Friday, November 29, 2019

TV CRITIC's NOTEBOOK. How quickly and easily things break: After MultiChoice and Mzansi Magic did the best awards show nominees announcement in South Africa in 2018 for the DStv Mzansi Viewers' Choice Awards it's back to trash and no communication for the third edition.

"It's fragile what we know. It's gone every time we forget. Then someone has to learn it all over again."  - Kim Stanley

A gap year in 2019 is all it took to dismantle what MultiChoice and M-Net started to build up with its new DStv Mzansi Viewers' Choice Awards 2020 which degenerated back to trash and an utter lack of any communication with the media.

After I noted in August 2018 how basically perfect the nominees announcement media event of Mzansi Magic's DStv Mzansi Viewers' Choice Awards 2018 was, entropy, coupled with an apparent can't-care or don't-know-better attitude saw MultiChoice and M-Net regress back to bad when it came time to revive its awards show.

Cue Thursday evening, 28 November, when MultiChoice and Mzansi Magic suddenly decided to have a terrible DStv Mzansi Viewers Choice Awards 2020 nominees announcement media event - one which it didn't even bother to tell a lot of press and media about.

One year of not taking place is all it took for MultiChoice and Mzansi Magic's DStv Mzansi Viewers' Choice Awards process, media liason  and interaction with the press to go from terrific back to trash.

Swept away without a trace in the non-year of the DStv Mzansi Viewers' Choice Awards in 2019 were Reneilwe Sema as boss of M-Net's general entertainment channels division, multiple Mzansi Magic publicists, and several MultiChoice PR people who all left.

Apparently no proper hand-over or reading up were done by anyone at MultiChoice or Mzansi Magic because the the past is the past and the past is cursed to forever be a foreign country.

It was bemusing and borderline irritating to suddenly get a press release on Thursday evening from MultiChoice suddenly announcing DStv Mzansi Viewers Choice Awards nominees for its awards show, something that MultiChoice and Mzansi Magic out of the blue said would take place on 14 March 2020.

After actually communicating and telling the press covering television in South Africa in 2018 that there would be a DStv Mzansi Viewers' Choice Awards 2018 nominees announcement event, and beyond that also inviting press from across South Africa to actually attend, neither Mzansi Magic and MultiChoice - now stacked with new people - could be bothered to give the media any kind of heads up that there'd be a nominees announcement and event on Thursday night for the return of the awards in 2020.

As TVwithThinus remarked in 2018, while the nominees announcement in 2017 of the inaugural DStv Mzansi Viewers' Choice Awards in 2017 created some frustration with the press, Mzansi Magic did a course-correction in 2018 and got it perfect the second time round.

Then ... bad to bad this week.

MultiChoice and Mzansi Magic regressed back to only announcing names to the isolated Johannesburg bubble of media and the champagne brigade hangers-on who often don't actually bother to report.

MultiChoice and Mzansi Magic dumbed back down on not bothering to even reach out to media beforehand to say that a nominee announcement for the DStv Mzansi Viewers' Choice Awards 2020 would be taking place.

By ignoring the media for its nominees announcement event - after getting it so perfectly right in 2018 - MultiChoice and Mzansi Magic broke and took away from the credibility and perceived importance of the awards show.

How difficult is it to type up an email, or pick up the phone? Apparently very when it comes to the DStv Mzansi Viewers Choice Awards nominees announcement event, which appeared to be something too difficult to do for the array of PR and publicity personnel at MultiChoice and Mzansi Magic.

On Thursday night TVwithThinus did what MultiChoice and Mzansi Magic should have done and can easily do - reached out to multiple journalists and writers across South Africa to ask: Did you know about this? Did anyone communicate or bother to tell you about this?

The responses were 100% and uniformly a resounding no.

"Not covering it," said one, while other comments ranged from "who cares?" to "wasn't the awards cancelled?"

It's inconceivable that MultiChoice and Mzansi Magic would revive an awards show after it was dead for a year and then not bother at all to put in the most borderline basic external media communication effort to talk to the press that a nominees annnouncement event would be happening.

With Reneilwe Sema as Mzansi Magic channel head, as well as Nondumiso Mabece, Ryan van Heerden, Marietjie Groenewald, Kenneth Nxumalo, Bongi Potelwa-Metsing and a flurry of several other MultiChoice and Mzansi Magic public relation specialists all gone and replaced in just the period between the last time the DStv Mzansi Viewers' Choice Awards 2018 took place, it's easy to say that it was inevitable that with the destruction of institutional memory the new nominees announcement event would degenerate back to being a mess.

It could have been different. It could have stayed great. The communication with the media could have continued on the way it was previously with this specific awards show: Standard. Normal. Perfect.

In August 2018 I wrote that "The DStv Mzansi Viewers' Choice Awards 2018 nominees announcement event was inspiring - not for the announcements per se, but for showing that yes, South Africa can do things like a nominees announcement right and proper."

Did Pilly Kubheka, the new head of publicity for M-Net's local entertainment channels and her new team, or Joe Heshu, MultiChoice's new group executive for corporate affairs and his new team look back at what exactly - and how - MultiChoice and Mzansi Magic communicated and what was done when the last DStv Mzansi Viewers' Choice Awards nominees announcement event was held?

Both teams have a joint interest, presumably, in it since the event has their brands attached to it.

Why did the communication implode again? Why is the media frustrated again?

Why wasn't it possible to say: "Hey, we're announcing DStv Mzansi Viewers' Choice Awards 2020 nominees, it will take place on this day, date and time, we're going to issue a press release then and then, is there anything you might need like a logo or interviews that can be set up, this is what is going to happen."

In its press release, Simon Camerer, MultiChoice South Africa's chief customer officer, said that "We are thrilled to break the news of an even bigger and better 3rd edition".

Sadly, as far as the media are concerned, the 3rd DStv Mzansi Viewers' Choice Awards for 2020 is off to an embarrassingly and amateurish-looking, back-to-worse start.

ALSO READ: DStv Mzansi Viewers’ Choice Awards back for a third edition of the awards show in 2020, announces nominees.