Thursday, June 4, 2020

Coronavirus: Amidst Covid-19 kykNET’s Maak My Famous announces second season’s Top 10, 8-week production break and voting format change switching to viewer voting.


by Thinus Ferreira

The Afrikaans reality competition talent showcase series Maak My Famous announced its Top10 contestants on Wednesday night but also that the second season is taking an 8-week production break until 5 August because of the Covid-19 pandemic for the show to craft a new, fair way forward for the contestants that will include viewers getting the chance to vote.

When Maak My Famous returns there will be format changes, one of which will include that all viewers will now get the option to vote.

On Wednesday night viewers saw the completion of the second season's Maak My Famous Top 10 that saw entries grow from 6 000 to 8000 for the second season.

The Top 10 Maak My Famous contestants are Daylin Sass (Hanover Park, Cape Town), Emma Ellis (Port Elizabeth), Aden & Tamaryn Beukes (Walvis Bay, Namibia), Jayson Kleinschmidt (Paarl), Gideon Lottering (G.Notes) (George), Henrico Coetzer (Pretoria), Reggie B (Rawsonville), Nicoleen Saal (Oceanview, Cape Town), DfeatSA (Kuilsriver, Cape Town) and Die Wesso’s (George) who received the "Emo Ticket"-save.

Wednesday's episode 6 was the last pre-filmed episode, literally filmed just days before South Africa's national Covid-19 lockdown period started, in front of the live studio audience and their voting devices inside the Roxy Revue Bar in Grandwest Casino in Cape Town.

All of the contestants returned to their respective provinces and Aden & Tamaryn Beukes to Namibia with South Africans who are no longer allowed to travel across borders between provinces, and with cross-border travel between Southern African countries like South Africa and Namibia also still prohibited because of the Covid-19 lockdown.

In March, Maak My Famous produced by All Star Entertainment, initially announced a short production break to April but will now take a broadcast break of 8 weeks to plot a way forward that is fair to all of the contestants.

Maak My Famous is impacted mid-season in a similar way to the 16th season of Idols on Mzansi Magic (DStv 161) - produced by SIC Entertainment that already filmed its new season's national audition episodes and which hasn't yet announced its way forward - as well as the just-completed 18th season of American Idol that was forced to use up to 45 remote sites across the United States for contestants who were treated equally with similar equipment and resource access.

Co-host Emo Adams said that while it's still discussing the way forward with kykNET, that broadcasts the show on the kykNET (DStv 144) and kykNET & Kie (DStv 145) channels, the hope is that the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions in South Africa, and between South Africa and Namibia, would have eased by August.

The production hopes that by August long-distance travel would be possible again in order to bring all of the contestants back to the same stage in Cape Town with the show that would prefer not to follow the American Idol "remote performance"-option, which would be a last resort.


Format change with all viewers getting to vote
"For us it's not about how big or how flash we can go with Maak My Famous - yes, we will always strive towards that and we want a bigger stage - but at this point it's all about giving people with raw talent a chance to appear in a show and secondly to really be mentored behind-the-scenes," says Marguerite Albrecht, kykNET supervising producer.

She and Emo Adams spoke with and took questions from South African and Namibian media in a Zoom press conference on Wednesday night after the conclusion of the broadcast of the Top 10 episode on kykNET, the first Afrikaans virtual press briefing held for a locally-produced TV show in the world and South African television history.


"We've decided that, because of the position we're finding ourselves in at the moment and because we have to Namibian contestants in our Top 10 who can't travel across borders into South Africa, that we're taking the production break until 5 August."

"When we return on 5 August there will be a bit of a format change because of the country's lockdown situation. We will return the second half of an incredible season. We're changing it to where all viewers will get the option to vote."

"Since the studio audience can't get together to vote, everybody watching will now get the ability to vote," said Marguerite Albrecht.

"From Thursday we are starting a marketing campaign and will be using June and July to build up the Top 10 and to introduce them to the wider kykNET audience so that by the time we return in August, they're all already famous and people know who they are."

"We want to build their profiles so that viewers become really excited to tune in again on 5 August when the season resumes and to see how the Top 10 is whittled down over the weeks thereafter to find a winner."

Emo Adams said Covid-19 was a catalyst "for us to have to think outside of the box".

"The Covid-19 thing led to us saying 'Well, if the audience can't come to us at the theatre for a live performance to vote because it's a crowd and people have to keep a 2-metre distance, why don't we open it up for the whole of South Africa and Namibia to vote in real-time?' We're very excited about it and we found a way where we can actually make it happen."

"Instead of making the audience come to us, we're taking the vote to them and they will be able to vote."

Marguerite Albrecht says kykNET and All Star Entertainment is still working on locking down a final revised format for the remainder of the second season of Maak My Famous.

"We're just still working on tying up everything. Every time we think we have our final new format, the government changes something else."

"We're having to deal with so many changing variables. It's a very big deal for us to try and get our Namibian contestants to South Africa and we really hope that can find a way and a solution to make that happen a bit further down the line. At this stage it would have just been impossible."

"I don't think it's fair to take someone out of a competition because of something like the Covid-19 pandemic. They've made their way to this point fairly and we have to be fair as we go forward. People voted for them."


Emo Adams said "Everybody in the Top 10 is there deservingly so because they've fought for that place. Maak My Famous will do everything possible to ensure that we get them all back."

"We want to make sure and check that we're able to get into the building and venue, that we can function, that we can use our set. But those things are out of our hands at the moment. We can't predict those types of stuff."

"It might be that we have to perform against a green screen, I don't know, we don't know. But what we do know is our format will be fantastic. How we're going to package it is going to be amazing."

Marguerite Albrecht said that one of the things kykNET and Maak My Famous looked at, including American Idol's latest season in the United States, "is how to employ and use technology in case we can't get all the contestants in one place, to switch live to a contestant with a green screen in a set, and a camera team and sending a feed to us. We're still figuring it all out and every day brings new surprises."

Emo Adams said the government's rules and regulations around Covid-19 changes daily. "Then you have to go back to the drawing board and change things again. But we've already mapped out all of the possible production outcomes to figure out what route to take."


No violin-infused backstories
He says the 8 000 entries for Maak My Famous's second season shows that viewers are trusting the process.

"The show isn't about embarrassing people for 3 hours before we get to the Top 10. It's not about that. Some of us already live in embarrassment. Some of us already grow up in poverty. You don't want to go and take someone's values - the last value that they have - away from them when they come to you for help."

"We empower talent with a platform, we empower people with mentors, with airtime and then making sure that the viewer understands why. We make sure that we don't taint out viewers' view with who is standing on the stage," says Emo Adams.

"When you sit at home you see the backstory of the talent but the in-studio audience don't see that. They see the talent coming onto the stage and perform and that's what they vote on. They don't see backstories, there are no violins playing in the background to make you feel emotional because you can't base a real competition on that foundation."

Marguerite Albrecht says "One of the things I said to Emo was 'let's stay away from the big backstory. Let's just stay away. We're not going to try and influence people through that. To be dead honest, 90% of the talent in the show comes from disadvantaged backgrounds. They're going through a difficult time."

"Now, I don't want to make this a pity show. Maak My Famous is where we build people up and make them shine and we put all the spotlights in the world on them and to allow their talent to speak for them, not their circumstances."

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

China's state-run TV news channel CGTN found guilty of serious breaches of compliance over biased coverage by Britain's media regulator, faces fine for repeatedly breaching rules over its 2019's Hong Kong protest coverage.


by Thinus Ferreira

China's state-run TV news channel CGTN (DStv 409 / StarSat 266) that has been described as a propaganda channel has been found guilty of biased coverage and is facing a fine after Britain's broadcasting regulator found that CGTN repeatedly breached broadcasting rules.

Britain's Ofcom in its judgment found that CGTN broke media rules at least 5 times in programmes like The World Today and China24 in August, September and November 2019 by blatantly favouring the Hong Kong government authorities and the Chinese government in coverage and their positions and comments, and not giving protestors the same opportunities or telling or reporting on their side of the issue.

