Friday, May 13, 2016

M-Net shows lack of transparency in how it deals with allegations of on-set racism; doesn't want to release findings of investigation into Mzansi Magic's Ring of Lies incident.

M-Net doesn't want to release details of the now concluded investigation into alleged on-set racism on its Mzansi Magic (DStv 161) Ring of Lies set, leading to questions about the pay-TV broadcaster's apparent lack of transparency in how it deals with on-set flare-ups of possible race-related conflicts.

An investigation has concluded after an ugly on-set fight on Tuesday at the Penguin Films produced Ring of Lies telenovela that cast members publicly slammed as racist, with actress Florence Masebe who called it a "horrible racist incident" and saying that "racism is out here dancing on out set".

Fellow cast member Dineo Nchabeleng on Tuesday called the alleged racist altercation "the 2nd incident we've had on the set of Ring of Lies today" and said that "we have been dealing with this bullsh*t since the beginning of the shoot".

After the ugly on-set verbal altercation between a director and art director during a day that allegedly also saw hot tea thrown in someone's face, M-Net and Penguin Films hunkered down to investigate the matter, without stopping production on the new boxing telenovela that's made for the pay-TV broadcaster's Mzansi Magic channel on MultiChoice's DStv satellite pay-TV platform.

Amidst the lingering on-set tension and mounting pressure surrounding the incident and with Florence Masebe on Wednesday saying she stands by everything she said, at least one crew member has departed Ring of Lies.

M-Net, that said the Penguin Films investigation concluded on Wednesday.

M-Net is however not willing to say what the findings of the investigation are, whether racism was part of the on-set brouhaha, and what steps are being taken to prevent a recurrence on Ring of Lies as well as on other local productions commissioned by, and produced for, the pay-TV broadcaster.

It's also come to light that M-Net didn't do its own independent investigation into the alleged racist on-set fight but is only working from what it was told by the production company.

Nondumiso Mabece, PR head of M-Net's local entertainment channels, told TVwithThinus that "the incident was between individuals that were contracted to Penguin Films and M-Net will not be conducting a further investigation".

Exactly a year ago in April 2015 after alleged on-set rape allegations in Big Brother Mzansi, M-Net CEO Yolisa Phahle said the broadcaster takes matters like this seriously and that the well-being of people who appear in M-Net productions is of the utmost importance.

Then M-Net hired a law firm to conduct what it called its own independent investigation and said that it was necessary for M-Net to understand what transpired.

The same didn't happen now for the allegations of racism on the set of Ring of Lies.

M-Net declined to answer specific questions in a media enquiry made on Thursday regarding the Ring of Lies investigation, how it was handled, its outcome, and how cast and crew members are protected when they publicly make serious allegations, like about racist on-set behaviour.

I wanted to know why M-Net wants to keep the details of the concluded investigation secret and how M-Net sees its responsibility, or lack thereof, to viewers and the South African TV industry regarding regarding allegations of racism on the set of one of its TV shows.

I asked M-Net how the pay-TV broadcaster can be sure, in general, what it is being told by a production company when it doesn't conduct it's own investigation into a serious allegation like for instance an allegation of racism on-set.

I asked M-Net what it makes of cast members, like for instance Florence Masebe, who spoke out publicly and raised a serious issue and how cast and crew members working on a show like Ring of Lies are protected when they make allegations regarding things like possible racism on-set.

M-Net declined to answer any of these questions.

Nondumiso Mabece said M-Net believes that the statement it issued on late Wednesday addressed the questions.

That terse two sentence statement said: "The investigation has been concluded and one of the independent contractors opted to terminate their contract. The incident was between individuals that were contracted to Penguin Films and M-Net will not be conducting a further investigation."