Hlaudi Motsoeneng. Photo by SIMONE KLEY

SABC news anchors signed off for the last time on Tuesday night in their own languages on the SABC News (DStv 404) channel in their final non-English TV bulletins as the South African public broadcaster dumped all of the news broadcasts on the channel done in languages other than English.

“Good evening and welcome to this final broadcast of the news in Afrikaans on the SABC’s 24-hour news service,” said SABC News anchor Ivor Price in Afrikaans at 19:30 on Tuesday evening, 31 March.

“Thank you for watching with us the last 21 months and the news in Afrikaans was, thanks to you, by far the most popular 30 minute segment on this channel.”

At the end of the bulletin co-anchor Louise van Wingerden said: “This was then the very last Afrikaans TV bulletin on the SABC’s 24-hour news service. We also wish to thank our English speaking viewers for their wonderful support. The very successful format of this bulletin will be applied to the Afrikaans news on SABC2.”

English only news channel

The scrapped bulletins on the SABC News channel in Xhosa, Sotho, Zulu, Siswati, isiNdebele Tsonga and Venda also saw their last bulletins on the channel on Tuesday before SABC News became an English news channel only from midnight.

The SABC News channel is also doing away with its regular weekly half hour magazine shows like Health Talk, Film SA, Bophelong,Afroshowbiz News, Rights & Recourse, The Journal and Kaleidoscope.

SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago didn't respond to multiple media enquiries and calls made the past few weeks about the drastic change to the SABC News schedule and why the public broadcaster cancelled the news bulletins in all vernacular languages, and other magazine shows.

On its website and in marketing material the SABC says "a unique selling point is SABC News Channel's multilingual programming" and that SABC News is delivered "to audiences in all 11 South African official languages".

When the channel launched, the SABC's famously matricless chief operating officer, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, said the SABC News channel will be an opportunity for the SABC to "enhance its public service mandate and extend its focus on provincial stories and the different official languages".

SABC News International

The SABC News channel launched in August 2013 which replaced the SABC's first struggling attempt at a 24-hour news channel, SABC News International.

SABC News International was shut down after bleeding millions of Rands after just three years at the end of March 2010.

SABC News, now running for a year and a half, is part of a controversial deal worth millions of rand Hlaudi Motsoeneng signed with MultiChoice's DStv platform.

It makes SABC News exclusively available to DStv only, keeping it off On Digital Media (ODM) and China's StarTimes Media SA's StarSat, as well as Sabido and Platco Digital's OpenView HD satellite TV platforms.

Earlier this month in an interview on SABC2, Motsoeneng called SABC News "a pilot project".

"The channel that is sitting on the MultiChoice bouquet, the news channel, it is a SABC channel. When we migrate to DTT, that channel will be migrated to our own platforms. It is an SABC channel. It is sitting there as a pilot project."