SowetoTV goes on air

17 July 2007

South Africa’s largest township got its own community television station this month, as SowetoTV started broadcasting from the Tloreng Primary School in Orlando West, Soweto.

The station has been granted a licence to broadcast for a full year by the Independent Communications Authority (Icasa), an achievement the station’s management and staff consider a victory for both themselves and the township at large.

“This television station will make South Africa proud. It’s a creation of the people of Soweto for the people of Soweto,” SowetoTV’s secretary, Meshack Mosiya, said at the launch of the station on 1 July.

The television station, which occupies two classrooms at the school, will offer community-oriented content, such as documentaries on social issues, as well as programming about music, poetry, HIV/Aids and tuberculosis.

Run largely by volunteers, SowetoTV first broadcast in July 2005 for eight hours a day for a month, with a second one-month run taking place in December 2006.

SowetoTV chief executive, Tshepo Thafeng, said the idea to start a community television station was hatched in 2000, and the station had encountered “ups and downs” until Icasa issued a licence to broadcast for a month in 2005.

He hoped that over the coming year, the station would develop into a fully commercial enterprise.

“The main objective of the station is to educate, inform and entertain the people of Soweto. It will be the voice of the voiceless covering issues that affect the people of Soweto,” Thafeng said.

Mosiya said various organisations had chipped in with much-needed help to make the station a success, particularly Urban Brew Studios, which provided essential technical support.

“The station will benefit the people of Soweto in many ways. It will [also] create job avenues for the youth of Soweto [and] it will develop skills in television broadcasting and in fields such as music and other performing arts,” Mosiya said.

It was not set up to compete with broadcasters like the SABC or e.tv, but was meant to complement these stations, according to Mosiya. “We actually need their support to make this community station a success.”

The station is available across Soweto on the UHF, bang after the e.tv frequency. However, the signal in some parts of the township, like Mofolo, Phiri and Dobsonville, was weak on Sunday.

Deon Botha, the advertising sales manager, said the technical team would work flat out on Monday to rectify this.

“Our technical team will identify all those areas in Soweto where the signal is weak and we hope all areas in Soweto will receive a clear signal,” he said.

Source: City of Johannesburg