs. The programmes can use knowledge and experience that is relevant to the community.

That means that Swazi people can ‘talk’ with each other on television, expressing their own ideas, knowledge and culture in their own language.

But of course for this change to happen you need owners or producers with the motivation to create it. To do this in Swaziland all levels of the society, including the government which controls broadcasting in the kingdom, must recognize the need to support those who create, produce and distribute the programmes.

We should support local TV before we worry about ‘going global’.

See also


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