On Sunday night I found myself at the launch party of the new E-news 24-hour satellite channel at the exclusive Melrose arch rooftop venue. The black-tie event was awash with blue, with plasmas, media executives and a few parliamentarians. It was a slick launch and full of the glamour you would expect from a TV business on the up.
And it was an historic moment. It is the country’s very first 24-hour local satellite news channel. There is a need and gap in the market so large for such a service, that it is bound to work. Add to this the strong, feisty, independent news brand that E has built up over the years on terrestrial TV and you have the recipe for a clear winner.
There were speeches by CEO Marcel Golding, Group Editor Deborah Patta and Multichoice CEO Nolo Letele. Marcel delivered a passionate talk saying that this new channel serves to strengthen the country’s democracy, especially during the difficult times we find ourselves in. He noted that people in power may not like what is reported of them, but that the reportage is undertaken with fairness and integrity. He said that E was fully aware of the editorial responsibility that comes with such an undertaking. Marcel was also particularly proud of the fact that the new channel was built up using local people and indigenous talent rather than importing executives from overseas. To howls of laughter he said that the thing with a launch of a 24-hour news service is that “once it starts, it can’t be stopped”.
And start it did. The faces of Redi Direko and Jeremy Maggs beamed down on us after a countdown by the crowd. It sent shivers down my spine and champagne down my gullet. It was great to witness and be a part of.
I spent most of the evening with Hoosain Karjieker, my COO at M&G, who mentioned that if I continue blogging events like these, I could stake a claim to become the “Gwen Gill of blogging”. (Um, thanks, I think). I also spent some quality time with Maverick and Empire Editor Branko Brkic, who proudly admitted he doesn’t own a tie… and never will. I also brushed past the president’s brother Moeletsi Mbeki, Johnny Copelyn (HCI CEO), and Snuki Zikalala, who was in an in-depth and animated conversation with a journalist. I also hung out with a few of the people from Curious Pictures. On my way out I bumped into Sapa (South African Press Association) boss Will Davis who mentioned with a wry smile that it was time for re-negotiation to which I pleaded poverty and then made a mental note to change my cell number.
It was a great launch for a great initiative that has added a major voice to the local media landscape. I wish them success.