Tuesday, March 11, 2014

DATELINE LAGOS: M-Net's message to, and about, gay people working in the film and television industry in Africa: 'No comment'.

What does M-Net in Africa have to say about, and to, and possibly in support of, the many gay people working in film and television across the continent?


Several African countries from Uganda to Nigeria have seen a sharp rise in anti-gay sentiment and anti-gay laws directly affecting the lives of gay people working in TV and film.

Africa's growing rise of anti-gay sentiment is in stark contrast to African countries such as South Africa which is considered "gay friendly" and where discrimination based on sexual orientation is not allowed.

Growing fears of prosecution are however permeating the film and television industries of several African nations where gay people work in front of, and behind the scenes.

Many keep their sexual orientation a secret although their work - on-screen and off-camera - is watched, enjoyed and beloved by millions.

These silent, yet highly creative people, don't want to risk speaking out, fearing government prosecution, industry banishment, negative viewer backlash or personal harm.

Gay people - just like in South Africa - work as professionals and can be found throughout all the echelons of all of Africa's local film and television industries, ranging from make-up artists and performers, actors, camera operators, directors, editors, set builders, scriptwriters, producers, publicist and executives.

In Lagos, Nigeria, TV with Thinus asked Biola Alabi, M-Net Africa's managing director for special projects, during a press conference on Saturday, whether from M-Net's side, there is any message about, or to, the many gay people working in Africa's film and TV industry - given the rise in anti-gay sentiment in countries across Africa where film and television make a significant and growing annual contribution to economies.

In answer to the question Biola Alabi said "no comment".

M-Net as a pan-African broadcaster and as a pay-TV broadcaster - packaging TV channels for MultiChoice's DStv and GOtv and producing a myriad of shows from soaps such as Tinsel to reality shows like Big Brother Africa - not only holds sway over a growing TV business worth billions, but also employs and uses the creative work and talents of many gay people.

Through this M-Net carries influence - not just because the powerhouse TV company is a multinational media company making a lot of money and directs spending and production - but also for what it can show or say or is showing on its airwaves - or decides not to.

It's interesting and noteworthy that M-Net is not yet ready or in a position to have a public position regarding this escalating matter and which directly affects many people across Africa's film and TV biz.