e.tv is the fifth terrestrial television channel in South Africa, following three channels operated by the state-owned South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC 1, SABC 2 and SABC 3) and the privately owned subscription-funded M-Net, operated by Multichoice. It is the first privately owned but free-to-air television station in the country.
Its news reports are sometimes critical of the SABC for its alleged "close ties" to the ruling African National Congress, and have launched print and outdoor campaigns that imply an inherent bias in the SABC's news coverage. More recently, they have joined a coalition of media outlets in a lawsuit to force the courts to allow live audio and/or video feeds to be broadcast from trials involving government officials and other prominent figures.
The channel broadcasts from both Cape Town and Johannesburg, with its prime time evening news bulletin at 6.30pm, called eNews Direct. Initial news broadcasts were criticised for being too Cape Town-centric and news from other regions was not given enough prominence. The late-night 10pm bulletin is still broadcast from Cape Town, and the channel's Master control still runs from its Kloof Street production centre in the city.
Because of its liberal policies regarding adult content and continual reinforcement of being free-to-air while broadcasting blockbuster movies, e.tv has seemingly won the ratings war against the SABC stations, especially over the weekends.
StatSat TV (formerly known as TopTV) has now announced the arrival of eMovies+, eKasi+ and e Africa+ in its R99 bouquet in December 2013.
The provider later apologized that the channels will only arrive in January 2014.
Midi TV was the consortium that won the broadcasting licence in 1998 to operate the channel. It is currently owned by black empowerment group Hosken Consolidated Investments (HCI) and Remgro, a part of the Rupert business empire.
The consortium has had many changes in ownership, however the dominant player has always been HCI: it had bought out minority black shareholders who had failed to repay loans they used to purchase the Midi TV stake. Warner Bros. sold their 25% shareholding of the channel in 2001, concerned that they would never be able to exercise full ownership: South African media ownership law restricts foreign entities to owning no more than 25% of a television channel.
Marcel Golding, a former trade unionist, was controversially forced to resign as the station's CEO in late October 2014 following the controversial purchase of shares he made in South African electronics equipment maker Ellies. HCI had insisted in court documents that the purchase of the R24 million stake in the electronics maker, which also produces digital set-top boxes, was without authorisation. Golding had in court documents, challenging his removal as CEO, stated that attempts to get rid of him was due to the ANC government wanting to control the station's news output through direct interference.
Controversy and milestones
On January 2001, e.tv showed floor plans and other blueprints for renovations of Genadedal, the official residence of President Thabo Mbeki, on air. The government responded by threatening legal action, citing that the station contravened The Protection of Information Act. In August, it was reported to be the fastest-growing channel in South Africa. After the September 11, 2001 attacks, e.tv joined other South African broadcasters in agreeing to continue broadcasting statements by Osama bin Laden. It was also the site of an anthrax scare in October.
In 2002, the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa exonerated e.tv from overstepping its code of conduct after complaints were received following its screening of series from the Emmanuelle soft-core porn series. In June, it failed in its attempt to stop M-Net from acquiring a new broadcast licence.
In 2004, e.tv was reprimanded by the Advertising Standards Authority after launching a series of newspaper advertisement in which the SABC was purported to be a "state broadcaster" and "lacking editorial independence." In October, it failed in its bid to force the court to allow a live broadcast of the proceedings of the Schabir Shaik trial. In November, it was reported that Midi TV owed ICASA R7 million in licence fees.
In 2005, it was fined R55 000 for two offences of broadcasting 18-rated movies before 9pm. It was also prevented by court ruling preventing it from airing a documentary concerning a prominent baby murder, but upon appeal was ordered to show the documentary to the case's prosecutors for review. The station also fired prominent personality Soli Philander after a year's involvement. It also garnered controversy from conservative and religious groups after it decided to broadcast softcore pornography late at night over weekends. It was also to be subpoenaed to appear before the Parliament's home affairs portfolio committee after failing to attend a hearing on pornography; e.tv subsequently claimed that they were given too short notice.
In 2006, it refused to air a controversial interview with P.W. Botha before his 90th birthday, which both the SABC and M-Net refused as well. They also received 14 complaints after a contestant was injured in an episode of the local Fear Factor; the station retorted, saying they "gave fair warning" to participants prior to the show, which was upheld by the BCCSA.
Starting in April 2013, the channel launched e on Demand, a catch-up service that allows registered etv.co.za viewers to watch past episodes of their favorite TV shows as well as watch exclusive content. Many of e.tv's own productions are available to view including its popular weekday soap opera Rhythm City.
Another point of criticism of the station has been the perceived lack of involvement in producing South African content. e.tv has commissioned soap operas which are broadcast in prime time, and commissioned the occasional documentary.
Backstage, set in an arts college in Cape Town, started off on a high note when it first aired in 2000, but things soured when e.tv had a dispute with the production company, and several popular cast members left the show. Because of low ratings to other shows in its time slot, Backstage was cancelled as of the end of June 2007. Backstage has since been replaced by a new series called Rhythm City which is set in the South African music industry.
Scandal, set at a tabloid newspaper, experienced increased ratings after its timeslot was changed from 8pm to 7.30pm. In its previous timeslot, the soapie clashed with SABC 1's established soapie Generations. In 2015 the show introduced new dramas such as Ashes to Ashes, Matatiele, Gold Diggers and new seasons of Traffic and eKasi: Our Stories. It also introduced new South African reality shows such as Coke Studio. Ashes to Ashes was renewed for a second season.
In South Africa, e.tv hosted some HBO shows like The Sopranos, Six Feet Under and Curb Your Enthusiasm. It has also secured broadcast rights of the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) various shows; which airson weekdays and weekends, these receive the highest ratings in their timeslots. e.tv broadcasts WWE programming everyday and has come to brand itself as "the home of WWE". As of 2009, WWE pay-per-views are now e.tv-exclusive and they only air 7 days after the US premiere. The rights to broadcast were previously held by satellite provider DStv's SuperSports channel. e.tv currently airs WWE programming on a one-week tape delay with WWE Raw airing just 6 days after the US premiere and Editing Out 2 Hours Of Raw While Editing Out 1 Hour of Smackdown. e.tv also airs SmackDown and Main Event while it's sister channel eKasi+ shows new episodes of NXT, Superstars, Vintage and Experience.
To fit in with their new 24-hour news channel eNCA, e.tv changed their look in January 2008, giving it a simplistic look and modern design.
The channel once again went through a redesign of its graphics package, with a more 3D appearance in January 2013.