INTERNATIONAL: INTERNATIONAL ISSUES; Younger players outshine South Africa’s Afrikaans media

By ESMOND FRANK,, Friday, 16 August 1996 12:00AM

Esmond Frank on the old guard under fire from the new South African media

Esmond Frank on the old guard under fire from the new South African


Mainstream media owners in South Africa have been hit by an exodus of

viewers, listeners, readers - and advertisers - since President

Mandela’s election in 1994.

In some instances, ‘media audiences’ have declined by up to 40 per cent,

as consumers spend less time with traditional media, or move on to a new

breed of broadcaster and publisher flourishing in the new South Africa.

One of the worst hit has been the country’s national broadcaster, the

South African Broadcasting Corporation. Although state-funded, the SABC

relies heavily on advertising for financial support. In the old days,

its coffers were swelled by lucrative commercials aimed at South

Africa’s affluent Afrikaans minority.

But since Mandela came to power, the SABC has been forced to rearrange

its programming to reflect the racial mix in South Africa, which now has

11 official languages. It has resulted in more programmes being screened

in the indigenous Nguni and Soto languages, but a dramatic cut in

Afrikaans airtime.

The move has had an immediate impact. Afrikaaners, enraged by the cuts,

staged demonstrations at which they destroyed their TV sets outside the

SABC headquarters in Johannesburg. Even worse, there has been an abrupt

drop in commercials placed on the network.

The fact is that, although 17 per cent media inflation is making sure

total adspend maintains double digit growth, real figures are falling,

and the share garnered by television has dropped. In the first five

months of this year, data provided by the media ratings service,

Adindex, show television’s share of the media pie dropped 2.6 percentage

points to 36.1 per cent.

This is sadly evident on SABC-TV, which is having to plug many of the

gaps reserved for commercials with music videos. It has also been

obliged to offer potential new advertisers a 50 per cent first time


The slack has been taken up by M-Net, a predominantly English- language

pay channel, which has been successful in winning affluent viewers from

all ethnic groups. Between January and May, M-Net’s ad revenue rose by

23.7 per cent.

Some sectors of the print media have been winners too, despite an

overall slump in circulation. The Afrikaans weekend newspapers, for

example, saw ad revenue skyrocket by 35.7 per cent in the first five

months of this year, as advertisers shifted away from television.

Papers aimed at black, coloured and Asian readers have also bucked the

trend. The Sowetan, for example, overtook the Johannesburg Star as the

country’s leading newspaper two years ago and continues upbeat, rising

1.6 per cent from January to May.

Ad revenue for black and coloured newspapers also experienced 23.6 per

cent growth over the same period.


Adindex South african media spend 1995-1996


                   Jan-May 1995            Jan-May 1996

              R millions    Share%    R millions    Share%    Growth%

Print            747.6        44.3       886.1        46.9      18.5

TV               654.1        38.7       681.9        36.1       4.3

Radio            210.6        12.5       244.7        13.0      16.2

Outdoor           59.9         3.6        61.4         3.2       2.5

Cinema            15.1         0.9        15.4         0.8       2.0

TOTAL           1687.3       100.0      1889.5       100.0      12.0

Source: Adindex/the Media Shop


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