DStv channel links up with Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) to run a documentary new programme and focus – creating event based content

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Free to Air African TV broadcasters have built longstanding partnerships with live events to the benefit of both.  Now more specialist pay TV channels are forging these kinds of relationships. It’s the second year DStv channel [ED] has partnered with DIFF and Afridocs to provide both a news programme and documentaries from the festival. Russell Southwood spoke to Roberto Carletti, [ED] about how the partnership works.

[ED] was created by Urban Brew Studios as an education channel for DStv but not one that followed the curriculum as DStv already shows Mindset which is focused on the South African schools curriculum. Carletti describes [ED] as “an informal knowledge building channel”.

It’s only been on air for 17 months so the format of the channel is still being adjusted. From August, half its content will be series and the other half documentaries. The most popular topics currently are culture, history, social issues and health.

Current average reach is 800,000 people per month. As Carletti told me:”The figure moves. We’ve been up to 1.4 million but the figures do drop and it’s not always easy to say exactly why. It boils down to the programme mix.”

The partnership with the Durban International Film Festival (18-22 July) came about through their relationship with producer Don Edkins who runs the documentary distribution company Afridocs and is a judge at DIFF. The idea was his brain-child and the partnership is in its second year.

Roberto Carletti, Station Manager for [ED] says, “It was an obvious decision for us to get involved. Not only does it provide us with the opportunity to offer our viewers prime new documentary content, but we’re a Pan-African channel that can play a significant role in raising the status of African film makers.”

Broadcasting from the continent’s largest film festival provides exposure for the filmmakers, both established and up and coming. [ED] Line Producer Colleen Smith explains, “We’re giving these film makers access to a wide African audience. It’s hoped that the more exposure the film makers can garner, the better for the industry in the long run. If there are real platforms on which to showcase their work, there could ultimately be more documentary film makers that come to the fore. ”

Passionate about telling African stories, Smith says many of these powerful documentaries are empowering and in line with their vision of disseminating knowledge. The line-up of documentaries screened will include some of the best on offer at the festival. Last year [ED] showcased a number of acclaimed Durban International Film Festival documentaries, including Miners Shot Down by Rehad Desai and I, Afrikaner, by Annalet Steenkamp.

This year, new documentaries coming out of the festival will be screened on [ED], during prime time. As well as, a daily one hour live broadcast with stakeholders and filmmakers from 4pm (CAT) and repeats at 10pm (CAT). The interviews will be broadcast live from the Elangeni Hotel hosted by Danine Naidoo, from Edge: Sci-Tech, an [ED] production.

The live broadcast also serves to empower those behind the scenes. It is an opportunity for 2nd and 3rd year students from Durban University of Technology (DUT) to man cameras and operate the OB unit, gaining valuable technical experience.

See first story in Broadcast News below for details of which documentaries will be shown.

This partnership demonstrates how Pay TV channels can both promote their audience reach and help lesser-known content get a wider continental viewing. These lessons could as easily apply to the new African Free To Air DTT channels that are coming on stream as they will have to work very hard to get the attention of potential audiences.

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