Saturday, April 20, 2019

TV CRITIC's NOTEBOOK. I said no to Steve Hofmeyr years ago - then South African Afrikaans television finally caught up and rightly said no but in one of the worst ways possible.

After years South African Afrikaans television finally seemed to have caught on that Steve Hofmeyr is no longer as they say in marketing terms "a good fit for our brand" - and then clumsily stumbled ahead in the worst and wrongest way possible to do the right thing to get distance from him.

MultiChoice and M-Net's Afrikaans channel division kykNET are absolutely right for finally drawing a line between the DStv pay-TV service and the race-baiting Afrikaans singer this past week with MultiChoice in a statement saying "we take a stand against racism".

However, MultiChoice as a sponsor and kykNET inflicted a lot of unnecessary damage and were wrong to directly interfere in a televised music award show by demanding the removal of a music video as a nominee.

Quite a number of years ago, the SABC invited some journalists - me included - to media event entitled "An evening with Pasella featuring Steve Hofmeyr" as part of the SABC2 Afrikaans magazine show Pasella.

I responded and told the SABC2 publicist Caroline Phalakatshela thank you but that I decline and that although I would love to attend a Pasella event that is part of the South African public broadcaster, that I won't ever attend something where Steve Hofmeyr features since it's my personal belief and opinion that he is actually racist.

A while afterwards I then spoke to another longtime TV critics and discovered that the person who was also invited, also declined the invitation, and also declined for the exact same reason.

Yet at the time, Afrikaans media and Afrikaans television simply couldn't get enough of their "Steve".

The Afrikaans weekly magazine Huisgenoot's had an utter obsession with a rude and arrogant Steve (who eventually threw tea in the face of Esmare Weideman as then-editor of Huisgenoot/YOU at Sun City), to kykNET (DStv 144).

M-Net's kykNET continued courting him with multiple ongoing invites to make appearances on all kinds of music, variety, entertainment magazine, talk show and other programmes and even the Kwêla couch time after time after time, while even SABC2 couldn't dish up enough Steve for viewers.

Long before "fake news" was coined by Donald Trump, it was M-Net that gave Steve Hofmeyr a platform on kykNET where his longrunning Dis Hoe Dit Is Met Steve Afrikaans talk show with multiple repeats would often broadcast "fake news" left totally unchecked and unfiltered by kykNET and slurped up by its Afrikaans audience.

Just one broadcasting example: On Dis Hoe Dit Is Met Steve on kykNET, Steve would laugh heartily and repeat when one of his former co-stars from the SABC's former Afrikaans drama series Agter Elke Man (Behind Every Man) Sulette Thompson would spout utter trash that there can't be a rebroadcast on the SABC or anywhere of their erstwhile show else because the public broadcaster had "lost" the tapes.

The truth is that no tapes were lost. In fact, MultiChoice helped the SABC to digitise the series from the original tapes and the show saw rebroadcasts on not just kykNET but also the SABC's SABC Encore (DStv 156) channel.

It's small things in the bigger scope of things, but notable because I saw it and noticed a similar behavioural trend in the way that you're not surprised eventually when, years later, you see what happens to personalities like a Paula Deen or a Bill O'Reilly.

Steve Hofmeyr who would increasingly make racist comments, do race-baiting with for instance a photo with the old South African flag, and spout disgusting things like "black are the architects of apartheid" went on to become a more and more polarising and divisive personality - not just within the broader Afrikaans community but in South Africa as a whole.

This continued until it finally simply became just too untenable and unpalatable for major companies, national brands and arts festivals from the Klein Karoo National Arts Festival (KKNK) to Inniebos, and even rugby to be associated with him.

He is the reason brands from Media24, Pick n Pay, Land Rover, Toyota and MTN to MultiChoice withdrew as sponsors from events where he was included.

Cue the kykNET Ghoema Music Awards 2019 where the organisers and judges this year selected a music video, Die Land (The Land) as one of the three nominees for its Best Music Video category in which several Afrikaans artists appear but also featuring Steve Hofmeyr.

Viewers already voted for the category, paying money. Other Afrikaans singers who are not Steve Hofmeyr stood a chance to win who happened to appear in the same music video. And the organisers and judges of the Ghoema Music Trust already independently selected it as one of the shortlisted nominees.

