Thursday, January 31, 2019

Netflix cancels Fuller House, will end with a 5th season later in 2019: 'We're saving the best for last.'

Netflix has decided to cancel its comedy series Fuller House that the global video streaming service has renewed for a 5th and final season that will become available later in 2019.

The 13-episode 4th season of Fuller House became available in December 2018.

Netflix is not providing an episode number for the 5th season with the spin-off of Full House that follows an adult D.J. (Candace Cameron Bure), Stephanie (Jodie Sweetin) and Kimmy (Andrea Barber) back in the iconic house in San Francisco with their own families.

"We're saving the best for last," says Candace Cameron Bruce and the cast in a video announcing the 5th and final season.

BREAKING. Cash-strapped SABC dumps its massive retrenchment plan in election year; will now do a new skills audit.

The cash-strapped and commercially insolvent South African public broadcaster has decided to dump its massive retrenchment plan in a national election year, that the broadcaster in late-2018 said was its last option to cut costs from its ballooning operations bill.

The SABC will now do a "skills audit".

The SABC on Thursday in a statement said that it would no longer proceed with its retrenchment process - something that saw Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, South Africa's current minister of communications break off interaction with the SABC board that led to multiple resignations and rendering the unstable SABC board once again inquorate.

Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams was vocal and vociferous in demanding that the SABC not fire any workers - in line with South African ruling party policy - although the over-staffed and cash-strapped SABC, buckling under cash flow problems, unable to pay for content and basics like electricity, is top-heavy with managers and sits with an extremely bloated staff count.

"In the interest of the SABC, its employees, key stakeholders and the South African public at large, the SABC has decided not to renew the notice to invoke section 189 of the LRA," the SABC said.

"This follows constructive and extensive engagements with various stakeholders, including the parliamentary portfolio committee on communications, organised labour and our own employees." 

The SABC wanted to fire up to 981 staffers - a third of its full-time workforce - and up to 1 200 freelance workers.

The SABC said that it will now "conduct a thorough skills audit". The SABC board warned parliament in late-2018 that it's fast running out of money and will be unable to pay all staff salaries by the end of March 2019.

The SABC said in its statement that the outcome of its new skills audit "will provide the SABC with a fit-for-purpose structure, with clearly defined span of control, appropriate layers of management and appropriate skills and competencies for roles".

TV CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK. Does local South African television need something like the Bechdel Test for on-screen diversity?

This week, watching the episodes for review purposes of a brand-new, English-language, local South African TV series filmed in KwaZulu-Natal, I suddenly had to think about what I was actually - and unconsciously - constantly being presented with, making me wonder if the time hasn't come for South Africa to come up with a kind of Bechdel Test for diversity in and on South African television.

"Created" for film, the Bechdel Test measures and asks questions about the representation (and actually under-representation) of specifically women in film.

A film passes the gender diversity Bechdel Test if it features at least two women who talk to each other and talk about something other than a man. Easy? Actually not that easy.

The New York Times film critic Manohla Dargis in January 2016 went further and suggested the DuVernay Test, asking whether an American film has black characters and other minorities with fully-realised lives "rather than serve as scenery in white stories".

Cue January 2019 - 2019! - and the first new locally-produced South African drama series of the year has scene upon close-cropped scene of two white people, talking about another white person, with people of colour forming part of the "supporting" cast.

Of course it's not unique. The same goes for virtually every other drama series and local prime time soap, from Generations on SABC1 to Getroud met Rugby on kykNET (DStv 144).

That's the casting, those are the scripts, and that leads to more of the same characters who are rarely depicted within a show as really ever interacting with more than one or two characters who are and look different from them.

If you actually think about and carefully deconstruct it, South African television is doing one hell of a job keeping and depicting South African viewers in homogenous bubbles; bubble enclaves of televised safety where the majority of characters - despite surface-level differences - all act and look the same.

It's also presumably why an inter-racial kiss ("oooh!") in prime time on South African television in 2019 - like what happened two weeks ago with 7de Laan on SABC2 - still somehow elicits complaints and lead to hyped-up reports, breathlessly short on substance, about upset viewers who are given undeserved attention.

What is South Africa'a scripted television-at-large doing - really doing - to not just mirror South African society but to showcase and promote real-world and aspirational racial diversity and inclusivity?

Local television shows, doggedly chasing after broadly-defined demos, seem rigidly set on giving their perceived audience just "them", instead of really challenging viewers and taking them along on a truly representative and much broader racially-integrated TV thrill-ride. 

How many episodes of scripted South African TV shows in prime time will pass the test, or a type of test, where two people of different races are main characters and talk to each other? And even further: Talk not because they're in conflict with each other, and are not talking with each other about or because of conflict with another character?

