Friday, February 23, 2024

SABC holds showcase event about drastic content changes across its TV channels.

by Thinus Ferreira

On Thursday evening the South African public broadcaster held what it called an "exclusive showcase" for its SABC1, SABC2 and SABC3 TV channels that it neither bothered telling the media about beforehand, nor shared any of the information or speeches afterwards.

In attendance in Johannesburg was Nomsa Chabeli, the new SABC CEO who spoke to stakeholders like advertisers. The SABC didn't share her speech.

Nomsa Chabeli has markedly not spoken to the media or done any interviews since she started at the beginning of this month at the SABC's Auckland Park headquarters, although interview requests were made weeks ago.

Like on Thursday evening, Nomsa Chabeli is speaking publicly - just not with the media.

Also in attendance on Thursday evening was Lala Tuku, the SABC head of local content.

Lala Tuku is now also acting head of video entertainment at the SABC since Merlin Naicker has been suspended over allegations of impropriety over the contract and an allegedly secret profit-sharing clause in it with Discovery Digital running the broadcaster's SABC+ video streaming service.

The SABC didn't share her presentation or anything of what Lala Tuku said at Thursday evening's event with the media either.

The SABC is set to implement a range of drastic programming changes on all three its TV channels from March, including moving Skeem Saam to a later timeslot on SABC1, moving Deal or No Deal SA from SABC1 to SABC2, cancelling Fokus on SABC2, moving the Afrikaans TV news to SABC3 in a much later timeslot, and removing Afrikaans content from SABC2 and placing it on SABC3. 

Amazon Prime Video drops South African PR firm as part of cutbacks.

by Thinus Ferreira

Amazon Prime Video has also ended its contract with its South African PR firm Ten x Collective which will no longer do any publicity work for Amazon MGM Studios' content after this month.

The end of the contract with Ten x Collective is part of Amazon turning off its money tap for the creation of local African content that included the abrupt axing of all further African original productions in South Africa and Nigeria, the retrenchment of its content teams and executives in both countries and cancelling development deals with producers.

The conclusion of its contract with a local PR firm raises fears that Amazon MGM Studios and Amazon Prime Video will no longer bother to have a local PR presence in South Africa to promote any of its content through the press.

It would unbundle all the work in media relationship building that Amazon has done over the past two years to get coverage and exposure for what was its growing slate of African Originals and global series.

Stephen Barber, head of PR for Amazon in the UK, didn't respond to a media query about the streamer dropping Ten x Collective and media concerns about it.

Last month Amazon Prime Video abruptly retrenched multiple content executives and staff it lured to join its video streaming service in Cape Town and Johannesburg in South Africa and in Nigeria, based in London, after it rapidly ramped up plans over the past two years to create, produce and roll-out localised African Prime Video Originals.

Upset producers in South Africa and Nigeria said Amazon lured them with production promises that turned out to be fake, and that they feel duped over "promises were made and not kept".

Amazon Prime Video has drastically reigned in its content spend in Africa and on African original content as part of the streamer's global realignment that is also having a negative impact on what was its content budget for Africa.

The media launch event for LOL: Laugh Out Loud South Africa earlier this month for Amazon's streamer held at The Galleria in Sandton, Johannesburg is also its last, as well as the last for the PR company on behalf of Amazon.

LOL: Laugh Out Loud South Africa with host Trevor Noah, produced by Rapid Blue, was Amazon's first South African unscripted series but has the distinction of now also its last South African unscripted original. 

One of the attendees at the media event said "there were a lot of sad and emotional people" with "an undercurrent of depression" since a lot of people talked about Amazon shutting down local content production.

Lisa Pellatt, founder and director of Ten x Collective confirmed that Amazon had ended its PR contract.

"TxC is contracted to work with Prime Video until the end of February 2024, there has been no abrupt ending – everything has followed procedure. We unfortunately can’t comment on how other people felt at the event – we only received positive feedback about a wonderful evening and fun had by all."

During its expansion into South Africa, Amazon Prime Video made use of Gillian Gamsey International Communications (GGIC) in 2022 and then switched to Ten x Collective a year ago in February 2023.

MultiChoice and M-Net's Mzansi Magic bringing rainmaker legend Queen Modjadji to life in new Rhythm World Productions drama series.

by Thinus Ferreira 

After its first epic historical series Shaka Ilembe, MultiChoice and M-Net is following it up with Queen Modjadji for Mzansi Magic (DStv 161) in a drama inspired by the Balobedu legend of rainmaker Queen Modjadji whose bloodline has ruled Southern Africa's Lobedu clan for centuries.

