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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Nigerians furious that Big Brother Naija is filmed in South Africa; Nigerian Broadcasting Commission to investigate 'location fraud'; MultiChoice explains production decision.


Controversy has erupted and Nigerians are furious after "discovering" that the second season of Big Brother Naija shown since Sunday night on MultiChoice's DStv satellite pay-TV platform is being filmed in South Africa, with even the West African country's government ordering its broadcasting commission to investigate if there's been "location fraud".

M-Net's West Africa division and production company Endemol Shine Africa are using the exact same production house in Johannesburg for the second season of Big Brother Nigeria shown on MultiChoice's DStv, already outfitted and technically rigged previously, that's been used for other iterations like the pan-continental Big Brother Africa, Big Brother Mozambique, Big Brother Angola and Big Brother Mzansi.

The latest Nigerian viewer rage is part of a bigger trend: growing animosity in Nigeria - struggling economically and with a slipping currency making premium products like DStv more expensive - towards especially products and services perceived to be from South Africa, like MultiChoice.

The past year has seen growing customer and government resentment in Nigeria towards MultiChoice Nigeria in terms of DStv subscription prices and services, with several instances of Nigerian TV censorship that caused programmes to be pulled from DStv channels for the whole of Africa because Nigerians found it objectionable.

In the latest uproar, Nigerians are furious that a show for Nigerian viewers is not actually filmed in the country because the production demands uninterrupted electricity, greater security, and can be done cheaper on a tight production budget.

Interestingly The Voice Nigeria and The Voice Angola in 2016 were also filmed in South Africa to make use of the already constructed South African set used for The Voice South Africa, as well as the better and cheaper studio facilities, expert film crews and infrastructure - without a similar ruckus.

A litany of Nigeria's biggest music stars have, and continue to, film their glossy, upmarket music videos, filled with show-off blingola, in South Africa, especially Cape Town, with several Nigerian companies that also chose to rather film their TV commercials over the past year at the southern tip of Africa and constantly seen across various DStv channels.

As Nigerians vented on social media on Monday and Tuesday, Nigeria's ministry of information and culture put out a statement late Tuesday saying it has ordered Nigeria's National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to investigate why Big Brother Naija is not filmed in Nigerian soil and possible deceitful "location fraud", claiming viewers were never told the show would be done outside Nigeria.

"As a country of laws, only the outcome of the investigation will determine our next line of action," said the ministry in a statement.


'We don't have light and other crucial infrastructure'
Although there's no shower hour as in order Big Brother iterations in Africa due to Nigeria's conservative viewer mores, the show does need to be on the air 24 hours per day, seven days a week for 11 weeks - something that's extremely difficult to achieve and guarantee in Nigeria's struggling TV industry hampered by infrastructure issues and an intermittent electricity supply.

The production also opted for South Africa due to being able to film the same show cheaper than what it would cost in Lagos, with greater security.

On social media Aderemi Ogunpitan, producer of the first season of Big Brother Nigeria, said "maybe DStv should relocate to South Africa", admitting that "yes we don't have light and other crucial infrastructure" but that "using our environment as an excuse is rather tardy".

Producer Obi Asika who also worked on the first season however told Nigeria's The Pulse newspaper that even though the show used generators due to the inconsistent electricity supply in Nigeria on "a particular day our generator provider decided to switch off the generator at 5am on a Saturday morning".

"We had to put the cameras on loop. Some guy was just being an irritant. I can't remember why he even did it. He had decided he wasn't getting enough adverts or something. So it was probably the most hectic day of all the days."

"It took us till about 12 noon to get the generator back on but because it was Saturday morning, people did not know that we were looping the whole tape".


Show's quality is the overriding concern
MultiChoice Nigeria, asked for comment, in a statement says it decided to produce Big Brother Naija in South Africa because the quality of the show that viewers see is of the utmost importance.

The show that's made for Nigeria, is shown across Africa on DStv, including in South Africa on DStv channel 198.

"It's with this commitment in mind that a decision was taken to stage the show in the fully-equipped Big Brother house located in South Africa."

"Both MultiChoice and our customers are currently experiencing tough economic times which have forced us as a business to review our operations so we can continue to deliver the best entertainment value for our customers."

"Staging the show in a Big Brother facility that already exists - and has been specially built for such purposes – is not only cost-effective but has also allowed M-Net and Endemol Shine to maintain the same excellent production values as with previous Big Brother editions whilst meeting tight timelines."

MultiChoice Nigeria says that "Big Brother Nigeria is a proudly Nigerian show featuring Nigerians as housemates, in the production staff, as Biggie’s voice, all led by a Nigerian series director."

"The musical performances that will delight viewers in the next 11 weeks also includes some of Nigeria's biggest and hottest stars."

"MultiChoice is a proud supporter and investor of local creative industries and currently has ongoing entertainment productions across the continent, including the much-loved Tinsel and upcoming Africa Magic Viewers' Choice Awards which are filmed and produced in Nigeria and aired in several countries across Africa."