It's worrying and depressing that local morning breakfast shows with their "one of each" approach, and even local reality shows - like for instance the BBC's reality competition show Come Dine with Me SA returning to BBC Brit (DStv 120) - features more and are showcasing more real diversity than found in local scripted soaps and drama series.

In 2019 South African local TV drama feels like it still hasn't moved on much from doing 1992 Melrose Place type television where the bulk of characters in a particular show are all the same, with one or two from another race sprinkled in, maybe one who is different, and one who is quirky - and then calling it transformed and diverse.

If South African dramatic TV series don't progress, don't break out of the sameness, keep mollycoddling and don't truly start to challenge the/their audiences, how will we ever get to a point where it becomes possible to tell  better stories?

TV NEWS ROUND-UP. Today's interesting TV stories to read from TVwithThinus - 31 January 2019.

Here's the latest news about TV that I read and that you should read too:

■ Moon and Me on CBeebies: The new baby TV show from the genius behind Teletubbies.

■ TopStar, the joint digital terrestrial television (DTT) venture between China's StarTimes and Zambia's public broadcaster, expands the signal coverage of local Zambian TV channels carried on the service.

■ After having bought the Scripps channels, Discovery is starting to take shows that used to be on Scripps channels to put them on channels like Discovery Channel.

■ Amazon Prime Video silent after Will Young slams The Grand Tour and Jeremy Clarkson over homophobic stereotyping.

■ A record number of people are streaming TV worldwide - up 89% year-on-year.

■ Almost half of the kids in the United Kingdom prefer YouTube over traditional TV.

■ Kenya warns: That TV set in your home could be fake.

■ How even Ellen got bored of The Ellen Degeneres Show seen on VUZU (DStv 116).

■ 9 TV shows that survived the death of a main character.

■ The One about Friends still being most popular.

■ New set photo from first live-action Star Wars series shows a classic droid making an appearance.

■ Zambia's ruling Patriotic Front (PF) political party bans Prime TV reporters from its press conference.
Prime TV director Gerald Shiwa calls the PF's disgusting censorship of media undemocratic.

■ Australia should be "banned" from having breakfast TV until the country can learn to use it responsibly.
"Four hours of infomercials disguised as regular segments and topical discussions from people with juuust enough charisma to appear on television but not enough to appear on TV at times that people actually watch it."

■ Reality star horrifies British viewers when she, well, accidentally poops on television.

REVIEW. A girl at a private school dies and everyone's a suspect in the teen murder mystery drama series The Girl from St. Agnes on Showmax that's okay-ish but ultimately disappointing.

A girl at a private school for rich kids where life revolves around appearances is murdered and everyone, pupils and adults, are suspects in the 8-episode teen drama series The Girl from St. Agnes on Showmax that's "okay"-ish but ultimately disappointing and not living up the 2018-announcement hype.

Watched in isolation The Girl from St. Agnes as Showmax's first original drama series has some problems but nothing egregiously "wrong" with it.

However, in a connected world it suffers more when viewed in comparison and in the knowledge of competing video streaming service Netflix's recent ELITE that tells the same type of story, done much better.

It's somewhat jarring that Showmax chose for the premise of its first original drama production the exact same kind of story with a similar kind of plot to a show on Netflix - one that South African viewers can access with similar ease.

It's like Chinese users being offered Baidu, making as if Google that's blocked there, doesn't exist or that consumers won't know of its existence. Ironically it's probably what will happen, with African viewers watching the King Joy egg unaware of the Kinder Joy that goes before it internationally.

Like ELITE, The Girl from St. Agnes covers themes and topics spanning privilege, entitlement, race, different cultures, power, sex, sexual orientation and being gay, young love and romance, body issues and self-esteem, trust and family dysfunction, assault and abuse.

Like ELITE a school girl dies, at the St. Agnes private high school in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands. Similarly, the victim's body is discovered on the evening of a school dance that gets disrupted.

Everyone's backstories, motives and secrets are then revealed, also through 8 episodes. Besides the reveal of the guilty person in the final episode, there is also a similar kind of twist.

Stylistically The Girl from St. Agnes actually reminds of The Wild that was on M-Net and that was also shot on location and is now on (and not because Tyrone Keogh co-incidentally appears in both).

Quizzical Pictures did well with the aerial drone shots. Night scenes, of which there are a lot, are cleverly lit and well-filmed.

St. Agnes and its iron arch do however look too much like a fantastical Hogwarts during Harry Potter students' arrival and there's too much smoke machine for fog throughout the episodes.