CGTN that has a very small audience in Africa is carried on MultiChoice's DStv and China's StarTimes pay-TV services across the continent.

Ofcom found that CGTN in "serious failure of compliance" for its shockingly one-sided coverage in 2019 of the Hong Kong freedom protests, saying that CGTN blatantly downplayed the aggression and attacks by law enforcement and the authorities on the public and protestors and overly-focused on violent acts committed by protesters against police.

Ofcom found that CGTN shamelessly channelled the views from the Chinese and pro-China Hong Kong authorities that the protests and protesters are bad, focusing on the economic disruption to Hong Kong business instead of why there are protests.

In one of the biased reporting cases highlighted by Ofcom, the regulator found that CGTN "made no attempt to acknowledge or explore any alternative view at any point during the item, for example, that the Hong Kong police may have played a part in escalating tensions with protesters or that violence occurred on both sides".

CGTN told Ofcom that it did acknowledge that "there has been violence used by the Hong Kong police against protesters".

CGTN told Ofcom that international viewers of CGTN were "unlikely to be surprised by the Chinese views aired on CGTN and will be able to evaluate those views in context, particularly when the audience is likely to be aware of the mainstream positions as presented on other television channels and news platforms".

Ofcom found that the "5 breaches, taken together, represent a serious failure of compliance".


ALSO READ: TV CRITIC's NOTEBOOK. Wednesday night I deleted China's CGTN app from my phone after its shocking censorship and news bias became very clear - here's why you should too.

ALSO READ: China's CGTN news channel on DStv and StarTimes's StarSat shamelessly censors its coverage of the chaotic scenes and protests in Hong Kong while its Africa Live bulletin does pandering coverage of how Chinese business and politicians shine in Africa.

Coronavirus: Some live sports returning to SuperSport in June amidst Covid-19 pandemic including Premier League, La Liga, Serie A and new Aotearoa rugby event; F1 and cricket tests coming in July.


by Thinus Ferreira

Some live sports is returning to the various SuperSport channels on MultiChoice's DStv pay-TV service as the regulations around various national lockdown periods around the world are being scaled back and which saw all sporting codes and events cancelled in a dramatic cascade-effect since late March 2020 because of the global Covid-19 pandemic. 

Earlier during Covid-19 SuperSport wasn't willing to answer any specific questions around the impact of Covid-19 or to make any executives available to speak about how SuperSport tried to adapt to the "new normal" regarding scheduling and content changes.

On Tuesday, Gideon Khobane, SuperSport CEO, speaking about the return of some international soccer matches, in a prepared statement says that "The leagues' closed-doors policy may take some getting used to, but the television product ought to be as thrilling as ever".

Next weekend will see the resumption of the Premier League with 92 matches lined up to complete the season, along with matches from the La Liga and Serie A leagues that will also likely return later during June.

From 11 June to 12 July there will be at least one La Liga fixture played each day before all 20 clubs play their final two matches simultaneously on 15 July and 19 July.

Italy approved the resumption of Serie A from 20 June after it was suspended on 9 March.

New Zealand's Aotearoa rugby event involving the Blues, Chiefs, Hurricanes, Crusaders and Highlanders will start on 13 June with all matches that will be broadcast live on SuperSport.

On Friday the Investec Coronation Cup horse race will take place in Britain and will be broadcast live on SuperSport as well.

Next week the PGA Tour golf will return on 11 June with the Charles Schwab Challenge in Texas starting a stretch of 25 weeks of tournament golf.

In July Formula One will also be back with SuperSport that will broadcast the revised season beginning in Austria on the weekend of 3 July.

In international cricket England will host West Indies for three Tests over 21 days, starting 8 July that will be shown on SuperSport. The three matches will be played behind closed doors.

Coronavirus: Production on The River telenovela for M-Net's 1Magic on DStv shutters after colleague tests positive for Covid-19, Tshedza Pictures locks studio doors for decontamination and will not do interviews.


by Thinus Ferreira

Production on The River telenovela on M-Net's 1Magic (DStv 103) channel has been forced to shut down for a second time this year because of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, this time because an unnamed person working on the show has tested positive for the virus on Tuesday morning.

The River, produced by Tshedza Pictures, restarted production on 1 May 2020 after weeks of downtime when South Africa's entire film and TV industry shuttered since late-March because of South Africa's national lockdown period to try and curb the spread of the virus.

Now the weekday primetime series produced for one of M-Net's channels and seen on MultiChoice's DStv satellite pay-TV service has locked the studio doors again.

The River has closed its doors for the set to be decontaminated and the Tzhedza Pictures producers don't want to do any interviews.

"Ever since we resumed production on 1 May 2020, all necessary lockdown health guidelines were implemented on set," says Phathu Makwarela of Tshedza Pictures in a statement.

"After we received the news of the colleague testing positive, we immediately asked the cast and crew that came into contact with the member to go into self-isolation. They will soon avail themselves to health authorities for testing, in-line with government directives."

Nomsa Philiso, channel director for local entertainment channels at M-Net, in the prepared statement says that "We have contacted the production team in order to assure them of our support".

"Our understanding is that ever since they resumed production, the production team implemented all the necessary health precautions to ensure the safety of cast and crew."

"Now more than ever, we need to show compassion to our fellow brothers and sisters, and we would like to wish the affected member of the production team a speedy recovery."

M-Net ran out of episodes for The River on 8 May 2020 which was replaced on the 1Magic schedule by Is'thunzi. After production resumed on 1 May, new episodes of The River resumed on 25 May 2020.

It's very important to note that MultiChoice, M-Net and Tshedza Pictures felt the need to specifically say that there won't be any interviews done because they want to make very clear that they don't want to talk about Covid-19 and its impact on the show, and don't want to answer any questions about it at all.

So far there's been very little evidence of South Africa's TV and film industry working on awareness campaigns and pro-active communication against the stigmatisation of Covid-19 and people with Covid-19.

This is something once again shown by the approach of MultiChoice, M-Net and Tshedza Pictures to outright tell the media that there won't be any interviews done.

TV programming, producers and South Africa's media show viewers how they themselves respond when confronted with Covid-19, and through that are teach viewers how they should react when they or someone they know tests positive for Covid-19: Hide and don't talk about it.

While fighting the scourge of Covid-19 South Africa's TV and film industry should keep in mind that it is as important to signal that there is nothing "wrong" with being Covid-19 positive, nothing to be ashamed about, and nothing to hide away for or to keep a secret.

If everybody really is "in this together" - especially South Africa's influential TV and film industry - it is extremely important to be open, forthcoming, to keep talking about Covid-19 without fear, to fight against coronavirus stigmatisation and to tell people that it's okay to say that you are Covid-19 positive, to get help, and to ask for help.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Coronavirus: South African news media devastated by Covid-19, shedding hundreds of jobs in 'media extinction event' new SANEF-study finds.


by Thinus Ferreira

The already-struggling South African news media has been left reeling and is doing triage in what has been described as a "media extinction event", trying to keep newsroom doors open as a devastating wave of layoffs and salary cuts have swept the industry over the past two months because of the ongoing Covid-19 national lockdown.

A new study by the South African National Editors' Forum (SANEF) released on Monday makes for nightmare reading that found that while the need under the public for accurate news from dwindling, credible news sources has never been greater, the cataclysmic drop in advertising income because of Covid-19 is decimating the news biz.

Hundreds of jobs have already been lost and vanished seemingly overnight in the local media pool spanning South Africa's TV, magazines, newspapers, radio and online media.

The new 32-page SANEF study paints a horrifying picture of how the Covid-19 pandemic and resulting government lockdown regulations have further eroded South Africa's news industry that is "desperately looking for new ways of sustaining itself while audience demands for timely, credible but free news surges".