Produced by Rhythm World Productions and Duma Ndlovu, Queen Modjadji will tell the "story of a matriarchal dynasty, whose ability to transform the clouds and summon the rain has earned the Balobedu royalty a place among the most revered of African dynasties," Mzansi Magic says. 

 Nomsa Philiso, MultiChoice CEO for general entertainment, says "Bringing Queen Modjadji to our audiences meets their desire for television entertainment drawn from our heritage and it also flows seamlessly into our plans to create a catalogue of drama series made in African languages". 

 "Queen Modjaji comes hot off the trail of Shaka Ilembe which was a global phenomenon and very much an expression of the MultiChoice strategy to drive home-grown, authentic African storytelling," she says. 

According to MultiChoice production on Queen Modjadji is "already well underway and the team behind the title has been researching and consulting with key stakeholders, tribal leaders and academic experts".

Scripting and casting for Queen Modjadji is nearing completion and principal photography will be starting soon.

Duma Ndlovu says "The earth, the elements, and the energy of humans connect in ways that are both physical and spiritual, both obvious and unseen. Queen Modjadji was a living embodiment of this, and so we will explore what this royal title, and the women who've held it, have lived, sacrificed, lost, and achieved".

"At the same time, we want to be very entertaining – with a strong episodic storyline and historical detail set under unpredictable skies, where rain or storm, echoes what is happening in the lives of those below."

Mzansi Magic adds 13-episode netball teen drama Obstruction from Origin Pictures.

by Thinus Ferreira

Mzansi Magic (DStv 161) has commissioned a new 13-episode teen drama series, Obstruction, produced by Origin Pictures, that will start on Monday 18 March at 20:00 and revolve around a high school netball player and the challenges she faces to attain her goals.

Obstruction stars Luyanda Zuma as the 17-year-old Zenokuhle, with dreams of making it to the Gauteng provincial netball team. 

She has to contend with various challenges faced by "an extremely talented black female teenager and how she and her peers navigate relationships with their parents, teachers, love interests, enemies, and frenemies".

Obstruction also stars Bukamina Cebekhulu as Zenokuhle's mother Thandiwe who doesn't understand her daughter's dreams and uproots her by placing her in a new school, as well as Menzi Biyela playing her alcoholic father Mandla. 

The rest of the Obstruction cast includes Lerato Mokoka as "frenemy" Ora, Nhlanhla Kunene and Thembsie Matu.

"This is a story of a lot of young people in our society nowadays – faced with the pressure to succeed, to be liked by peers, to have an emotionally stable family life, and also nail it in the relationship department," says Shirley Adonisi, M-Net's director for local entertainment channels.

Wendy Williams diagnosed with dementia and aphasia

by Thinus Ferreira

The former American talk show host Wendy Williams (59) has been diagnosed with dementia and aphasia, after battling alcohol addiction and other health issues like Graves' disease and lymphedema.

Her dementia and aphasia diagnosis is the same as what has been happening to former action star Bruce Willis.

Williams is currently in an undisclosed treatment facility with family unable to contact her, with only a court-appointed legal guardian who has access to her. Williams can call family members from an unidentified number, but they can't call her. Her bank accounts were frozen in 2022.

In press release from her representatives, her "care team" said "Over the past few years, questions have been raised at times about Wendy's ability to process information and many have speculated about Wendy's condition, particularly when she began to lose words, act erratically at times, and have difficulty understanding financial transactions.".

"In 2023, after undergoing a battery of medical tests, Wendy was officially diagnosed with primary progressive aphasia and frontotemporal dementia (FTD)."

"Aphasia, a condition affecting language and communication abilities, and frontotemporal dementia, a progressive disorder impacting behaviour and cognitive functions, have already presented significant hurdles in Wendy's life."

"The decision to share this news was difficult and made after careful consideration, not only to advocate for understanding and compassion for Wendy, but to raise awareness about aphasia and frontotemporal dementia and support the thousands of others facing similar circumstances."

"Unfortunately, many individuals diagnosed with aphasia and frontotemporal dementia face stigma and misunderstanding, particularly when they begin to exhibit behavioural changes but have not yet received a diagnosis."

"There is hope that with early detection and far more empathy, the stigma associated with dementia will be eliminated, and those affected will receive the understanding, support, and care they deserve and need."