A faux-British accent from several characters are offputting and comes across as weird for a contemporary South African setting. Do some South Africans really speak like this? At the end of the media screening of the first episode a journalist actually said: "I went to Michaelhouse and we don't speak and act like that".

A film style choice that's neither here nor there is the deliberately shaky camerawork. It doesn't detract, but is odd. Why? For immediacy? To lend a "gossipy" first-person, viewer-spying-on-conversations tone?

The show definitely does have too many cropped, close-up shots. Is it too disguise that there is not really a school or a real(istic) broader school environment (the show was filmed in part at King's Grant Country Retreat in Ixopo)?

There are scenes that are a joy to watch and where everything in The Girl from St. Agnes brilliantly comes together - the acting, the editing, the music and sound, the script, the scene blocking and directing and timing: Look out for the scene in the first episode taking place inside the teachers' room when the headmaster does a prayer and the physical and metaphysical thud it closes with. Excellent.

Some of the school "kids" look too old for the roles. Jane de Wet as Lexi Summerveld, the girl who dies, fits the age and her role well. Not so with some of the others.

The acting of some of the supporting cast is not that great but some of them actually improve in the later episodes with a more believable performance by the final episode. There are some over-acting from Nina Milner in the role of Kate Ballard, but her role is that of drama teacher so let's move on.

Over the course of the 8 episodes some of the actors definitely come across as slowly figuring out who their characters are while they're playing them, and as if they didn't get beforehand or had a clear understanding or enough direction as to who their characters are.

Particularly the acting of Zakeeya Patel and Nina Milner are better in the final episode than in the first episode; the same for others.

With a 16VSNL age restriction, something that actually rankles in The Girl of St. Agnes is the language use.

For the most part the cussing and swearing don't feel natural or organic for most of the characters - as if the script from Gillian Breslin got a later go-over revision to artificially insert four-letter words as if to say: "Look mom, this is one of the in-your-face markers to show this is a streaming show and not a TV show".

Would the characterisation and believability of who the characters are, be less without the f-bombs? Nope. So why do it just for because?

Working into the story, visually, the social media and messaging behaviour of characters are fine. It could be done better but it's not offputting and it is a difficult "new-TV" thing to do.

For its first original, Showmax's The Girl from St. Agnes is quite "white" for a local South African production. Can you say that? A lot of scenes are between two white people talking about another white person from the beginning, right to the end of the final episode.

It literally made me think for the first time of whether local South African television perhaps needs something like the Bechdel test for movies, but for on-screen diversity. Would the story work better if perhaps the headmaster and Lexi were both also cast as people of colour?

It's really commendable that Showmax is starting to do more local productions and dipped into drama.

It's great that principal photography took place in a province outside of Gauteng. Hopefully it's the start of more, as well as more representation and more uniquely South African and African stories.

The Girl from St. Agnes as a video streaming version of SABC1's Skeem Saam is okay, it's just that in the end it feels derivative and not as satisfying as the similar show that came before it.

ALSO READ: REVIEW. A girl at a private school is murdered and everyone's a suspect in the teen murder mystery drama series ELITE on Netflix that's a terrific guilty pleasure.

REVIEW. A girl at a private school is murdered and everyone's a suspect in the teen murder mystery drama series ELITE on Netflix that's a terrific guilty pleasure.

A girl at a private school for rich kids where life revolves around appearances is murdered and everyone, pupils and adults, become suspects - all of them with hidden lives and secret motivations - in the brilliant and utterly addictive 8-episode teen drama series ELITE on Netflix. 

Imagine a fusion of How to Get Away with Murder with Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars with an incredible pace and narrative technique on steroids, and then you get ELITE.

Making for utterly compulsive viewing, ELITE revolves around a murder at the Las Encinas private high school in Spain, and with the victim's body discovered on the evening of a school dance that gets disrupted.

Everyone's backstories, motives and secrets are then slowly/quickly being revealed through time flashes in the first and subsequent episodes.

ELITE isn't a guilty pleasure, it's a pleasure, stringing you along with a can't-guess whodunnit and interesting and well fleshed-out characters who you want to learn more of and how they're all surprisingly connected. This happens through gasp-inducing but plausible back flashes revealing more and more of the overall mystery.

ELITE that became available on Netflix in October 2018 is an irresistible teen murder mystery and while it's originally in Spanish, you can watch with English subtitles, or switch to the well-done English-dubbed soundtrack that's not "telenovela English" at all. You won't focus on how they talk, you'll be spellbound by what they're doing.

