The month of August is upon us and in South Africa, it commemorates the historic afternoon of August 9th 1956 when the streets of Pretoria shook under the feet of 20,000 women of all races as they staged a march on the Union Buildings in protest against the proposed amendments to the Urban Areas Act of 1950, commonly referred to as the “pass laws”.
This historic march was a turning point in the role of women in the struggle for freedom and society at large. Since that eventful day, women from all walks of life became equal partners in the struggle for a non-sexist South Africa. This Women’s Month, we contemplate that momentous day and those powerful women by celebrating National Women’s Day, but we also take a look at present South Africa and explore the status of women in the male dominated industry of Television Broadcasting today.
We decided to turn the attention to one of our own this Women’s Month, Global Access’ Amelia Thiart, our Head of Television Broadcasting who has been with Global Access since it’s inception 20 years ago when it still went by the name Africa Growth Network (AGN). We picked her brain a bit about her thoughts on Women in Television Broadcasting, in celebration of Women’s Month.
How many years have you been with Global Access?
Amelia: “I started in 1995. The company was then called Africa Growth Network (AGN), a division of Absa. The name changed to Global Access later.”
How did you get into Television Broadcasting?
Amelia: “While working full time at a financial institution, I started freelancing during weekends for the SABC and some production houses.”
How has your role evolved throughout the years?
Amelia: “I started in the Operations department handling learning material (workbooks and videos) for students, then moved on to managing the library, duplications and the call centre. During this time I also assisted as a production assistant/autocue operator/cgen operator in studio. Then I moved into the bookings office as a traffic officer, but at the same time I became a production manager and then a producer. As we are a dynamic company I had the opportunity to enhance my skills in all the departments.
A few years later I was promoted to Head of Television Broadcasting, which entails the overseeing of our Creative Agency, our Studio facilities, Private DSTV channel and our Web Streaming services .”
Would you say the Television Broadcasting industry is somewhat male dominated?
Amelia: “Yes definitely. In the technical side it’s mostly male dominated, but on the creative side, women are taking huge strides.”
How do you think the industry has evolved throughout the years?
Amelia: “When I started we did everything in Analogue Standard Definition.
The demand for Green screen/Chroma increased with the advent of virtual sets in the last 5 years.
We now shoot everything on Digital HD, moving into 4K in the future.
Everything is now file based and not tape based. Good old VHS and Betacam tapes are dead.
Previously, to distribute content, you would either use a tape based format or a point to point analogue circuit, now you can distribute any signal on an IP based network such as, web stream, fibre and Global Access Cloud.”
This Women’s Month, why do you think it’s important to highlight women in the Television Broadcasting profession?
Amelia: “Women are sometimes negatively labelled but I do believe we have a lot to offer.
We are creative, hardworking and add our feminine flair and emotional touch to any production.”
How would your colleagues describe you?
Amelia: (laughs) I think you need to ask them!
I do believe we are a team working together to reach a goal. I will always support and assist my team, we all work together
What would you say are some of the challenges for women in Television Broadcasting today?
Amelia: “I believe that we are sometimes our biggest enemies… No challenge is too big to overcome, work hard and focus!”
What was your best moment/most transformational moment in Television Broadcasting?
Amelia: “I’ve done a live broadcast from Cape Town, and sent the feed to various satellites which covered the whole world; Africa, Asia, America, Europe and Australia.
This was nerve wrecking but awesome! Every time we exceed a client’s expectation is a bonus! I love my job !”
Do you have any advice for young women who want to get into Television Broadcasting?
Amelia: “Believe in yourself, have passion, work hard, be committed and take initiative.
Remember you are unique with unique skills and you can make a difference! Your input is just as important as the rest of the team!”
Here’s to all the South African ladies paving the way and blazing a trail in the Television Broadcasting industry. As The Iconic protest song that was composed in honour of that fateful day in 1956: Wathint’Abafazi Wathint’imbokodo! (Now you have touched the women, you have struck a rock)
Happy Women’s Month!