Monday, February 6, 2017

South African TV soaps Muvhango and Skeem Saam - last year's winner - are boycotting this year's 2017 Saftas, slamming the awards show as 'just not fair'.

Controversy is yet again swirling around the credibility of the upcoming 11th South African Film and Television Awards (Saftas) as the country's soaps - including last year's winner - are once again boycotting the awards show, slamming the Saftas as "just not fair". 

Both SABC2's Muvhango - for the second year in a row and the third time overall - as well as ironically last year's winner, SABC1's Skeem Saam, have refused to enter the 2017 Saftas, with the ongoing boycott again denting the Saftas credibility.

Because Muvhango and Skeem Saam refused to enter the Saftas that ironically this year has the theme "SA's got it, let's celebrate it" - the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) that organisses the Saftas dumped both Muvhango and Skeem Saam from the Most Popular TV Soap category.

It's the category where a viewers' vote is supposed to decide the winner although viewers in reality will yet again be unable to choose one of the soaps that they really might want to vote for.

When it comes to popularity in terms of South African TV viewership, ironically the Venda soap Muvhango, produced by Word of Mouth productions, remains the most watched soap and show on all of SABC2 with roughly 6.2 million viewers. Meanwhile Skeem Saam pulls 5.9 million viewers - the  third most watched show on all of SABC1.

Overall Muvhango and Skeem Saam respectively are the third and fourth most popular and most watched TV shows on all of South African television. Each soap respectively also commands a 60% or bigger share. It means that two out of three of all the TV sets switched on during their broadcast timeslots, are tuned to these shows. 

This year viewers will however suddenly be able to vote for SABC1's Uzalo that was also missing from last year's options. The 2017 Saftas has now included it in the Most Popular TV Soap category for the first time. Last year the Saftas said Uzalo was a drama.

Critics contend that TV shows shouldn't be forced to enter the Saftas just to be eligible for recognition of their work and that the 181 judges, presumably chosen because of their expertise and knowing film and television, should be watching shows and films throughout the year anyway and know quality work and what had been shown.

The Saftas - moving from Johannesburg to Sun City from 16 to 18 March this year in a new 5-year deal with Sun International to do the handing out of Golden Horn trophies there - has been the subject of repeated criticism every year about how the award show is run, how shows are nominated and selected, how they're judged, who the judges are and over the perceived exclusion of women, minorities and smaller – especially black – producers.

Broadcasters including, M-Net and the SABC, along with several soaps, have previously taken turns to boycott the Saftas and criticise it for issues ranging from credibility, and a lack of inclusivity and diversity, to its compromised judging process and a lack of transformation.

Last year the Saftas in a statement admitted that "urgent attention is required to transform the industry and ensure that the Saftas become more inclusive".

The contentious Saftas previously locked out 7de Laan (2012), Binnelanders and Villa Rosa (2013) and Muvhango (2014) from the Most Popular Soap category for the shows' refusal to enter in categories. In 2012 pulled its soaps Rhythm City and Scandal! as well as all its other shows from the Saftas.

'Little effort to improve the judging process'
As to why Muvhango is boycotting the Saftas yet again, Muvhango associate producer Morishe Matlejoane told TVwithThinus that "our stance remains as is".

"There has been little if any effort from the organisers to improve the judging process or allowing the public vote to hold rank. We remain stern in our views until a significant change is noticed. As mentioned previously, we seek to protect the integrity of our hard working crew and actors from the narrow views of a few individuals. It's just not fair".

Last year Muvhango slammed the Saftas for its "unstandardised" judging system, with Morishe Matlejoane in 2016 saying that "there has been growing skepticism around the process followed by the organisers".

"In any contest where judges are selected 'within' the system and not independently set to be true independent critics, there will always be room to question. The Saftas are not independently run to fully encompass every broadcast to give a true reflection of the South African TV landscape."

"There are people working alongside those who are nominated, people working for rival production companies, which all leads to major credibility issues".

The NFVF hasn't yet responded with answers to questions in a media enquiry made last week Thursday, seeking comment on things like what the Saftas has done to improve the process since Muvhango boycotted the award show last year, the damage to the credibility of the Saftas and the NFVF's views on the ongoing boycott of SA TV shows of the awards show.

In an earlier statement announcing the move to Sun City and the North West province, Zama Mkosi, NFVF CEO, says that the Saftas "are anticipating a very successful and mesmerising 11th Saftas that South Africa can enjoy and experience with us".

For the 2017 Saftas the NFVF dumped categories like Best Sports Show, Best Animation film and Best TV animation, saying South Africa lacks adequate submissions in these TV and film fields.
Categories to reward work within news and actuality remain almost non-existent with no recognition of TV news anchors and TV journalists.

The 2017 Saftas added Best TV Talk show host and Best Micro film as new categories, as well as the New Discretionary Award going to a youth achiever.

The 2017 South African Film and Television Awards will be broadcast live on SABC2 on 18 March.