Themes and topics spanning privilege, wealth, entitlement, race, different cultures, power, sex, drug use and addiction, sexual orientation and being gay, young love and romance, body issues and self-esteem, teen pregnancy, trust and family dysfunction, are all incredibly cleverly interwoven in ELITE to create a truly binge-worthy series with twists, jaw-dropping revelations, beautiful people and an overall murder mystery that hooks you and that you want to find the answer to.

While the teenagers go to school, all snark at each other (initially) and viewers follow their social media antics and see their cellphone messages, tagging along on their social doesn't make ELITE (feel) superficial.

In fact, it functionally deepens the narrative in a smart way, organically drawing you in even further into their hyper-connected, yet desperate, isolated, often anxiety-stricken world. 

Everyone suffers from insecurities - even those initially doing the bullying including the teen queen - although all the rich kids, and now the new kids, are surrounded by a world of excess. 

Even the poor kids and those always-do-the-right-thing teenagers who you initially think are heroes have hidden prejudices and desires that eventually surface. Another cool thing about ELITE is that you won't be able to guess the killer. 

You literally have to watch every episode (not a chore) with the well-structured story that switches from locker rooms and bedrooms to parties and classrooms. ELITE feels as if you're really in a school and in these preppy teenagers' challenging, decadent, aspirational and painful lives.

The teenage girl who gets killed in ELITE is revealed in the first episode but because of back flashes is seen throughout the show, including the final episode containing the actual murder scene and revealing the killer.

Whereas in most teen drama series the characters often remain one-dimensional with little real depth - they're chosen to represent a stereotype and to fit tropes like "the school jock", the "school nerd", the "prom queen", the "ethnic outsider" - ELITE smartly builds in great character development as it unfolds for each of the characters.

Parallel to that runs a very layered story; one that moves briskly and one that doesn't conform to the tropes you know. 

What makes ELITE a joy to watch is that it constantly goes where you didn't think it would go, or even thought of that it could go - it deliciously plays with the teen drama genre but still feels very grounded and real.

Once you've watched all 8 episodes of ELITE, take a minute to think back to where they all initially started and what your impressions were of them, and then what you think of them individually at the end.. Who do you like now? Who do you feel for now?

Why not mention any of the well-acted, well-cast, characters in ELITE and who they are? That would already spoil some of the viewing fun. Get to ELITE's school pool and just dive right in. It's a must-do binge-watch assignment that you will enjoy finishing.

ALSO READ: REVIEW. A girl at a private school is murdered and everyone's a suspect in the teen murder mystery drama series The Girl from St. Agnes on Showmax that's okay-ish but ultimately disappointing.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

M-Net adds new weekday Nigerian drama series, Halita, to Africa Magic Family from 4 February.

A new weekday drama series, Halita, will start on Africa Magic Family (DStv 154) on Monday 4 February, revolving around a Northern Nigeria woman forced to flee her village and finding new life in the city.

Halita, played by Chisom Gabriella, tells the story of a young woman forced to escape from an evil lover, only to face the intrigue and drama of a new life in the city with a powerful family.

"Halita demonstrates yet again our commitment to telling the best stories out of Africa for Africa. It is a tale of family, fortune and fate, and is guaranteed to provide the exciting entertaining content that the Africa Magic channels are renowned for," says Wangi Mba-Uzoukwu, M-Net's Africa Magic channel director.

"The production values are stellar, and the performances are worthy of critical acclaim. Lovers of exciting African entertainment content would do well to tune in and watch the show."

The Halita cast includes Ummi Baba Ahmed, Boma Elamiena and Eddy Madaki.

M-Net working on expanded plan for 8th season of Game of Thrones, as paranoid HBO instructs M-Net to again beef up content security standards before the final season starts.

As M-Net (DStv 101) gets ready for Winter to come, the channel is expanding its plans for the spectacular upcoming 8th season of Game of Thrones starting in mid-April, as HBO in America meanwhile ordered M-Net to again beef up and further improve its existing content and IT protection systems even more to protect and safeguard the show.

As TVwithThinus already revealed earlier this month, M-Net will again have the 8th season of Game of Thrones as an Express from the US title.

It means that M-Net will simulcast and show new episodes of the hugely buzzed-about final season of Game of Thrones to DStv subscribers in South Africa and across Africa at 03:00 in the mornings at the same time as it's broadcast in the United States, starting from very early on Monday morning 15 April with the first episode.

M-Net will then also show the week's new Game of Thrones episode during prime time although the channel has not yet announced the day of the week and timeslot that it would be in.

MultiChoice's video streaming service Showmax will carry seasons one to seven of Game of Thrones for viewers to binge-watch.

It's not yet clear whether MultiChoice will allocate the new 8th season's episodes to be carried on Showmax, or if it will be on DStv Now's Catch Up service for paying DStv subscribers who miss out on the linear M-Net broadcast.

