Sunday, February 24, 2019

'Gay' reality show Lusaka Hustle back on MultiChoice Zambia and M-Net's Zambezi Magic channel on DStv after shocking censorship.

The "gay" reality show, Lusaka Hustle, following three Zambian socialites are back on MultiChoice Zambia and M-Net's Zambezi Magic (DStv 160) channel on DStv in Southern Africa after Zambia's censorship-prone broadcasting regulator, the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) lifted its idiotic and irrational ban and the suspension of the show.

Zambia's IBA didn't respond to emailed media enquiries about the controversial decision to order a ban on Lusaka Hustle, ordering its removal from the DStv airwaves in Zambia and multiple countries across Southern Africa.

Zambia's Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) refused to admit it was wrong in banning and censoring Lusaka Hustle, only for the wayward regulator to then lift the ban this week without any changes or sanction.

The IBA has been silent on exactly why it banned Lusaka Hustle in the first place and what censorship laws the Zambian programme broke.

Interestingly, in a shocking dereliction of duty but not uncommon for a country with an underdeveloped TV and broadcasting industry and problems with freedom of speech, Zambia's incompetent IBA also ordered the ban before and without ever even watching Lusaka Hustle - simply censoring local TV content without actually seeing it, screening it, or providing specific reasons for where and how the show crossed Zambia's censors.

M-Net and MultiChoice showed a new episode of Lusaka Hustle on Thursday night, 21 February on Zambezi Magic.

Lusaka Hustle that started on 24 January, initially got in the crosshairs Godfridah Sumaili, Zambia's minister for religious affairs and national guidance, who complained that Lusaka Hustle features a character with "gay tendencies" and wearing a dress - a complaint that went viral on social media.

Social media amplified the outrage about the programme that follows three local, flamboyant Zambian celebrities and their drama-filled daily lives - Thandi Vundamina, Cleo Ice Queen and the singer Kuni (Mukuni Godfrey Mulundika), with Kuni who appears in Lusaka Hustle's promotional poster art in a flowing white robe.

Some viewers were disturbed that Kuni wore a dress in a recent episode while doing a spa day in Lusaka.

It is the second censorship of content on Zambezi Magic since the debut of the M-Net packaged and produced channel that is meant as a Southern African version of South Africa's successful Mzansi Magic channel.

Lusaka Hustle was yanked off the air, unwillingly, by MultiChoice Zambia and M-Net's Zambezi Magic channel to comply with the head-scratching order from Zambia's Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA), that ordered Lusaka Hustle off the air, over allegedly showing and promoting "gay tendencies".

MultiChoice Africa and M-Net said that it was proud of Lusaka Hustle and was "still unclear about which aspects of the show contravene Zambian law".

Zambia's information ministry that apparently has direct censorship power of what Zambian citizens can and can't see, then also weighed in and also ordered MultiChoice Zambia and M-Net to edit the Lusaka Hustle before it would be allowed back on Zambezi Magic.

Chanda Kasolo, Zambia's information and broadcasting services secretary in an interview on QTV News, reportedly said that MultiChoice and M-Net must censor episodes of Lusaka Hustle and must censor the alleged gayness away.

Chanda Kasolo said that this is the medium-term solution that Zambia's homophobic government has agreed upon with MultiChoice Zambia.

Chanda Kasolo in the interview that Zambia's government in the long-term will decide what restrictions exiting laws impose in terms of censorship of TV programming in Zambia, and that the promotion and practice of homosexuality through television programming is illegal in Zambia.

MultiChoice Zambia and M-Net were asked whether it agreed to edit, make changes and censor episodes of Lusaka Hustle as has been reportedly demanded by the Zambian government but MultiChoice Zambia didn't answer the specific question put to it by TVwithThinus in a media enquiry.

MultiChoice Zambia in a statement to TVwithThinus only says "MultiChoice Zambia is thankful to the IBA board for convening a multi-stakeholder forum to assess concerns about the Lusaka Hustle show."

"We are pleased to confirm the immediate lifting of the suspension and the board’s confirmation that upcoming episodes contain no controversial elements that violate any Zambian law. MultiChoice Zambia has engaged Zambezi Magic to resume the scheduling of the show on Thursday, 21 February 2019."

M-Net's Zambezi Magic in a statement says "Zambezi Magic is delighted to advise fans of Lusaka Hustle that their favourite reality show will resume on DStv on Thursday, 21 February 2019. Zambezi Magic, together with the cast and crew, wish to thank the viewers for their patience and understanding during this process."

Growing authoritarian censorship threat for TV content in Africa
It is the second censorship of content on Zambezi Magic since the debut of the M-Net packaged and produced channel that is meant as a Southern African version of South Africa's successful Mzansi Magic channel.

In November 2017 the show Talk with Kwangu was censored and pulled off the air on Zambezi Magic, following Zambian government interference and pressure.

Zambezi Magic is aimed at helping producers in Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Zambia, Malawi and Eswatini to get their original content from their countries on the air for local DStv audiences to enjoy.

Zambia's latest TV censorship is not just raising questions around the clampdown of freedom of speech and freedom of expression in the country, but is also worrying Zambian TV and film producers who don't feel that their local work is valued in their own country, with more and more producers looking across borders and outside of Zambia to pitch their projects.

The biggest concern around the ban that was emposed on Lusaka Hustle, however, revolves around how draconian censorship of TV content in just one African country will once again that the censored show will become unavailable to millions of viewers and DStv subscribers in multiple other countries.

Similar to a growing and ongoing trend of recent TV censorship in Nigeria and Kenya ranging from lifestyle and reality shows to even kids animation programming on the Disney Channel and Viacom Africa's Nickelodeon, shows on channels on MultiChoice's DStv satellite pay-TV platform ordered blocked there by local regulators in one country, means that when these shows are removed, they are censored for everyone.

MultiChoice carries only one channel feed for Africa - in some cases two - from a channel distributor, meaning that content on a channel - for instance E! Entertainment (DStv 124) or Disney Channel (DStv 303)  - ordered to be censored and dumped in for instance Kenya, makes it unavailable in South Africa and a range of other African countries outside of where the censorship takes place.