Ever since I can remember, I loved watching the beauty pageants on TV. As a little girl, I dreamt of sashaying across the stage in a designer evening gown, wiping away my tears of joy after being crowned Miss South Africa. I wanted to be that beautiful ambassador who made a difference in the country.
Needless to say, I didn’t grow up to be a Miss South Africa contender but I do still like watching the magic of beauty pageants. I only discovered last year that I didn’t have the option to watch the show anymore. SABC, South Africa’s publicly available television broadcaster, lost the rights to broadcast the Miss South Africa pageant to the paid for DSTV channel, Mzansi Magic.
There wasn’t much of an outrage but I am not particularly happy about this. Until last year, Miss South Africa had been broadcasted on SABC which meant that every South African with a television set and decent broadcasting signal watched the declaration of the country’s most beautiful women. This didn’t include everyone as only about 50% of South African households had television sets until the turn of the century, but it still provided half of the nation with the opportunity to view the pageant. We watched as the first non-white women were crowned in 1992 and 1993, preparing the land for the birth of a rainbow nation in 1994. We watched as the women served their reign and inspired us with their much needed charity work. We watched as they participated in the Miss World and Miss Universe pageants and rooted for them.
With the introduction of DSTV, South Africa’s luxury television network, people have come to compare DSTV viewing to SABC. SABC television is far behind the entertainment provided by DSTV however SABC still provides viewing to the majority of South Africans.
Using the poor quality delivery of SABC, Mzansi Magic jumped on the bandwagon and was handed exclusive rights to air the Miss South Africa pageant. But who exactly will be watching the show? South Africa?
The demographics of those with possible access to DSTV would comprise of only the middle and upper class South Africans. At last count just under 4 million people subscribed to DSTV which I would then estimate total viewership of 12 million. That’s 24% of South Africans. DSTV is a luxury commodity aimed at those who are willing to pay a premium to view better quality TV.
And for those who think that DSTV is affordable let me break it down for you. DSTV has thoughtfully put together a number of different packages to suit people’s needs and budgets. The cheapest package with Mzansi Magic included is DSTV Select 1 for a mere R166 a month. Oh it’s more than just the monthly subscription fee; there is also the cost of a decoder, a satellite dish and, I imagine, a nice TV to view the clear digital images on to consider. As affordable as DSTV may seem, to the 38% of the population who live on less than $50 (R430) a month, it is not.
With the organisers moving Miss South Africa further away from the majority, a significant portion of the population will no longer be aware of the pageant and contestants entering won’t be from all corners of South Africa. We’ll never know if the queen crowned is indeed the fairest of the land. And with the blatant exclusion of 75% of South Africans from even watching the show, can we really title her with Miss “South Africa”.
For more of my thoughts, visit my blog: http://sandisplash.blogspot.com.