The upcoming 8th season's six and longer than usual "mini-movies" will all be upsized bumper-episodes, with the first two Game of Thrones episodes clocking in at 60 minutes each without commercials and the last four episodes each stretching for 80 minutes without commercials.

That means a final season story time of 440 minutes, or 7 hours and 20 minutes.

"I can't contain myself. It's really outstanding - the things that we've seen so far I can't believe. I can't share but I cannot believe, said Tracy-Ann van Rooyen, M-Net's head of scheduling and programming.

She spoke and led a press panel session about M-Net's international content at M-Net's comprehensive 3-day programming upfront that took place last week at Gold Reef City in Johannesburg where M-Net discussed and answered questions about Game of Thrones.

HBO again orders security improvements
Meanwhile HBO is so paranoid about possible content leaks, spoilers and content theft that could potentially happen through its international broadcast partners, that HBO - according to sources who spoke directly from first-hand knowledge - instructed M-Net for a second time to yet again beef up further and implement additional digital content protection safety measures and IT protocols.

It follows disastrous mistakes like when pay-TV operator Star India leaked the 4th episode of the 7th season when 4 workers breached its data management system and saw the episode go viral globally.

That was followed by HBO Spain and HBO Nordic territories just a few weeks later in August 2017 that accidentally leaked the full-high definition penultimate episode of the 7th season of Game of Thrones days before its supposed broadcast date that also saw that episode instantly go global.

A while ago HBO asked to audit M-Net's broadcast facilities and to approve the pay-TV broadcaster's security standard operating procedures (SOP).

These new, upgraded security standards regarding content management, storage and playout have been in place specifically for Game of Thrones and all of the other HBO shows that M-Net broadcasts as Express from the US.

"Two weeks ago M-Net got a 40-pager - I kid you not - from HBO to improve on those, and to change those for the final season of Game of Thrones because they are so paranoid that there are absolutely no leaks," said a source. "It's fascinating."

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Premier Soccer League boss Irvin Khoza slams South Africa's broadcaster regulator; warns that Icasa's dumb and destructive sports rights regulations will destroy and dump SA sports back in the 1980's.

South Africa's Premier Soccer League (PSL) and its boss Irvin Khoza on Tuesday slammed South Africa's broadcasting regulator, Icasa, over its foolish, dangerous and destructive draft regulations to reorganise TV sports contents rights in the country, warning that Icasa's damaging regulations plan threatens to derail, destroy and collapse soccer and other sports in South Africa and will dump the country's sports back in the 1980's.

The shocking and daft draft regulations (published here) and proposed by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) will inflict serious harm on sports, sports bodies and sports broadcasting in South Africa in totality.

The uninformed and shocking impact will destroy sports broadcasting in South Africa that will devolve into a downward spiral of mediocrity, and gut different sporting codes heavily dependent on the influx of money and the sponsorships funneled to sport groups because of televised licensing rights.

Sports bodies, like for instance soccer and rugby, managed by groups like the Premier Soccer League and Rugby South Africa, will no longer be able to decide for themselves who to awards TV sports rights to - usually the highest available bidder, for instance SuperSport - with a lot of that money channeled back into paying players, upliftment and development, maintaining championship standards and organising.

While pay-TV sports broadcasters like MultiChoice, SuperSport, FOX Sports and China's StarTimes and StarSat and their pay-TV viewers will directly suffer due to curtailed sports content, free-to-air broadcasters like the SABC and offered rights won't be necessarily able to afford it or willing to pay for it.

The forcing of free rights given to free-to-air channels will also mean no money for sports bodies, and no incentive for pay-TV broadcasters to show the content viewers can watch anywhere.

Forced to give rights - in some cases for free and rights holders in some cases banned from signing with their own-choice preferred bidder - Icasa's foolhardy plan to force more sports to a free-to-air system, will mean less money for sports bodies.

That in turn will lead to a lowering of standards, sports bodies unable to afford top talent, and an overall steady decline of not just televised sports but the actual quality of matches.

After an initial February deadline, Icasa has now pushed the deadline for public comment on its controversial Draft Sports Broadcasting Services Amendment Regulations from 4 February to mid-March.

On Tuesday after an extraordinary board of governors meeting in Johannesburg by the PSL, PSL chairman Irvin Khoza in a scathing rebuke, slammed Icasa for its alleged failure to consult with the TV industry, sports broadcasters and sports bodies, and warning that Icasa could collapse soccer and sport in South Africa with its regulations.