The report states that South Africa's magazine industry was dealt a massive blow "with the closure of two magazine publishers with the loss of 97 jobs at the one publisher and up to 250 at the other".

"Away from the limelight, small, independent, hyperlocal print publications were also ravaged. This was in the first phase of the lockdown as small publishers were unable to access emergency funding, resulting in the loss of an estimated 300 to 400 journalistic jobs."

"Workers at three of the so-called Big 4 print media companies were forced to take salary cuts of up to 45% and temporary lay-offs have been widely implemented. It is not known how many jobs have been lost at community radio stations," the study says.

"Neither the regional and national newspapers of the Big 4 South African publishers nor broadcasting was immune to the plunge in advertising, which varies from an estimated 40% to 100%." The "Big 4" are Independent Media, Media24, Arena Holdings and Caxton & CTP.


Online news surge
The SANEF study notes how the public has sought out news and information to a higher degree than ever before because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Perhaps the biggest upside of this dark period for the industry has been the massive surge in traffic to credible online news sources."

"Traffic to news websites increased by 72% in March, while these sites saw a 44% growth in unique browsers. Many news websites saw double-digit growth in their audience numbers, with News24, Business Insider, The Citizen, Fin24, SABC and EWN growing their traffic by more than 50% in March."

"The crisis brought on by the Covid-19 lockdowns has pushed over the edge operations that were imperiled or survivalist, and arguably have highlighted fissures in the news media industry. How well the news media will emerge from the crisis will depend on the speed of the economic recovery and the attendant increase in advertising revenue."

The SANEF study says that "While print media consumption has been devastated, broadcasters and online platforms, linked to legacy print operations or not, have seen dramatic uptake in their production of news as citizens seek sources of trustworthy, credible information in the time of uncertainty around the Covid-19 pandemic."


Hundreds of jobs lost
According to the SANEF study print magazines were not granted “essential service” status in terms of government regulations for the first phase of the lockdown and can be regarded as the first media casualty of the lockdown.

"Other print publications may follow the magazine closures," the study found. "Caxton, once more, seems to have moved decisively by closing or merging freesheet titles. The company announced the closure of its North Eastern Tribune along with City Buzz and that the, "Footprints of certain local newspapers in Gauteng metropolitan areas, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and the South Coast of KwaZulu-Natal needed to be adapted for the company to provide the best solutions for readers, customers and clients in these markets."

According to the study, Carol Mohlala, executive director of the Association of Independent Publishers, estimates that 300 to 400 journalists’ jobs have been lost as small, mostly black-owned independent newspapers, often serving indigenous-language groups in far-flung rural areas, have closed and a further 700 jobs in the value chain lost.

"Notably, once heralded as the savior of print, tabloid newspapers have not proved immune. Media24 has cut back the print edition of its popular tabloid Daily Sun to four provinces: Gauteng, Limpopo, North West and Mpumalanga."

The study notes that freelance journalists and photographers have also been badly affected.

"The danger is that in South Africa and elsewhere the strong may get stronger, including the social media giants that soak up much online revenue, and the weak be victims of the competitive destruction that marks major economic downturns."

"WhatsApp, Facebook, Netflix (and other streaming services) and Zoom are among obvious beneficiaries of the work-from-home reality forced on former office workers."


Stark news audience change
The Covid-19 pandemic has heightened awareness of the value of credible news and boosted readership, viewership and listenership of broadcasting and online outlets that provide such news, the SANEF study finds.

"Newspaper readership has been devastated by the decrease in the movement of people. Andrew Gill of Arena Holdings explains that newspaper retail sales, for instance at supermarkets, took a big hit thanks to the decline in traffic, while informal street, and door-to-door, sales in e.g. townships dropped to almost zero."

"While free-to-air TV has been validated by the coronavirus, pay-TV in the form of DStv has been knocked by the unavailability of sport, arguably DStv’s major drawcard and in an era of film and TV-series streaming via the Internet, offset to some extent by MultiChoice’s own standalone Showmax online service."

"Netflix and other streaming services are bound to have been beneficiaries of the lockdown, along with social media, competing for the attention of audiences with news. However, the lockdown and confinement of many South Africans to their homes with the main link to the world outside being a computer screen has as expected boosted online news."

According to the SANEF study the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic "resulted in a surge in web traffic, most notably the news category".

"In particular, massive month-on-month growth can be seen across News24, Fin24, Citizen and BusinessInsider who all recorded more than 50% growth in unique browsers. Typical monthly variances in traffic for these top 10 sites is in the region of around 10%, which highlights the massive increase in online browsing during March 2020."

"Some advertising vanished entirely during the lockdown. Freesheets normally thick with inserts for major stores and full of other retail advertising and small classifieds shrank to eight pages of news without ads. For broadcasters, the problem is compounded by the time given to official announcements displacing commercial programming."

"A high-level SABC source notes that the Ministerial briefings have disrupted schedules and have been a 'major displacement of revenue at the SABC, but we have to do the right thing."


Media extinction event
The SANEF study notes that "Businesses already on the brink will be pushed over the edge".

"Financial problems may be multifaceted, and stem from the relationship between the paying audience and the content published. Some reflection is needed within the news business of whether journalism is offering what the audience wants and needs."

"In the time of Covid-19, magazines, and in time newspapers, may face what has been called a 'media extinction event', affecting the news industry more than the 2008 global recession, including African newspapers."

"So far, the print media has been hardest hit and this threatens to affect the amount of news being produced, with massive closures of community newspapers, and possible shrinking of newsrooms through retrenchment. Freelance journalists, a longstanding part of the supply chain of news content, are exceptionally vulnerable."

"Broadcasting will not remain unaffected. The SABC has been affected by advertising revenue declines. The corporation would have received its full bailout amount of R3,2 billion cannot ask for more from the cash-strapped fiscus. Private media houses would have to stand in line with other worthy recipients of rescue money, such as the unemployed whose numbers will be swelled."

For domestic news media, the key word in the immediate period is "survival", says the study. "Those organisations entering the crisis with serious cash-flow problems will have difficulty surviving."


'Devastating'
"While news organisations are clearly worth preserving, a thought must be given to individual journalists displaced by the wake of the Covid-19 destruction," the study says.

"Some funding could be directed towards individuals to help them cope with retrenchment and retrain for new work. South Africa no longer has a journalism union to fend for journalists."

"A return to a 'new normal' may not prevent further job losses," the SANEF study finds in its conclusions.

"So far, none of the major newspapers have been closed, but a lot depends on the way the ending of the lockdown is handled, the length and severity of the Covid-crisis-induced depression, and whether the lockdown has changed audience behaviour."

"Retrenchments and shrinking of news staff have so far been confined to print, but broadcasting has also been hit by a decline in advertising and what levels of ad revenue will return to in a depressed economy is uncertain."

Ths study notes that "the Covid-19 crisis has been devastating".

"The effect can be calculated in jobs lost – still difficult at this stage to ascertain with any certainty – and most importantly in the shrinking of the vital-for-society news ecosystem as the country and the world copes with an unprecedented economic decline."

Monday, June 1, 2020

SABC1 adds new South African hip hop docu-reality series, Blow Up Or Cave, narrated by Zubz.


by Thinus Ferreira

SABC1 is adding a new South African hip hop doc-reality series, Blow Up Or Cave, narrated the Zambian-born South African rapper Ndabaningi Mabuye, known as Zubz.

Blow Up Or Cave, making its debut on SABC1 on Monday 1 June at 21:00 will showcase some of the country's rapper and lyricists, taking viewers through the story of their lives as it introduces the so-called "new school in the hip hop fraternity" to show the craft of these music creators.

Zubz was previously the presenter of the docu-reality hip hop series Above Ground that was broadcast in 2015 on e.tv's eKasi+ channel on Openview.

Blow Up Or Cave on SABC1 will examine elements of hip hop music and culture and will serve as a preview into the new and upcoming generation of hip hop artists, producers and labels, taking viewers behind-the-scenes and into the lives of rappers who have made their mark already, as well as those on their way to the "big time".

