Veteran journalist and former head of and SABC TV news Jimi
Mathews has been appointed by Telkom Media to run its 24-hour news
channel, writes Bate Felix.

In a statement announcing the appointment of Mathews, Telkom Media CEO Mandla Ngcobo said, “Jimi is a news junkie.”

“He has been in the trenches for over 20 years – from production to management, and had built a formidable network of news contacts from all over the world. Jimi has an instinct for what makes news, a flair for the visually exciting and isn’t scared to adapt to the latest technologies, the latest being IPTV.”

Telkom Media is one of the 18 applicants for a cable and satellite television license still under consideration by the South African regulatory body Icasa. Telkom Media said it would also be rolling out Internet-based television, IPTV, in the later part of 2008.

Ngcobo, previously Telkom’s chief of corporate affairs, was appointed to head Telkom Media in April 2007. The entity is a subsidiary of South Africa’s telecom giant Telkom, and was created to explore various avenues in the Information, Communications and Entertainment (ICE) environment including cable and satellite subscription broadcast television, online and content services.

In August 2006, Telkom Media applied to the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) for a commercial satellite and cable subscription broadcast licence. It also announced it had already earmarked a R 7 billion for the project, pending a licence.

According to Ngcobo, Mathews has amassed unique experience in working for an international news agency (Reuters) where he worked as a cameraman, editor and senior producer for South and Central Africa.

He joined in1998 as head of news and then in 2002 moved to the SABC, where he stayed until 2005. He helped transform the evening news at both and SABC into the most popular bulletins in the country.

His varied experiences – starting a newsroom from scratch at, supervising the transition from analogue to digital at Reuters TV South Africa, overseeing all sports production output at SABC – will stand him in good stead at Telkom Media, Ngcobo said. “Jimi is also known for developing loyal teams with an inclusive management style.”

In the statement announcing his appointment, Mathews said that he sees considerable scope for a pioneering news service in South Africa.

“Our news service is going to be entirely different. It will be interactive and on-demand. Consumers are no longer keen to wait for news in the traditional way – for scheduled TV or radio news bulletins, or their daily newspapers. Our news will be constantly updated, and available through many formats. Through IPTV, viewers will be able to retrieve any news segment they have missed,” he said.