Irvin Khoza said Icasa's sports rights regulations will cripple the PSL that would lose 80% of its annual revenue and implode the football organisation and its member clubs desperately dependent on the income derived from sports rights deals.

"Icasa wants to do this after the hard work we have put in. Players would not be getting paid as much if it wasn't for our current funding model. The current broadcast deal took work and time," said Irvin Khoza.

"We did not break the law. Everything we did was within the framework. We did the work necessary. The broadcast deal [with SuperSport] has had an enormous impact on the state of South African football. Without it, the PSL dies," Irvin Khoza warned.

"Without adequate funding, this industry as we know it will collapse and will be back to what it was back in the 1980's. Clubs will cut support staff to the bone and our grant of R11 million to South African Football Association (Safa) will no longer be available."

"I hope this is an error from Icasa. It is also a form of exclusion. They did not consult or try to understand our industry," said Irvin Khoza.

"We will defend ourselves rigorously. We will exhaust all options available to us. If this is not resolved, we will shut down the PSL."

Jussie Smollett of Empire on FOX brutally attacked in possible hate crime in Chicago; attacked with racial, homophobic slurs, punched, drenched in chemicals and rope tied around his neck.

A star of Empire seen on FOX (DStv 125 / StarSat 131 / Cell C black 201), Jussie Smollett, was brutally attacked in Chicago on Tuesday morning, according to multiple reports in American media, in what purports to be a hate crime in which racial and homophobic slurs were hurled at him while he was punched, chemicals poured over him and a rope tied around his neck.

The Chicago police department in a statement on Twitter said that "The Chicago police department received a report of a possible racially charged assault and battery against a cast member of the television show Empire".

"Given the severity of the allegations, we are taking this investigation very seriously and treating it as a possible hate crime."

Jussie Smollett of Empire who visited South Africa in December 2017 and who appears as the gay musician character of Jamal Lyon, the son of Lucious (Terrence Howard) and Cookie (Taraji P. Henson), walked out of a restaurant in East Lower Water Street in Chicago at 02:00 on Tuesday morning when two attackers started hurling racial and homophobic slurs at him.

They then brutally physically attacked him, punching him, before pouring an unknown chemical substance over him. One of the attackers also wrapped a rope around Jussie Smollett's neck, after which they fled the scene.

According to TMZ the two offenders are allegedly white men and wore ski masks, with one that allegedly yelled: "Aren't you that f***ot Empire n*****?"

Jussie Smollett drove himself to a hospital.

20th Century Fox Television in a statement late on Tuesday said: "We are deeply saddened and outraged to learn that a member of our Empire family, Jussie Smollett was viciously attacked last night".

"We send our love to Jussie, who is resilient and strong, and we will work with law enforcement to bring these perpetrators to justice. The entire studio, network and production stands united in the face of any despicable act of violence and hate - especially against one of our own."

Lee Daniels, Empire co-creator, in a statement says "Jussie you are my son. You didn't deserve, nor anyone deserves, to have a noose put around your neck; to have bleach thrown on you. You are better than that. We are better than that. America is better than that. It starts at home. We have to love each other regardless of of what sexual orientation we are."

SABC staffers go unpaid as struggling South African public broadcaster blames Nedbank for a 'technical error', says staffers will be paid today.

SABC staffers have not been paid, with the cash-strapped and struggling South African public broadcaster that blames a bank that it's not naming for a "technical error", saying SABC workers will be paid today.

Multiple SABC staffers complained that they haven't been paid at the end of January, after the SABC told parliament in late-2018 that by the end of February some SABC staffers won't be paid and that by the end of March no SABC staffers will be paid as the commercially insolvent SABC hovers on the edge of a financial cliff.

The trade union Bemawu said it's aware of the dire situation of staffers who have not been paid and is urgently seeking answers from the SABC.

The SABC in a statement on early Tuesday morning said the SABC "would like to put it on record that the technical error experienced this morning in the payment of staff salaries was due to problems experienced by the financial institution".

"The SABC has been assured that the technical error will be resolved in a matter of hours and staff will still be paid today," said Neo Momodu, SABC spokesperson.

In a telephone interview on SABC2's Morning Live on Tuesday, Leanne Manas asked Neo Momodu about the non-payment with Neo Momodu who blamed it on a "bank glitch".

Leanne Manas asked Neo Momodu whether the dreaded SABC "Day Zero" has arrived.

The minister of communications, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams is meanwhile being criticised for not doing enough to secure another government bail-out of R3 billion for the struggling SABC.

"Is there still money available at the SABC or is this the day people had been dreading?" Leanne Manas asked.

Neo Momodu said "We woke up this morning and found out that our staff had not been paid. We have been told that there is a technical error at the bank. It's got nothing to do with Day Zero. The glitch is not from the SABC."

