TERENCE DAVIE, the Funding Manager at Free Market Foundation South Africa, and I, were at eNews this past Wednesday, to discuss Minister Nhlanhla Nene’s budget with Dudu Ramela. When I was there, I was struck by the company’s news employees – they were young, talented, passionate about their work, full of energy and equal to the task. Perhaps most importantly, they helped me gain a sense of calm.

I first got to know of eTV  when I was a youngster in late 1990s. Then, it was filled with entertainment and one-hour or thirty-minute evening news. It was my favorite channel, to be frank; well, perhaps because it was the only thing to watch other than the government-owned South African Broadcasting Corporation. 

The channel has grown. I think the idea of creating a 24-hour news division, eNews Channel, was a very important step forward. 

According to an article by Thinus Ferreira published by City Press in July last year, eNews Channel was the most watched 24-hour TV news channel in South Africa at the time. It’s likely the channel’s viewership numbers have increased. Perhaps what contributed to their positive growth was their decision to expand their viewership beyond South African borders. They are now watched in numerous countries across the Sub-Saharan region as eNews Channel Africa.

ARE THEY IDEOLOGICAL? 

My answer to this question is no. I have never seen eNews as left-wing, or right, or at the centre of the ideological spectrum. I think, in my opinion, within the context of South African politics, they have tried by all means to be impartial in their reporting. This is good because it helps them gain trust with millions of South African viewers. 

One of the challenges faced by many news networks around the world is how to bring unbiased, credible news to viewers without being labeled a channel advancing a certain ideology. Of course there are many channels in many countries whose mission is not only to bring us news, but to influence our political thinking. They have a right to do so; those interested in their ideological ideas can watch and learn a lot from them. They have been established for this purpose. 

We may differ; I personally wouldn’t tell which ideological or political position eNews is in – which is fine. This may play out well with viewers interested in “just news”. 

KEEPING UP WITH THE TECHNOLOGICAL DYNAMICS

Most companies invest heavily in technology these days, in order to reach out to their customers. In a truly global world; if you want to succeed and outperform your competitors, you surely need to invest in technology to provide services or goods to your target. I  work in business; my work involves improving clients’ technologies. I see my clients investing millions of rands in technology projects to improve their products. 

For news networks like eNews, the challenge is how to effectively and efficiently utilize every technological platform available in the market to bring news  to Africans of every kind, rich or poor. In my thinking, they have done what they can – they have a news website, they have a mobile app, and they are very active on social media. I’m sure they are scrutinizing other possible future news platforms too. This is all evidence that the company realizes that it’s vital  to get the news out there, in any way possible. The competitors are probably doing the same too. For how long the company will keep up with competition is another question, of which the answer can only be determined by the forces of the competitive market.

When I was at 5 Summit Road in Hydepark, I saw a positive future. I think eNews will grow; it seems the people who drive it have a vision.They are willing to make sacrifices to grow their business. One can tell when arriving at their premises. Of course like any business the path to success is never easy. It requires exhausting amounts of work and thinking. I hope that the virtues of the free market will propel them to greater heights.

Phumlani M. UMajozi is a Professional Business Analyst, a Policy Analyst at Independent Entrepreneurship Group, and Youth Coordinator at Free Market Foundation South Africa.