Blow Up Or Cave will profile artists ranging from JOZI, Reason, Shugasmakx, Big Hash, Touchline, thisguthatguy, Indigo Stella and Champagne69 to Jimmy Wiz, Benny Chill, Danny Bazuka, Faith K, Dee Koala, Fonzo, Charlie Fam, SIMZ MRVL and more.

Bollywood bounces back as 4 Star Life primetime series are set to return from 8 June with new weekday episodes.


by Thinus Ferreira

Bollywood is bouncing back as international lockdowns restrictions regarding work and movement to curb the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic are starting to ease with Star Life (DStv 167  / StarSat 550 / Openview 110) that has returned 4 series to its schedule with new episodes that will debut on 8 June.

In April 2020 Indian TV channels like Star Life, Zee World and Glow TV ran out of new episodes for several shows because of the Covid-19 international shutdowns that led to schedule disruption and schedules that were altered and shows replaced by repeats.

"Lockdowns are still in place in some form or the other in different parts of the world that is still impacting our various productions," Mayank Bharara, Star Life spokesperson tells TVwithThinus, "but we are doing everything possible to bring back our powerful shows for our audiences across Africa and so we will be bringing back 3 hours of original programming in June."

"With the reduced workforce in studios, that is the maximum we can manage for now until lockdowns completely open."

On Star Life Family Affairs (18:00 to 19:00), Kulfi - The Singing Star (19:00 to 19:30), Made for Each Other (19:30 to 20:00) and Geet (20:00 to 21:00) are all back on the primetime schedule between 18:00 and 21:00.

While all 4 of these shows are back, they're showing repeats and have been rolled back a few episodes to that viewers can get a recap of where the stories were before the shows went into repeats and left the schedule.

On 7 June all 4 of these shows will align back to the point where they were on Star Life when they stopped.

"From Monday 8 June 2020 we will have all-new episodes of these 4 shows," says Mayank Bharara.

Between 21:00 and 23:00 where Star Life had The Inseparables and A Perfect Lie, the TV channel has now brought back Game of Love from 28 May due to public demand, after the end of Chasing My Heart.

"This show launched when we launched the channel in 2018 and has been our most successful show so we should have good viewership during this timeslot too," says the channel.

CNBC Africa turns 13: ABN Group says Covid-19 is a 'major test' for the TV business channel, hints at switch to a new operating model post-coronavirus.


by Thinus Ferreira

CNBC Africa (DStv 410 / StarSat 309), the Africa-localised TV business news channel franchise of the American CNBC brand is turning 13 years old today amidst the devastating global Covid-19 pandemic and says that the impact of the coronavirus has been a "major test" for the channel, hinting at a switch to a new operating model in the future post-Covid-19.

As with all South African and African media, the ABN Group that launched CNBC Africa on MultiChoice's DStv satellite pay-TV service on 1 June 2007, has felt the tremendous devastating impact of Covid-19 over the past two months.

As elsewhere, CNBC Africa saw programming advertisers and sponsors disappear while several of CNBC Africa's planned, broadcast business sessions which are sponsored content, had to be cancelled.

CNBC Africa currently has bureaus in Johannesburg (South Africa), Lagos (Nigeria) and Kigali (Rwanda) and produced roughly 8 hours of Africa-produced business and economic-related TV content per day.

Commenting about CNBC Africa's 13th anniversary, Roberta Naicker, ANB Group managing director, says that "The journey has been a game-changer in the business news genre as the channel has showcased business and economic news on the continent".

"We could not have achieved this without the commitment of the executive team and staff at CNBC Africa who have been the cornerstone of our achievement."

Sid Wahi, CNBC Africa director, says that the industry has evolved over the last decade as both content creation and distribution have radically transformed.

"Although we were the first server-based TV station in sub-Sahara Africa, that was not enough as we had to realign our processes, modernise our equipment, train our staff and consolidate the operation to meet the challenges that we were faced with."

Sid Wahi says that CNBC Africa TV channel distribution had to be addressed as well since it was a major gap in sub-Sahara Africa. After just being available on MultiChoice's DStv in 2007, CNBC Africa gained carriage to further carriage agreement contracts on other platforms as well, for instance China's StarTimes pay-TV platform.

"Covid-19 has been a major test of the channel's resolve." says CNBC Africa. "On one hand news media is considered an essential service, but on the other, there is little support in the form of advertising and sponsorships during this pandemic."

"Like all media companies, we have reached out to a lot of our long-time clients to stand by us during this extremely challenging time. The post-Covid-19 era will herald a new operating model as the experience has catalysed transformation of the business, making it more productive and efficient."

In an interview on CNBC Africa on Monday, Zafar Siddiqi, ABN Group co-founder and chairperson, about the impact of Covid-19 on the TV business said that the channel "has a steady number of viewership who are interested in business news so we generally will not lose them. So, in summary I'd say - uncertainty, again - but we should be out of the storm in roughly 12 to 18 months".

MultiChoice and M-Net add Big Brother Pepper Dem reunion show to Africa Magic on DStv to drive entries for camera-reality show's new 5th season.


by Thinus Ferreira

MultiChoice and M-Net West Africa has added a Big Brother Naija Reunion Show, starting on 1 June 2020 and that will be shown on the Africa Magic Urban (DStv 153) at 23:00 and Africa Magic Family (DStv 154) channel at 23:30 on DStv to help promote and drive entries for the new 5th season of Big Brother Nigeria.

The Big Brother Naija Pepper Reunion Show will revolve around contestants from the 4th season of Big Brother Nigeria. and episodes will be shown from Mondays to Thursdays.

"This is no spoiler alert but there will be a laughter, tears and confrontations as the ex-housemates along with Ebuka Obi-Uchendu, the show's host, revisit the events that rocked Biggie's house last season," says MultiChoice in a statement.

The reunion show will let viewers in on the lives of the Big Brother Naija Pepper Dem contestants 7 months after the show's finale.

Coronavirus: After 2 months South Africa's department of arts and culture has only paid 488 of over 5 000 artists who applied for its Covid-19 Relief Fund.

Photo: Steve Kretzmann

by Steve Kretzmann

It took 2 months before a tiny percentage of artists received any relief funding from the government. This after losing their income when theatres and performance venues shut down with immediate effect from 15 March.

Of over 5 000 applications from artists seeking relief from the department of sports, arts and culture, only 488 artists have been paid out, 8 weeks after Covid-19 relief funding for artists and athletes was announced.

A list of those who received money was published on the department’s website this week.

A R150 million relief fund, which is to be shared by artists and athletes, was announced by the department on 25 March, with criteria for applications announced on 29 March.

The submission deadline was initially set for 4 April, but was extended to 6 April because many artists were not able to obtain the necessary documents in time.

"If we cannot provide relief to artists in a period of six weeks from the date it was announced, then there’s something fundamentally wrong with the way we understand poverty," said Market Theatre CEO Ismail Mohamed during a radio interview on 7 May.

The money disbursed was capped at a maximum of R20 000 per artist or company. The R150 million set aside by the Department as a "relief fund" has also been widely criticised because the money comes out of the existing budget for productions and events that were cancelled due to the lockdown, rather than being additional emergency relief funding.

"The Department has therefore reprioritised its budget allocation from quarter one to avail over R150 million to provide the much needed relief to practitioners in the sector," said minister Nathi Mthethwa on 25 March.

In a radio broadcast interview with Eusebius McKaiser on 7 May, the department’s director-general Vusumusi Mkhize said that there were 92 163 people directly employed in the arts and culture sector.

A further 335 000 people worked in support of the industry, with the creative and cultural industry supporting a further 698 000 people in ancillary services or crew. Vusumusi Mkhize said the sector cumulatively supports 1.1 million people.