"We have been assured that staff will be paid on the 29th as has always been the case. Payment has been made by the SABC to the banks."

"I'm telling you that the speculation and the false reports are not true. We as the SABC are saying that staff will be paid today. There is a technical error that has nothing to do with the SABC."

"It's a fault from the bank's side which we are assured will be sorted out and staff will be paid today," said Neo Momodu.

The SABC didn't identify the bank, but Nedbank in a statement said the payment of SABC staff salaries was "impacted due to the payment validation processes put in place between the SABC and Nedbank."

"This has now been finalised and salaries will be paid to SABC staff this afternoon, 29 January."

In a statement later on Tuesday at 11:38am the SABC said "The SABC would like to advise that the financial institution has revolved the technical error and salaries are being paid".

"The SABC would like to thank its employees for their patience, support and apologise for any inconvenience caused, whilst the SABC was addressing the matter with the financial institution".

Monday, January 28, 2019

Brave hearts! M-Net and MultiChoice to run the M-Net Movies EPIC pop-up channel on DStv from 22 March featuring films showcasing the greatest cinematic battles of all time.

DStv subscribers will need brave hearts for the M-Net Movies EPIC pop-up channel that M-Net and MultiChoice will launch as its next DStv pop-up channel from 22 March that will feature films showcasing the greatest cinematic battles of all time.

M-Net Movies made the announcement about the launch of the M-Net Movies EPIC pop-up channel last week Thursday during its panel session at M-Net's comprehensive 3-day programming upfront at Gold Reef City in Johannesburg.

While not yet releasing a list of the epic war and battle films, M-Net Movies said that the M-Net Movies EPIC channel will be running for just over three weeks on channel 109 on DStv, starting on 22 March and ending on 14 April 2019.

Lynn Fourie, the senior manager for acquisitions and scheduling for M-Net Movies, said that in 2017 and 2018 M-Net did four M-Net Movies pop-up channels on DStv each year, "and this year we've got M-Net Movies Game On" that will run from 22 February to 10 March, showing over 70 films.

Every weekend will have a themed day on M-Net Movies Game On, with Formula One Friday on 22 February, followed by Soccer Saturday 23 February, and Super Bowl Sunday on 24 February. Viewers can enter the ring with legends on Friday 1 March for a boxing extravaganza. Saturday 2 March is devoted to basketball and Sunday to baseball.

Friday 8 March swings into action with golf, then ice-hockey on Saturday 9 March and rugby and athletics on Sunday 10 March.

"We are still planning the year ahead. I must mention that I don't live in the present. I live in the future," said Lynn Fourie, regarding her acquisition and scheduling work and upcoming M-Net Movies pop-up channels on DStv for the rest of the year.

"I'm working on what's happening in November 2019 into March 2020. We are working furiously and frantically to get the ideas locked down. I'm very excited about it."

"One particular M-Net Movies pop-up channel is going to take a lot of legwork - I'm 30% there, I now need to push through to the other 70%".

Phoebe Nakabazzi fired as MultiChoice Uganda marketing manager after tawdry extra-marital office affair with boss Charles Hamya who finally decided to quit.

 Charles Hamya and Phoebe Nakabazzi

Media in Uganda are reporting that Phoebe Nakabazzi, MultiChoice Uganda's marketing manager has been fired, following an embarrassing sex scandal after the MultiChoice office extra-marital affair was exposed between her and her boss, Charles Hamya, by his angry wife.

Charles Hamya finally decided to quit earlier this month and will be gone by the end of March.

Albert Ngabirano has now apparently been appointed in the position of head of marketing for MultiChoice Uganda. Albert Nga previously served as GOtv marketing manager and has worked at MultiChoice Uganda for over 6 years.

Phoebe Nakabazzi is out of her position, as is Charles Hamya, following the shocking disclosure by Charles Hamya's wife, the long-suffering Crusid Matovu in July 2018, when she sent an email, circulated to all MultiChoice Uganda staffers of her husband's trashy behaviour and illicit office romance with a fellow MultiChoice staffer working under him.

Crusid Matovu in an email detailed Charles Hamya and Phoebe Nakabazzi's extra-marital affair and their secret hotel trysts that she said "shouldn't be what MultiChoice Uganda stands for".

Crusid Matovu said the MultiChoice Uganda top executives have "proven that they do not value marriage or work ethics. This level of unprofessionalism should not be what MultiChoice Uganda stands for and for that matter I no longer want to be associated with both parties".

The MultiChoice Africa sex scandal forced Charles Hamya to first take leave in August 2018.