"Wendy is still able to do many things for herself. Most importantly she maintains her trademark sense of humor and is receiving the care she requires to make sure she is protected and that her needs are addressed. She is appreciative of the many kind thoughts and good wishes being sent her way."

The announcement comes just before a two-part documentary, produced by Williams, "Where is Wendy Williams?" will be broadcast in the United States over this upcoming weekend on the Lifetime TV channel which is no longer available in South Africa. 

Paramount ran The Wendy Williams Show on its BET (DStv 129) channel until Williams' erratic behaviour led to its inevitable cancellation in mid-2022.

In the latest issue of People magazine in America to promote the documentary, her family - including her niece, sister and brother - broke their silence around her "shocking and heartbreaking" struggles.

"The people who love her cannot see her, "Wendy's sister Wanda told People magazine."I think the big question is: How the hell did we get here?"

To promote the documentary, Thursday's episode of the American talk show The View also featured Williams' niece Alex Finnie. 

In the released clip, Finnie, says contact with Williams has "been limited". "I finally got some sort of a response not too long ago, but it has been a big problem for the family in terms of just 'Can we get an update on how she’s doing?"

"All of a sudden there was just this wall that went down and the family was blocked out. It was in April 2022. And the contact from that point on, has been so limited."

"She went into where she is now, between April and May last year. We went months before we were even able to get a call."

Thursday, February 22, 2024

National Association of Broadcasters elects new leadership.

by Thinus Ferreira

South Africa's National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) has new leadership with Nick Grubb (Kagiso Media Radio CEO) elected as new chairperson, and Philly Moilwa (SABC's head of policy and regulatory affairs) elected as the deputy chairperson for the 2024/2025 term.

The NAB's executive committee is its decision-making body and represents various players across the regulated broadcast sector across South Africa.

The NAB chairperson and deputy chairperson serve for a term of two years whilst the leadership of its four standing committees are elected annually by its committee members.

Nadia Bulbulbia, NAB executive director, in a statement, says "Over the last 31 years the NAB has been fortunate to be led by passionate and committed professionals with vast industry knowledge and expertise. We thank the erstwhile chairperson, Thabo Makenete (formerly MultiChoice) for his leadership over the past two years and look forward to a positive future for the NAB and the industry with our newly constituted exco team."

Nick Grubb says "The NAB has always played a critical role in uniting the industry so it can navigate its regulatory landscape and develop structures that support self-regulation and skills development."

"Over the last few years, we have seen it play an even broader role in promotion of TV and radio to all of its stakeholders and build out industry social investment mechanisms. There is a lot of change coming from all fronts, so the NAB has never been more critical for our members and our industry."

Commercial radio committee
Chairperson – Tholoana Ncheke (Primedia Broadcasting)
Deputy chairperson – Judy Monyela (SABC) 

TV Committee 
 Chairperson – Lara Kantor (MultiChoice) 
 Deputy chairperson - Greg Clur (Faith Terrestrial)

Technical Committee 
Chairperson – Andy Louis (Telemedia) 
Deputy chairperson – Bevan Bates (MultiChoice)

Community Radio Committee 
Chairperson - Wilma van Schalkwyk (Radio Pulpit) 
Deputy chairperson – Franklin Huizies (Jozi FM)

Co-opted exco Members 
Philippa Rafferty (eMedia)
Alfie Jay (Algoa FM)

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Zola Nene back as judge for 5th season of Primedia Studios and Homebrew Films' MasterChef SA on SABC3.

by Thinus Ferreira

The culinary queen Zola Nene will be back as one of the three judges in the new season of MasterChef South Africa coming to SABC3.

Primedia Studios and Homebrew Films are producing a 5th season of the Banijay format cooking competition series jumping from M-Net to SABC3, with Pick n Pay back as the season's sponsor.

South Africans older than 18 have until 15 March to enter on the website for a chance to compete in the customised kitchen hall in Cape Town where Zola Nene will taste and judge their food along with two other judges for the winner to eventually bag R1 million.

The 5th season of MasterChef SA will be Zola Nene's second turn judging in the kitchen, after she gave advice, tasted and told contestants to hang up their aprons in the fourth season in 2022. 

"For a food fanatic like me, it's such a joy and honour to be part of a show that celebrates our unique South African cuisine whilst giving local foodies a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make their dreams come true," says Zola Nene. 

"It's beautiful to watch how the contestants grow and unleash their full potential."

Zola's own journey as a seasoned chef started as a young girl grinding mealies for her gogo's mealie bread. 

