There are four channels available on public television. They’re free and can be accessed using a standard aerial. However, to view them legally you must be in possession of a TV license – one for every TV you own. These cost R250 per year, and are purchasable online at http://www.tvlic.co.za. Alternatively, call 011 330 9555.
The South African Broadcasting Corporation is responsible for 3 of South Africa’s free broadcast channels, as well as 18 radio stations. The channels have different ratios in terms of language (and hence racial) representation in their programs. Visit http://www.sabc.co.za for information on programming (including a printable TV guide).
- SABC 1 provides programming in English and Nguni languages (which include Zulu, Xhosa, Swati, isiHlubi, Phuthi and Ndebele). This channel focuses on tackling topical issues for a young local audience and is rich with local content.
- SABC 2 aims to present 52% Sotho and Nguni content, and 48% English and Afrikaans content. It’s regulated in terms of the Broadcasting Complaints Commission’s recommendations – the SABC uses words like ‘tasteful’ and ‘responsible’ when describing its programming. The channel provides subtitles for some programs to increase cross-over appeal, along with providing occasional sign language translations.
- SABC 3 is aimed at the English-speaking viewer. Its programming has a metropolitan flavor, with plenty of soap operas, sitcoms and talk shows.
- eTV is the only private-owned yet free-to-air TV channel in the country. It’s also the only one to produce independent news broadcasts, on which reporters have often been critical of the SABC for its purported associations with the ANC, South Africa’s ruling political party. Packed with tabloid and reality shows, eTV also broadcasts blockbuster movies, and features late-night, soft-core pornography on Saturdays, replete with adult-themed advertisements. As such, it’s beaten the SABC in the ratings war, particularly when it comes to weekend viewing. Visit http://www.etv.co.za for the programming schedule.
Originally an abbreviation for Electronic Media Network, M-Net is a subscription funded television channel. It’s been around for over twenty years, and offers a mash-up of sports, movies, children’s programs and general entertainment. It tends to have more recently produced programming and movies than the other local channels, as well as high production-value local programming such as Egoli: Place of Gold, the country’s longest-running soap opera, as well as Carte Blanche, the award-winning once-a-week investigative news program.
Since the introduction of Multi-Choice’s DSTV service, M-Net has created several more channels to complement the original channel, including numerous M-Net Supersport channels, two M-Net Movie Magic channels, and the M-Net Series channel. M-Net is now bundled with DSTV, and doesn’t allow for M-Net-only subscriptions.
Visit http://www.mnet.co.za for programming details.
DSTV – Digital Satellite Television
DSTV (Digital Satellite Television) is a satellite service that currently provides over 80 TV channels and 40 audio channels. It provides a full spectrum of movie, music, sport, reality and kids’ channels. It includes news channels in German, Indian and Chinese, as well as the BBC, Sky News and other British and American channels. Visit http://www.dstv.com for the complete list of channels, along with program schedule guides.
DSTV has a variety of decoders available, which afford you different viewing capabilites:
- A standard decoder costs R499, with a once-off Decoder Care Price of R20. This decoder allows you to view one DSTV program at a time.
- An SD PVR decoder allows you to record TV, as well as rewind live TV by up to an hour. It requires a once-off access fee of R60.
- An HD PVR decoder is priced at R3999, and requires once-off fees of R35 (for Decoder Care) and R60 (the access fee). These are dual view, meaning the decoder has two tuners, allowing you to watch different channels on separate TV’s in your home. They’re also capable of receiving High Definition broadcasts.
Once you’re set up, there are numerous monthly packages, the best of which is DSTV premium, which allows you to view some 82 channels and costs R499 per month. You can add bouquets of North Indian, South Indian and Portuguese channels to this selection for a small mark-up (between R110 and R153).
Call 021 508 2222 for more information. You can visit http://www.dstv.com/dstvsa/content/en/sa/get_dstv for an online sign-up, during which you can compare the prices of the different channel bouquets, and use the agent locator to find an authorized DSTV installment agent in your area. While your signup will occur via DSTV’s site, the arrangement is ultimately with the agent, so the length of your wait will be subject to their availability.
The chain store Game sells decoders at the standard R499, along with an installation kit for R699. This includes the satellite dish, cabling for one TV point, and an installation by an accreditted agent. Activating the so-called Smart Card, which unlocks your decoder, will require nothing more than a short call to Multichoice, providing them with your details, the card’s serial number, and an account number for billing, at which point the card will instantly be activated. To find your nearest Game, visit http://www.game.co.za/index.php?store_locator.