These figures were backed up by the South African Cultural Observatory. SA Cultural Observatory chief economist Jen Snowball said the creative economy contributed R74 billion to the economy in 2018, or 1.7% of the national GDP.

Snowball said that if the multiplier effect was taken into account (including people such as an accountant working for a theatre company or catering company employed in the film industry) the sector accounted for 5.5% of GDP.

The arts and culture sector had been growing at 2.4% per year from 2016 to 2018, outstripping economic growth of 1.1%, he said.

One of the 4,512 artists who applied for relief but has not yet received anything, is Cape Town film choreographer Didi Moses.

Didi Moses said she sent the department proof of cancelled contracts, email addresses and contact details of people who could verify her information, as well as her monthly expenses.

It took 6 weeks before she got a response that her application was declined, but that she could appeal.
She said her appeal email then bounced back and after much frustration she took to Twitter to try and get a response from Nathi Mthethwa.

Sixty days after her initial application, she finally got the correct email address to send her appeal. Two weeks later, she has still not gotten a response to her appeal.

Didi Moses said she cannot pay any of her bills, including her rent, and is accumulating a mountain of debt.

Even though film companies are now allowed to work with a maximum crew of 50, it did not automatically mean there would be work for crew or actors. Didi Moses, along with theatre producers and actors we spoke to, only expect to return to any form of work in 2021.

"Some artists I know can't get out of bed," she said, recounting an incident where at 02:00 she had to counsel a fellow artist who was considering suicide.

Meanwhile, the Theatre Benevolent Fund, established to assist aged or infirm theatre practitioners, has been doing what they can to bridge the gap.

In a statement released in May, the Fund said it had paid out R401 000 by way of "about 800 food vouchers" to theatre practitioners after receiving R250 000 from a private donor and R151 000 from other donors.

However, the Fund has had to close its relief fund and has welcomed independent auditing of their relief efforts.

While the disbursement of funds to 488 artists is welcomed, numerous questions about transparency remain, among them the tenders awarded to companies to run live streaming of artists’ work on digital platforms.

Questions sent to the ministerial spokesperson, department spokesperson, and chief director of communications and marketing on the evening of 25 May were not answered by the time of publication on Friday 29 May.

Read this article on GroundUp.

Friday, May 29, 2020

M-Net adds terrific winter TV dramas on DStv for June, July and September with Emma Thompson, Mark Ruffalo and Ethan Hawke series.


by Thinus Ferreira

M-Net is adding terrific new programming for the upcoming winter months on DStv with premium American and British series that will bring marquee-names like Emma Thompson, Mark Ruffalo and Ethan Hawke to television in dramatic roles.

On Thursday night M-Net (DStv 101) gave the media an update during a Zoom-webinar held press briefing on upcoming June, July and September programming on the premium-positioned pay-TV channel that will include the terrific 6-episode HBO and BBC miniseries Years and Years starring Emma Thompson as a Donald Trump-like demagogue - with a secret - whose rise to power in Britain has terrible consequences for the country.

The second season of the medical drama series New Amsterdam is back on M-Net (DStv 101) from Monday 1 June at 19:00, along with The Block Australia season 12 returning (Wednesday 3 June at 18:00), as well as the 5th season of the Showtime series Billions starting on Tuesday 23 June at 22:00).

M-Net also has the start of some final seasons including Homeland (Thursday 11 June at 21:00) and Will & Grace (Saturday 27 June), and the Emma Thompson miniseries from HBO and the BBC, Years and Years, starting on Monday 22 June at 22:00.

In the terrific 6-episode Years and Years - set in the very uncertain now and an unnervingly prescient first episode followed by gradual time-jumps to show the societal changes - Emma Thompson plays a business woman who becomes a conservative politician in Britain as the country grapples with issues ranging from vast technological change, structural financial problems, immigration, and global instability that have a very real-world impact on ordinary families.

Tracy-Ann Van Rooyen, M-Net senior manager for content acquisition and scheduling, said that Years and Years has fascinating characters who are "thrust 15 years into the future with a controversial, conservative business woman, turned political figure, who has all of these opinions that polarise the nation - which I'm sure sounds familiar right now".



"In July we've also got some great new titles for you. We spoke at the beginning of the year about Lincoln Rhyme: Hunt for the Bone Collector based on The Bone Collector series, that comes to M-Net in July, and also we've got a really great series which is also a reboot but a very exciting reboot on the 1960's Perry Mason, with this HBO series starring Matthew Rhys."

"Then, of course, we have Mark Ruffalo coming to television, starring as the twin brothers Dominick and Thomas Birdsey in the new miniseries I Know This Much is True novel of Wally Lamb. It's a much deeper, sadder version of Rain Main I suppose, if they were twins," said Tracy-Ann van Rooyen.



"In August we've got a lot of really great returning series that I'm really excited for, Nathan Fillion comes back in The Rookie. Christine Baranski comes back in the 4th season of The Good Fight - there's only 7 episodes of The Good Fight because that's how many they managed to get through before Covid-19 shut down Los Angeles."

"Britain's Got Talent comes through in August on M-Net and then in September on M-Net followed by America's Got Talent with Simon Cowell who of course released the clip of the man who was put in prison for 35 years and is now released, so please keep your eyes open for those starting dates in our 18:00 reality slot."




Tracy-Ann van Rooyen said "something that I'm really excited to talk to you about is Ethan Hawke is coming to TV in this exciting TV drama called The Good Lord Bird which is basically the story of American abolitionist John Brown told through a fictional character who is a young boy".

"It's in a time of slavery in the United States and it's based on a true story of how John Brown who was an abolitionist but unfortunately he wasn't able to instigate the uprising that he wanted in terms of the slave uprising. M-Net will come through with that Showtime title Express from the US."



"That's all I have to share with you guys," said Tracy-Ann van Rooyen. "Usually this time it's questions and answers but right now in times of Covid-19 it's just me talking - which is great because I love to talk. Keep warm and stay safe."

MultiChoice marks another big South African television first as M-Net becomes the country's first TV channel to do an entirely online media screening and press conference for a local show as the second season of The Bachelor SA ends.


by Thinus Ferreira

MultiChoice and M-Net made more South African television history on Thursday night, 28 May 2020, when the M-Net channel on DStv became the first-ever South African TV channel to do a fully virtual media event and press conference for a local TV production as the premium-positioned pay-TV channel brought the second season of The Bachelor South Africa to a close.

Thursday night's truly massive online media gathering - held on Zoom and organised by M-Net's veteran head of publicity, Lani Lombard - successfully brought together dozens of journalists representing South Africa's national entertainment media spanning newspapers, magazines, radio and online (including a journalist currently residing in Thailand).

It also included high-ranking M-Net executives, Rapid Blue producers, sponsors, and several MultiChoice and M-Net staffers.

M-Net's comprehensive webinar-styled press event for The Bachelor South Africa included all the top M-Net programming, scheduling and content executives including Jan du Plessis (M-Net channels director), Kaye Ann Williams (M-Net senior manager for commissioned content), Terja Beney (commissioning editor) and Tracy-Ann Van Rooyen (M-Net senior manager for content acquisition and scheduling).

Also included in the Zoom media get-together were The Bachelor SA's Rapid Blue executive producers Kee-Leen Irvine and Donald Clarke, as well as The Bachelor SA series director Nick Archer.

Some global TV channels and international streaming services have been doing a few carousel-interviews with selected on-screen talent as part of online-shifted press junkets for some foreign series, films and TV specials the past two months using Zoom and Google Meet after their publicity plans had to be retooled because of the global Covid-19 pandemic.

None of these have however gone as far as M-Net (DStv 101) that on Thursday night broke new ground into a brave new online world and earned another footnote in South African television history.

M-Net became the first-ever South African TV channel to do a pre-event online party (complete with DJ Louis playing music), an in-app content screening of an entire hourlong episode and viewing party, followed by an entirely virtually held post-show press conference with the media for a locally-produced South African series.