After experiencing how hearty food can create special bonds between people, Zola realised in her early twenties that her true life-calling was grounded in her roots – celebrating human connections via simple but scrumptious recipes.
A burning desire to learn the tricks of the trade landed Zola a job at the hot section of a brasserie in the United Kingdom, where she quickly became the sous chef. 

Following this valuable work experience, she returned to South Africa to finesse her skills at the Institute of Culinary Arts in Stellenbosch, which allowed her to work with some of the country’s top chefs. 
Since then, Zola has carved a place deep in the hearts of millions of television viewers – from being the resident chef on Expresso to co-judging The Great South African Bake Off, hosting her own show, Celeb Feasts with Zola and impressing the infamous 17-Michelin-star international chef Gordon Ramsey on National Geographic’s Gordon Ramsey’s Unchartered.
Meanwhile, Zola also made her mark by penning down three best-selling cookbooks, Simply Delicious and Simply Zola and Simply Seven Colours which have all won the Best in the World at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards.
Zola encourages everyone who shares her incredible passion for food to enter MasterChef South Africa.

"It really doesn't matter what your food-making forté is or which type of South African cuisine you dish up to tickle people's taste buds. As long as you have an extensive knowledge of flavours and textures, love whipping up food feasts, know your way around the kitchen and have a brewing appetite to learn more about the art of cooking."

Clover's Tropika Island of Treasure returns for 11th season in 2024 with Zanele Potelwa as host.

by Thinus Ferreira

The radio presenter Zanele Potelwa who is also the newest addition of the Expresso morning show on SABC3 will host a new season of Tropika Island of Treasure this year, with the advertiser-funded production (AFP) which will return for an 11th season to SABC3 around September.

Clover's Tropika is once again the sponsor of the upcoming season which will have 13 episodes as well as South African celebrities who will team up with South Africans selected from entries.

Season 11 of Tropika Island of Treasure will once again be produced by the Cape Town-based Cardova Productions, also responsible for Expresso on SABC3.

This time it will be Zanele Potelwa who will be whisked off to a tropical island together with this year's chosen contestants, where they will compete in various challenges as they're whittled down to a winner that will get R1 million.

"This year, the show is pushing the boundaries once again, introducing a fresh batch of castaways ready to face their fears and outwit their rivals for the ultimate prize," says the show. 

The celebrity contestants whose names have not yet been revealed, will include "a charmer", an athlete, an "enigma", a comedian, an "island veteran" survivor, an underdog, a leader, a social butterfly, and "the brain", as well as "the wild card".

MSC Poesia visiting SA waters with chef Reuben Riffel curating pickled fish, malva pudding and Karoo lamb.

by Thinus Ferreira

The MSC Poesia has made the cruise ship's first visit to South African waters with chef Reuben Riffel who curated a special menu.

The MSC Poesia docked in Port Elizabeth on 18 February as part of an ongoing cruise taking it to a berth in Cape Town harbour on 21 February.

The MSC Poesia visit to South Africa follows shortly after the MSC Splendida's first cruise rotation to Southern African shores and will bring another influx of international tourists disembarking in these cities for sight-seeing tours and to do some shopping.

MSC tells me the South African celebrity chef Reuben Riffel was onboard the MSC Poesia for the Port Elizabeth to Cape Town sailing, with guests who enjoyed "his curated menu with a local South African twist".

The MSC Poesia's visit to South African harbours is part of the ship's current world cruise.

"MSC Poesia calling, not just in South Africa but other African parts as part of her journey is a significant vote of confidence in the capacity in the capacity and structures of these destinations, says Ross Volk, MSC Cruises South Africa's managing director.

"The vessel brings with her over 2 000 foreign national visitors to our country and this will have an immense impact on the local economies of Durban, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town. We hope the guests will enjoy their time in South Africa and come back again soon."

The 16-deck MSC Poesia built in 2008 in France has three swimming pools, four whirlpool baths and a giant poolside cinema screen, as well as a Zen garden and a foyer waterfall.

Reuben Riffel's curated menu during the Port Elizabeth to Cape Town cruise included pickled fish, malva pudding and Karoo lamb.

"I'm excited to see the collaboration come to life and equally as excited about sharing this menu with the guests who will be onboard MSC Poesia," said Riffel who did special meet-and-greets while onboard and was on hand during dinner to speak to guests as well about what is being served.

"It is not every day that people from around the world get to experience our local flavours and I hope that the food will be a true reflection of our rich South African cuisine."