Zulu TV channel for sub-Saharan Africa


South African arts practitioner Mbongeni Ngema has announced that his company, Committed Artists Records and Films, will unveil a new Zulu TV channel on 30 September 2013 at KZN Music House in Durban.

The channel will be flighted throughout sub-Saharan Africa via a new satellite that has been launched by Sentech.

"Due to the reach of the channel, we will be broadcasting predominantly in English, but will carry a healthy contingent of Zulu programmes as well," says Ngema. "We plan to devote much of our broadcast material to local content, with a strong focus on material relating to KwaZulu-Natal. Demographically the province has a rich cultural mix, given its population of Zulu-speakers, Indian communities and whites. To ensure a degree of international coverage, we will also be linking up with Voice of America and other networks."

Besides programming music, talk shows and news items, the plans also include the introduction of television drama productions, again focusing largely on the work of local artists.

"There is a wealth of material to draw from here, when one looks back on 30 years of working in the theatre. Besides creating new material, there is the strong feasibility of adapting established stage pieces for television.

"We are in touch with the Market Theatre management, with other leading South African theatre companies and AFDA. We plan to engage with as many young actors, directors, scriptwriters and technicians in the industry as possible and look forward to welcoming them at our launch on 30 September."

The plans accord well with his objectives of developing a vibrant cultural work environment in the province. The new television network initiative can be seen as a positive step forward following the opening seven years ago of the Durban-based KZN Music House, another Ngema-led initiative, run in association with the KwaZulu-Natal Departments of Economic Development and Tourism, and Arts and Culture.

Primarily an entertainment channel, Zulu TV aims to screen high quality programmes in high definition format, with a strong emphasis on local productions. In addition to music programmes, content will include coverage of heritage, tourism, arts and culture, lifestyle, magazines programmes, as well as musical theatre, drama, sitcoms, movies, short films, documentaries, religion and current affairs, with internet link up through social networking.

"Our core target market will be primarily language and geographically based - that is the whole of South Africa. We are also targeting the entire Southern African region, where many Nguni and non-Nguni based languages are spoken.

"The founders of the channel have knowledge of and experience in diverse cultures such as Zulu, Francophone, Swahili, Swazi, Xhosa, Ndebele and Sotho, so it will have a sub-Saharan and regional appeal. English subtitling will be used where necessary to make programmes accessible to all language groups and open up opportunities for international licensing."

He says the choice of Zulu TV as a brand name is informed by the fact that the term Zulu has evolved to become one of the best known brands internationally and locally along the same lines as brands like Coca Cola and Nike, etc.

Apart from this being a commercial project, the new channel will also provide an opportunity to communicate government programmes and activities. Discussions are afoot with the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government which is keen to buy space on the channel for its service delivery programmes, communication and adverts.

This will be a new business model for government communication to be adopted by all nine provinces. In addition to the foregoing, this project will create an estimated 500-1000 jobs in its first year alone.

"Other important priorities will be to provide opportunities for the video and film industry in KwaZulu-Natal to contribute with programming and to nurture emerging video and filmmakers in the province, linking the two entities up, wherever possible. To this end we will be hosting an Imbizo for writers, directors, producers and productions house which will be held during the media launch on 30 September at 2pm in Durban," he concludes.