It's an achievement and big-idea publicity initiative that not even a video streamer like Netflix South Africa was able to pull off or apparently even wanted to try and muster for some of its recently released new local South African fare.


Before Thursday night's web engagement M-Net earlier this week couriered an M-Net embroidered fleece gown, socks, hot chocolate and a box of chocolate nougat biscuits as part of a press drop to the media spread out across South Africa including Durban, Port Elizabeth, Cape Town and Johannesburg.

This happened as journalists and editors received a successive series of recorded, instructional and entertaining video messages on their cellphones over days from The Bachelor SA host Jason Greer with step-by-step instructions on what to do next and how to prepare for the Zoom media event.

Multiple media members on Thursday night appeared in their blocks on the Zoom meeting video grid wearing their M-Net gowns.

They first mingled and chatted online, and then watched the second season finale of The Bachelor SA that was shown on one of the feeds inside the Zoom meeting at the same time as the linear broadcast of the show's final episode went out on the M-Net (DStv 101) channel.

That was followed with a post-show, in-Zoom press briefing where M-Net executives, The Bachelor SA director and producers, and Marc Buckner and Marisia van Wyk, took various questions from the media.


As if the M-Net online media event exercise wasn't already impressive enough, M-Net further stacked the press engagement with a highly-valuable and informative content presentation done by Tracy-Ann Van Rooyen highlighting the new upcoming international content coming to the M-Net channel.



More impressive than the well-executed and engaging pre-event online Q&A between Jason Greer and Lani Lombard done from a special Linden studio, and more impressive than the real-world and virtual world logistics and organising that went into the media meeting was that it lasted for 3 and a half hours.

It's extremely impressive when taking into account that the bulk of the signed-up South African media not only chose to stay online, but also remained interested in M-Net and the channel's content and its presentation, and were highly engaged for all of it for the entire multi-hour time.


ALO READ: Marc Buckner chooses shy Marisia, slips a 'forever baby girl'-engraved ring on her finger in the second season finale of The Bachelor SA as M-Net makes South African television history with a virtual video post-show press briefing.
ALSO READ: From ladies living in lockdown to Zoom etiquette tutorials: The behind-the-scenes secrets of putting this week's second season finale of The Bachelor SA on M-Net together.
ALSO READ: Season 2 of The Bachelor SA on M-Net to end with unique remote video conclusion followed by a special M-Net online pyjama reunion episode. 

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Marc Buckner chooses shy Marisia, slips a 'forever baby girl'-engraved ring on her finger in the second season finale of The Bachelor SA as M-Net makes South African television history with a virtual video post-show press briefing.


by Thinus Ferreira

In a fairytale ending perfect for television, Marc Buckner (36) said no to Bridget Marshall and yes to the 24-year old shy speech therapist Marisia van Wyk as the Cape Town-based bachelor took out a beautiful Jack Friedman ring, slipped it on her finger and told her that "I don't want this journey to end with you" in the highly-anticipated second season finale of The Bachelor South Africa that was broadcast Thursday evening on M-Net (DStv 101).

"I think we make a great couple. And I don't want this journey to end with you," said Marc Buckner as a more whimsical version of the show's theme song "Different Feeling" by Daniel Baron swelled and he took out a ring that that on the inside has the inscription "Stronger together, forever, baby girl".

"I really am falling for you," said Marc Buckner, "and, uhm, I want to ask if you will accept this as a symbol of a relationship that I think is so amazing, and I would like it to keep going forward."

Marisia van Wyk said "Wow, I don't have words. I think I came onto this journey and, uhm, it's been tough. It's been tough. I've really fallen for you. And I don't know. There's just something with you that I've never felt with anyone before, which is good for me".

"I know there's this age gap but it doesn't really mean anything to me because I think my feelings for you mean so much more. So I just want to focus on that and focus on us, and then hopefully grow together."

Marc said "That's exactly how I feel. None of that stuff bothers me because I know you are so mature" and "I can't believe all of this has led to us. And it's ..."

The Bachelor SA second season finale on M-Net, produced by Rapid Blue as a local adaptation of the Warner Bros. International Television Production (WBITVP) format, stood in contrast to the first season that ended in romantic failure.

This time The Bachelor South Africa gave DStv subscribers exactly what they wanted: A beautifully-filmed and happily-in-love ever-after conclusion at the magical Kapama Game Resort for viewers who kept tuning in week after week to the buzz-making show that besides linear viewing has a big audience on MultiChoice's DStv Now Catch Up streaming service and punched far above its weight in weekly social media buzz.

With the content and structure of the broadcast of the second season finale which had to be adjusted because of the global Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic - and the resulting lockdown also affecting South Africa and the country's entire TV and film industry - M-Net forged ahead and marked another South African television milestone.


With The Bachelor SA M-Net became the first South African TV channel in the country's television history to hold a virtual viewing party for the country's national media, followed by the first and completely online and interactive, post-show press conference ever done for a local South African TV production.

Besides media, M-Net's large Thursday night video press conference for The Bachelor South Africa included all the top M-Net programming, scheduling and content executives including Jan du Plessis (M-Net channels director), Kaye Ann Williams (M-Net senior manager for commissioned content), Terja Beney (commissioning editor) and Tracy-Ann Van Rooyen (M-Net senior manager for content acquisition and scheduling).

Also included in the Zoom media get-together were The Bachelor SA's Rapid Blue executive producers Kee-Leen Irvine and Donald Clarke, as well as The Bachelor SA series director Nick Archer.

In The Bachelor SA finale Marc Buckner and Marisia van Wyk revealed that they've been living together during lockdown in South Africa - a secret they've been successfully keeping for a while, and that they've also taken a "secret" trip to Thailand.



Bridget: "I wanted to run away and go cry'
Later in the episode, M-Net broadcast The Bachelor South Africa host Jason Greer's pre-recorded video calls with some of the women.

After this M-Net also placed a The Bachelor SA Pyjama Afterparty reunion show on the M-Net website where it can be viewed indefinitely, and that replaced the Women Tell All broadcast hour that usually precedes the finale.

After Marc told Bridget Marshall that "our journey must end here" - the segment of the final two women that was filmed first - Bridget said during the finale broadcast that "I think I just went into shock. All I wanted to do was turn around and run away and go cry".

"You go along this journey in front of mostly the whole of South Africa and then you get to that point and you get your heart broken in front of thousands of people watching you. It's just - you freeze."


"Being the girl who didn't walk away with Marc, it's upsetting. You want that closure," said Bridget Marshall later in the episode when she and Marc appeared in a video-call in a segment together with Jason Greer asking the questions.

Marc said that "I'm exceptionally happy with choosing Marisia. I don't know how it would have been choosing you, Bridget because I think that you are also an amazing person."

"At the end of the day I need to make a decision and I have to go with - even though we've done so much together and we've spent a fair bit of time together, I only have that to go with. I just thought that maybe Marisia and I are more compatible."

"I did cry a lot," said Bridget. "It's only natural and normal for me to be upset about the situation."

"I've had the time to kind of heal and move on and I'm in a good place and I'm happy and I'm happy for them. I love both of them and I'm not angry. I don't want to fight with him because  - I don't hate you Marc."

Marc said that "this whole thing is much more difficult than anyone realises and it's more difficult than any of us knew going into it. And the further into it you get - like Bridget and I, Marisia and I - we were there until the end."

"It's stressful because one, you don't want to make the wrong choice; no-one ever knows what the right choice is - it's just a different outcome. And I don't want to hurt Marisia and I don't want to hurt Bridget."

Bridget said that she was still single - "it's lockdown Jason".



Marc and Marisia living together after Thailand tour
"We have kind of fast-tracked a few things now that we're living together, due to lockdown," said Marc later in another segment done from his Cape Town home with Marisia.

When Jason Greer asked about the ring, Marc said "just seeing her with it and the way that she lit up with it, and then there's a little inscription inside by the way - it says stronger together, forever, baby girl".

