Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The NFVF once again damages the credibility of the Saftas: Blocks the SABC's Uzalo and Muvhango to be voted for by viewers as Most Popular Soap for 2016.

Controversy is once again erupting around the credibility of the South African Film and Television Awards that is blocking viewers this year from voting for the public broadcaster's hugely popular soaps Uzalo and Muvhango - while suddenly adding additional categories after talks with the SABC.

The Saftas that in previous years drew criticism over the credibility of the awards, previously locked out 7de Laan (2012), Binnelanders and Villa Rosa (2013) and Muvhango (2014) from the Most Popular Soap category that viewers vote for. In 2012 e.tv for instance pulled its soaps Rhythm City and Scandal! as well as all its other shows from the award show.

The National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) that runs the Saftas, forces TV productions to enter other categories every year or otherwise be completely disqualified and banned from the Most Popular Soap category - the one in which viewers vote and decide the winner.

It means that once again for the 10th Saftas set to take place on 18 and 20 March, it will be a hollow win for whatever soap gets the most votes as Most Popular Soap since the group is once again incomplete and not a full representation of their TV screens and what viewers should be able to vote for.

Ironically Uzalo is the most popular and most watched soap and TV show in South Africa and highest rated show and soap on SABC1. Based on TV ratings and ARs, the currency of South Africa's TV industry, Uzalo would win.

Muvhango meanwhile is the most watched soap and number one rated programme on SABC2 but will be completely invisible at this year's Saftas.

The Saftas says that it promotes and honours diversity in South Africa's film and TV industry, but ironically has now locked out the Venda soap for two years in a row from the most popular category - a prime example of the very type of show it should be seen as celebrating.

The NFVF in a statement says the Saftas "are aligned to the NFVF's mandate of growing and developing the industry through showcasing and celebrating of our country's diversity - languages, and regional representation".

The Saftas confirms to TVwithThinus that viewers are blocked from voting for Uzalo - regionally filmed in KwaMashu in KwaZulu-Natal - and Muvhango.

"Muvhango did not enter the Saftas this year," says Naomi Mokhele, NFVF spokesperson. "Therefore as per the awards' guidelines, only soapies that were submitted for entry into the Saftas can be considered for the awards categories".

As to why Uzalo, the hugely popular SABC1 weekday soap isn't eligible and included, Naomi Mokhele says "the producers entered it as a drama and not a soapie".

Meanwhile, after talks with the SABC's chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng who was unhappy about a perceived lack of transformation, the NFVF has suddenly added more categories to this year's Saftas after it already announced the nominees for all the categories.

It's not clear why the NFVF agreed to suddenly add new categories to the 2016 Saftas less than a month before the award show, instead of properly phasing it in for subsequent editions when the nomination process starts again towards the end of this year.  

"The two parties agreed that urgent attention is required to transform the industry and ensure that the Saftas become more inclusive," said the SABC and the NFVF in a joint statement. 

The SABC and the NFVF agreed that productions that feature African languages, women and people with disabilities will now be considered with a special "window period opened to accommodate them before the awards".

Now the NFVF suddenly added what it calls "three new special awards" to the 10th Saftas, including a special Disability Recognition Award. It's not clear whether people will have to enter for these new awards - as the Saftas requires for other categories - or whether the Saftas will identify and self-select winners. 

"We are constantly refining the process of the Saftas, guidelines for submissions and the judging process," says Zama Mkosi, NFVF CEO.

"There is an overwhelming commitment by the NFVF to broaden participation of previously disadvantaged individuals and groupings in the complete value chain of the film and television industry".