South African television is broadcast in all 11 official languages, as well as in German, Hindi, Portuguese – and sign language.
The country was the last in Africa to have a television service, with the first broadcast taking place in the major cities in 1975, before the first nation-wide broadcast on 6 January 1976.
The government at the time had resisted the introduction of television, fearing that it would dilute the state’s control over the press and radio.
Because it was launched so late, South African television has always been broadcast in colour, on the PAL system.
The SABC’s broadcasting monopoly ended in 1986 when the subscription-based MNet was launched.
South Africa’s semi-public broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), receives funding through both license fees and advertising. The SABC broadcasts on three domestic channels, with a mixed entertainment and public service mandate.
SABC 1 is the most watched television channel in South Africa. The channel broadcasts in a wide range of languages, carrying news, entertainment and sports.
SABC 2, the “channel for the nation, carries programming in a range of languages, including most of the SABC’s Afrikaans programming. The channel has a high proportion of locally produced programming.
SABC 3 runs most of the SABC’s English content, including many American and British comedies and dramas.
MNet and DSTV
DStv is Multichoice’s main digital satellite service. Launched in 1995, it now has 150 channels. The subscription-based service is available in South Africa and throughout Africa.
Content ranges from South African-produced programmes, to international syndicated content, sports and news. There are various “bouquets”, or bundles of channels, available to cater to specific audiences, such as South Africa’s expatriate communities. It broadcasts mainly in English, but also in Afrikaans, Portuguese and German.
M-Net, started in 1986, is DStv’s premier channel broadcasting a mix of children’s entertainment, drama, sport and movies. The channel does not carry any news programming, although it does run some current affairs programmes.
DStv Mobile offers mobile television and services.
Launched in 1998, e.tv is South Africa’s only free-to-air television channel. The station carries a mix of news, sports and entertainment. e.tv broadcasts mainly in English, although does carry some programming in other languages in order to comply with its license requirements.
e.tv also offers a video-on-demand service, which allows users to watch programmes online.
StarSat (formerly Top TV)
On Digital Media’s StarSat (previously known as TopTV ) satellite television service offers budget-conscious South African and international television channels. It broadcasts principally in English, but also in Hindi, Portuguese and Afrikaans. It is the only service to offer prepaid packages.
South Africa is in the process of migrating to a digital terrestrial television service, in line with international guidelines for a global switchover set by the International Telecommunications Union.
- Visit the Go Digital website for more information: www.godigitalsa.co.za
*This article was updated 14 June 2013
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