"We both thought it would be a great idea to move in together during lockdown because when you're not seeing each other  - it's the beginning of a relationship, it's hard to build that trust, and to have that trust going without knowing that that person's there."

"With any relationship at the beginning, you spend as much time as possible together."

About their secret Thailand trip Marc said that he and Marisia are "good travel buddies. We like similar things. It's more about the experience than fancy things - just exploring as much as possible. We never really sat at the hotel and did nothing."

Marisia said "We've grown as individuals, but also together and for me that's such an important thing - not only growing together but also encouraging each other to grow as individuals".

"That's why I hold onto this relationship. I really want this and I want to fight for this and I would go to the end of the world for this to work out because I do feel like my heart is really here and I do not want to be anywhere else."


ALSO READ: MultiChoice marks another big South African television first as M-Net becomes the country's first TV channel to do an entirely online media screening and press conference for a local show as the second season of The Bachelor SA ends.
ALSO READ: From ladies living in lockdown to Zoom etiquette tutorials: The behind-the-scenes secrets of putting this week's second season finale of The Bachelor SA on M-Net together.
ALSO READ: Season 2 of The Bachelor SA on M-Net to end with unique remote video conclusion followed by a special M-Net online pyjama reunion episode.

Coronavirus: Holy home-cast, Batman! e.tv News anchor Annika Larsen adds her dog to the primetime TV news bulletin - and in the process a lot of humanity.


by Thinus Ferreira

Instead of trying to keep Batman at bay, the etv News anchor Annika Larsen has given up and has now incorporated one of her dogs into her nightly TV news bulletin broadcast, bringing the Boston terrier to primetime in another first for South African television news.

The dog made his first appearance on Monday 18 May 2020 when e.tv shifted its etv News nightly TV news broadcast from its e.tv Cape Town building in the Zonnebloem suburb in Cape Town to the home of anchor Annika Larsen.

The e.tv News team was forced to craft the home bulletin broadcast plan after the death of cameraman Lungile Tom of Covid-19 that saw the eMedia Investments e.tv Cape Town building and studio complex shutter for a deep-clean.

On the first night the two dogs barked outside and were audible in the background after which Annika Larsen let them back in during a video intro with Batman who made a surprise in-bulletin cameo on the same night. 

Since then the spotlight-stealing dog has stayed, with the animal that has brought a unique touch of humanity to e.tv's national TV news broadcast while his mom secretly feeds him little biscuits to keep him quiet.



"I've got a new trick now. I give him little treats under the table so that he doesn't bark and drive us all crazy," says Annika Larsen, whose laptop is propped up on a thick book from her bookshelf with a chair for Batman on viewers' right hand side of the screen as she does the news from her living room table.

"I am not kidding when I tell you that Batman actually thinks he is getting ready for work. He thinks he is human and doesn't leave me for a minute. So he sits next to me and preps for the show like he should," says Annika Larsen.

To the dog she's said "If you bark during mommy's work time mommy's going to get fired, okay?" Mommy will get fired. No barking. Good boy, good boy."

The unplanned and unscripted addition of the dog to TV news otherwise filled with grim reports and statistics about the devastating impact of the Covid-19 novel coronavirus in South Africa and globally - something that could have gone spectacularly wrong or could have seem contrived - has brought a softer, warmer tone to the country's otherwise stark South African primetime TV news-scape. 

It's likely that several viewers are now not just tuning in to the 20:00 etv News on e.tv to find out the news but to see if the dog might appear, what Batman might do, and how the news anchor will play dog-mom. 

e.tv says that for the duration of South Africa's Covid-19 national lockdown period, the Terrier will stay in the TV news frame.


ALSO READ: Coronavirus: e.tv makes South African television history with the country's first done-from-home TV news bulletin broadcast as anchor Annika Larsen tells viewers 'We feel that you're family, and so you're welcome into our living room'.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

INTERVIEW. Filmmaker Rick Kirkman on his Surviving Joe Exotic TV special on Investigation Discovery: 'I had much worse video and a whole lot worse things occurred at the zoo that never made it to air.'


by Thinus Ferreira

The filmmaker Rick Kirkham, the former producer of a reality series for the eccentric and now jailed Joe Exotic, is speaking out in a brand-new must-see TV special, Surviving Joe Exotic, coming to Investigation Discovery (DStv 171) on 11 June and says viewers will now get the chance to find out how it was that he got chosen to enter the zoo where his life turned into hell and how he tried to tell the "Tiger King" story.

Earlier this year the Tiger King documentary series had people stare in disbelief at the true-life tale of Joe Exotic - a series that includes Rick Kirkham as a former producer who was making his own show about Joe Exotic who ended up losing his footage in an arson fire after a fallout with the Tiger King.

In the new special Surviving Joe Exotic coming to Investigation Discovery (DStv 171) on 11 June at 21:50 viewers will see Rick Kirkham, who now lives in Norway, open up about how it all came to be and what has happened in his life since.

TVwithThinus got on the phone to Norway and spoke with Rick Kirkham about Surviving Joe Exotic and the surreal story he became part of.


What will viewers see in this Surviving Joe Exotic documentary on Investigation Discovery?
Rick Kirkham: I wouldn't call Surviving Joe Exotic a documentary, it's more a story of who I am and how I ended up going through this and how I became part of Joe Exotic's life.
What viewers are going to see is how I live my life now after having survived G.W. Zoo and survived not only that, but survived the making of and the airing of the Tiger King series itself. I've been through a lot of hell since that series came out because of the number of people who wanted to interview me and wanted to get to know me.


And would you say you sort of feared for your life afterwards or is that not one of the concerns?
Rick Kirkham: No, no. I have not feared for myself in any way. Joe Exotic is in jail where he belongs and the thing I more fear is the intrusion because of the number of journalists who had come here to Bodø in Norway where I live, trying to get interviews. It's been kind of nuts.


When did you realise that your life has changed because of Joe Exotic and Tiger King?
Rick Kirkham: I realised about an hour after the documentary started airing in California on the premiere night.
My phone here in Norway started ringing off the hook, my email addresses - all 3 of them, my Facebook messages started filling up from people wanting to ask me "is this real?" and "Hey, are you Rick?" and on and on.
Immediately I started doing interviews with some of the legitimate TV and newspaper journalists. The main thing was that the nightmares for me started coming back because everybody day and night was Joe Exotic related. The nightmares started coming back.
Within a couple weeks of the Netflix debut of Tiger King I had to start seeing a therapist again, and I'm still seeing that therapist now to help deal with all of this attention. You have to remember that Tiger King is all about Joe Exotic, not Rick Kirkham.
Joe Exotic happens to be stuck in prison for the next 22 years, so who is the next person to get the attention? Rick Kirkham. So it's the luck of the draw that while the series came out and did a good job, I'm the one who has the responsibility now of being here for it.


It's quite a while back but I'm wondering, during the filming of what was your show, when did you - being around Joe Exotic - did you realise that Joe wasn't quite the person that he appeared to be? And what did you think at the time because you kept filming but you started to have reservations about him?
Rick Kirkham: There was a specific moment. There came a point when I was shooting a reality TV series at the zoo and about three months into it I had my crew build a caged throne - an actual big chair - made out of solid wood and red velvet and I started telling Joe that we'll call you the Tiger King, that "you're the king of the tigers".
Anyway, we built this throne and we put it out into the middle of a big cage with real tigers running around and have him sitting in it and standing up and draw his gun and saying "Hi, I'm Joe Exotic, I'm the Tiger King". And it went to his head.
After that day he was not the same person. All of a sudden in his head he thought he was the king of tigers; that he could get away with anything and that he didn't have to hide any of the abuse anymore, he didn't have to hide the fact that he was an asshole.
Building that throne and putting him on it - you can imagine, if somebody gives you a king's throne and you sit down and then a trumpet blares - "ta-ta-ra-daa" - it went to his head.