It's absolutely correct for MultiChoice and its kykNET channels to want to get distance and not be involved with anything "Steve Hofmeyr" going forward. It's also their free choice of free association.

Where MultiChoice and kykNET however made a big mistake was to interfere in an award show by demanding the removal of a nominee after the nominees were announced.

Imagine a sponsor of the independently-run Grammys or MTV Music Awards in the United States ordering the organisers to remove a nominee? It would be a massive scandal.

The selection and choice of winners and shortlisted nominees in competitions and TV award shows are sacrosanct - it's preposterous and unheard of for a sponsor to demand terms like the removal of a nominee from a category in a competition.

Instead, MultiChoice and kykNET should have just left it and have withdrawn their support completely without making ultimatums that interfere with the nominees, categories and judging. MultiChoice isn't a judge of the competition but a sponsor.

MultiChoice and kykNET as sponsor and broadcaster should very clearly, and much, much earlier, have said something like "we distance ourselves in the strongest possible terms from this person", have stated explicitly why, and then also that it would no longer support the Ghoemas in future if Steve is included or anywhere close-by. 

This shocking interference damages and did damage to the credibility of the Ghoema Music Awards. Both the public and singers will no longer trust it, or trust it less.

And talking about trust, how did Steve Hofmeyr's son Devon get inside the venue without a ticket with a friend where he planned to and deliberately cause a disruption? Where is the security and what is the security arrangements at the Ghoema Music Awards like?

As a journalist I attend a lot of stuff and public events for broadcasting and do set visits where access control is of the utmost importance and very secure. Clearly it's somehow not at the Ghoemas. 

In addition, the communication from MultiChoice, kykNET and the Ghoema organisers to manage perceptions and the resultant fallout from the swirling controversy on a consumer level as well as within the broadcasting industry was inadequate, slow, reactive and basically non-existent.

This caused additional brand, perception and credibility damage to the awards show - of which there isn't a lot in existence in South Africa to start with, meaning the existing ones should be carefully nutured.

kykNET also seems to shy away from openly talking, engaging with the media and discussing its stance as a TV channel, its decisions and its policies going way forward.

Days later after the awards show here at TVwithThinus we're still waiting for instance on kykNET and the kykNET Ghoema Music Awards organisers to answer very basic broadcasting-related questions.

What is kykNET's reaction? If MultiChoice distanced itself from a new music video in which Steve Hofmeyr appears, has kykNET place the kibosh on the airing of any of his music videos, series or on-air appearances across its channels set like Kwêla couch interviews?

Why was the scheduled live award show broadcast scuppered and media not told well ahead of time? And how will people who had spent money to vote for the removed music video get a refund?

MultiChoice, kykNET and the kykNET Ghoema Music Awards 2019 organisers also knew for weeks in advance what they were doing and changing, but all chose to sit silently, not being open with the public and the industry, waiting until the bomb exploded this week.

I also feel bad for the other Afrikaans singers not connected or related to Steve Hofmeyr who got caught up in the maelstrom of an impossible situation not of their making.

They were thrown out as the bathwater together with the baby - and that was wrong. And how can they protest or raise their voices legitimately over undue creative and judging interference without making it look as if they support Steve Hofmeyr - something that would conflate two different issues?

South Africa's Afrikaans television was finally forced to confronted an issue - and someone - it should have addressed and have dealt with a long time ago.

It however did so clumsily and it did so in a wrong way by far overstepping its role through meddling in the organising of an awards show. Yet the sentiment and message from MultiChoice and kykNET that shines through are very clear: That as a TV business they won't tolerate racism.

Institutionalised action often follows long after public sentiment. I soured on Steve Hofmeyr more than a decade ago.

I'm just glad that the TV broadcast media in the country finally caught up as well.

ALSO READ: Ongoing silence from kykNET as DStv's Afrikaans channel remains quiet over questions around its handling of the kykNET Ghoema Music Awards 2019 controversy.
ALSO READ: Afrikaans singer Demi Lee Moore after winning Best Music Video at controversial kykNET Ghoema Music Awards 2019 honours artists from removed nomination as Steve Hofmeyr's son is told to leave the auditorium.
ALSO READ: MultiChoice orders the kykNET Ghoema Music Awards to remove Steve Hofmeyr as nominee, as kykNET dumps it as a live broadcast, after which singers now say they will boycott tonight's awards show.