What will you talk about in Surviving Joe Exotic? Why should people make sure they watch it?
Rick Kirkham: Surviving Joe Exotic is really a story about my reaction - what I went through making it.
It also tells more of a story of how I came to go there in the first place, who I was before I went to the zoo, and why I was the person to take the job to film at the zoo.
If you want to know the story of how it is that Rick Kirkham himself came to be at the zoo - which is a story in itself - this special will tell you.
It also goes on to tell you what it's been like going through all the therapy I've gone through after having worked at the zoo; after having had the Tiger King series come out; the fact that I'm still seeing a therapist.
Surviving Joe Exotic will give you an idea of who I am instead of just Tiger King's Rick. Viewers can find out how it was that Rick got chosen and was willing to go into the zoo and who was the person who was chosen to tell the Tiger King story.


Wherever you are now in the Nordics, how was that adjustment moving there, and can you see yourself moving back to the United States or elsewhere in the future?
Rick Kirkham: I now live in a town called Bodø in Norway, it's in northern Norway, we are in the Arctic Circle and I'm from Texas, so obviously this is a very different place than Texas.
In Texas right now it's probably 85 to 95 ºF (29 °C) while here we're sitting at the beginning of summer and it's probably 45 ºF (7 °C), so a very different place. We don't get snow in Texas. We get a lot of snow in northern Norway.
I came here for one reason and one reason alone: Yes, I wanted to get away from America, I wanted to get away from Texas and Oklahoma where that zoo was, but more than that I had a girlfriend online that I've had for 10 years prior to that and I decided to come here and marry her. And that's exactly what I did.
So I came to Bodø and told her "I'm marrying you" and that was 2 years ago and I couldn't be more happy - we're soulmates.
Living in Scandinavia is a wonderful place, I love it. I don't like the weather necessarily but the people are wonderful and quite honestly, living in America right now at this moment in time isn't the best place to be these days for political reasons.
I'm very anti-Trump and I don't like what's happening in my country right now so I'm just happy to stay right here. Will I ever go back to America? I'll go back to visit but I will live and die in Bodø.


Part of the fascination with Joe Exotic I think is also because everything feels so surreal but it's not made up but people struggle to believe it. How would you describe, having more perspective now, how do you look back at this surreal story that you became part of as you tried to document it?
Rick Kirkham: You know, if somebody had written a book called Joe Exotic: Tiger King, nobody would have believed it. You just wouldn't have believed it.
The very fact that Netflix was able to get enough of the video that we had put online or we had in the cloud and actually show you that this is real, that is the only reason people believe it.
And let me be honest with you, I had much worse video and much crazier video and events on tape of Joe Exotic than what we could ever have dreamt about and that people can't see because it burnt in the fire.
So if you think that the Netflix Tiger King series was stunning, that's nothing compared to really went on. There was a whole lot more and a whole lot worse things that occurred at the zoo that never made it to air simply because there was no video. And who would have believed this series if it were just a book? Nobody.


Have you maybe thought of what you want to do next as a filmmaker?
Rick Kirkham: I don't know.
I'm so confused over what I've gone through. I've been going day and night - and in my dreams even - and seeing a therapist over Joe Exotic for 6 months now.
I'm not sure what I want to do next. I will obviously do a documentary of some sort. But it will probably be looking back and taking and creating a sequel to my original film, TV Junkie, that was about my life in 2006.


ALSO READ: Filmmaker Rick Kirkham to reveal more uncensored truths and stories in Surviving Joe Exotic TV special on ID Investigation Discovery on 11 June 2020.

From ladies living in lockdown to Zoom etiquette tutorials: The behind-the-scenes secrets of putting this week's second season finale of The Bachelor SA on M-Net together.


by Thinus Ferreira

The arrival of lockdown because of Covid-19 abruptly altered the originally planned, key light bright second season finale of The Bachelor South Africa that had been slotted into the M-Net (DStv 101) schedule months ago already and that will now be broadcast this coming Thursday evening at 19:00.

The Rapid Blue production team - working on a hopefully happy ending for the second season of the local adaptation of the Warner Bros. International Television Production (WBITVP) format - had to adapt and change the gameplan in putting Thursday's upcoming finale on M-Net together.

Some of the challenges ranged from having to deal with the ladies stuck in place because of lockdown across South Africa and Namibia, making it impossible to get them all back for a "Women Tell All" studio-seated reunion.

The show also had to help them to suddenly find their way through do-it-yourself video set-ups, providing them with Zoom "finishing school" masterclasses.

Then there was also the race against time to get equipment to locations, while trying to direct and edit a fitting finale without making it come across as a low-resolution clip show filled with webcam content.

On Thursday evening viewers will be able to tune in for the second season finale of The Bachelor SA as an hourlong "lockdown episode" on M-Net.

The usual preceding "Women Tell All" hourlong episode that was originally planned has been removed from the M-Net broadcast schedule by the pay-TV channel's execs - likely done to help lessen local production pressure on the show because of Covid-19 - and has been replaced with a The Bachelor SA Pyjama Afterparty reunion webisode.

This will roll out on the M-Net website on Thursday night right after the linear televised finale is broadcast on the M-Net channel on DStv.

The Bachelor SA Pyjama Afterparty online webcast will feature short clips that viewers can tune in to at their leisure. It will be embedded on the M-Net website as a special event to view indefinitely.

Meanwhile, the televised The Bachelor SA finale will combine the last of the footage that the love finding show filmed pre-corona in late-2019 including bachelor Marc Bucker's choice (if he makes one), new Zoom call footage with some of the women, and a look at what happened "after the final rose".

With a limitation on travel in cities, no domestic flights, and an ongoing ban regarding travel across provinces still in effect in South Africa - combined with strict social distancing rules - it is impossible to reveal, even if it was known, whether Marc will appear in-person in any post-Covid-19 scenes with either or both the speech therapist Marisia, or the extrovert Bridget who have been the last two women left.

M-Net is only willing to confirm that "Marc will be speaking to the final two ladies in some way or another while being in lockdown at his home".



Zhooshing up for Zoom
In terms of the production challenges around prepping and recording Thursday's finale, M-Net tells TVwithThinus that "Marc and all the various ladies have remained in lockdown at home or with loved ones".

"Andeline, for example, went to her family in Namibia just before lockdown had started and some of the ladies, who found love after not receiving a rose on the show, found new love and are spending lockdown with their new beaus," says M-Net.

 "A special shout out as well to soldier Tamryn from Pretoria who has been working keeping South Africans safe."

Asked about challenges the production says that doing The Bachelor SA finale in the time of Covid-19 presented a couple of challenges since it was completely new territory.

"Some of the challenges included communicating with the various ladies and obtaining various responses timeously, establishing their data connection speeds and access to technological equipment, and delivering relevant equipment within lockdown protocol where necessary."

Then, the women who are video-calling in, now have to do their own hair and make-up, and styling.

Of course video conference call etiquette classes is something that has suddenly become a much-needed requirement for reality TV stars when they are filmed remotely from their homes.

There are no floor managers and production assistants who can rush in from the off-camera side-closet or who can peek out from behind the bookshelf to make adjustments to webcam heights or to try and improve audio feeds.

Neither are there make-up artists who can quickly rush on-set to do powder touch-ups during ad breaks.

It was necessary to do some training for the women "on how best to present themselves during a Zoom interview and being cognisant of backgrounds, camera positions and posture," says the show.

"The most difficult part was putting together a high-quality production that allowed the ladies to be part of the show given the challenges of lockdown," says M-Net.

Host Jason Greer filmed the final interviews in-studio with the correct Covid-19 health and safety protocols that were followed and permits in place, with M-Net that says that the look and feel of the studio for the second season finale is on par with The Bachelor SA brand identity. "We believe that viewers will really enjoy this unique finale".


ALSO READ: Season 2 of The Bachelor SA to end with unique remote video conclusion followed by a special M-Net online pyjama reunion episode.