Then MultiChoice staffers started wondering why MultiChoice allows extra-marital affairs between bosses and co-workers apparently without consequences when Charles Hamya returned in October 2018 as if nothing happened.

At the beginning of this month the controversial and shamed MultiChoice Uganda boss finally decided to quit following apparent pressure from MultiChoice Africa leadership. He will be leaving MultiChoice Uganda on 31 March 2019 as general manager.

After MultiChoice says Disney XD is planning on rebranding to Marvel HQ on DStv later in 2019, Disney Africa denies it and says 'there are no plans to change Disney XD for its current format'.

Walt Disney Africa tells TVwithThinus there are no plans at the moment to change its Disney XD (DStv 304) channel from Disney XD to Marvel HQ or anything else on MultiChoice's DStv satellite pay-TV platform in South Africa and Africa.

It comes after growing speculation,  after Disney decided to flip its boy-focused kids channel in India from Disney XD to Marvel HQ since 20 January.

Currently only Disney XD in India changed to Marvel HQ, but according to Disney, the change could be replicated in other territories and markets "depending on market demand".

The 10-year old Disney XD is apparently facing ratings problems internationally, with Disney that has also started shifting some shows from Disney XD to the Disney Channel (DStv 303), and with Disney XD that shuttered at the beginning of the month in Australia and New Zealand.

Weirdly complicating and confusing matters are MultiChoice - itself as carrier of Disney XD - telling at least one person that Disney XD in South Africa will be changing to Marvel HQ but not giving any date or specifics.

MultiChoice on its DStvCare Twitter handle, when asked if Disney XD is going to change in South Africa and Africa as well, told a viewer that "we can only confirm that Disney XD is planning on rebranding to Marvel HQ, we can't confirm the exact time when this will be taking place".

After being told by MultiChoice that Disney XD will be changing to Marvel HQ later in 2019, the viewer reached out to TVwithThinus asking what's going on.

TVwithThinus on Monday asked The Walt Disney Company Africa for clarity and whether Disney XD will be changing to Marvel HQ, and if so, when - or not - and got another message.

A spokesperson said: "Currently there are no plans to change Disney XD from its current format on DStv".

SABC, Primedia and Ster-Kinekor fined for 'cartel conduct' price-fixing, to pay millions in fines.

The SABC, Primedia and Ster-Kinekor have admitted to "cartel conduct" and price-fixing and will be paying millions of rands in fines after reaching settlement agreements with the Competition Commission.

This follows an investigation that started in November 2011 which found that the SABC, Primedia and Ster-Kinekor colluded through the Media Credit Coordinators (MCC), with members offering discounts and payment terms to advertising agencies that placed advertisements with other members.

The SABC, Primedia and Ster-Kinekor were also found to have employed an intermediate company named Corex to perform risk assessments on advertising agencies to impose a settlement discount structure on the agencies.

The Competition Commission's investigation found that these practices restricted competition among the companies and that their price-fixing and trading terms contravened the Competition Act.

The SABC, Primedia and Ster-Kinekor have been ordered to pay administrative penalties, provide bonus advertising space to qualifying agencies, and contribute to the Economic Development Fund (EDF).

The SABC has to pay a fine of R31.8 million and provide 25% bonus advertising space for every rand of space purchased by small agencies for the next three years. This is capped at R40 million annually, amounting to a total sum of R120 million over the three-year period.

The SABC must also contribute R17.7 million to the EDF over the next three years.

Primedia agreed to pay an administrative penalty of R9.6 million and will also provide 25% bonus advertising space to qualifying agencies, capped at a value of R72 million over three years. Primedia will also contribute R3.4 million to the EDF over a three-year period.

Ster-Kinekor agreement to pay R436 999.90 as a fine and will provide 25% bonus advertising space to qualifying agencies, capped at a value of R3 million for a period of three years. Ster-Kinekor will pay R157 319.96 to the EDF.

The EDF is managed and administrated by the Media Development and Diversity Agency.

Several other companies have already been fined heavily previously for the same collusion, including MultiChoice's DStv Media Sales, Naspers' Media24 and Caxton.

DEVELOPING. SABC3's Real Talk cancelled, talk show off the schedule from March as the SABC takes a decision to cancel the weekday talker.

TVwithThinus has been told that the SABC has now taken a definite decision to cancel its weekday talk on SABC3, Real Talk with Azania, with Real Talk that will end at the end of February as repeat episodes are burnt off in the timeslot until March.

Real Talk with Azania is currently airing repeats.

The SABC responded to a media enquiry on Monday seeking clarity on whether Real Talk has now indeed been cancelled, with the SABC that said it will only be releasing a media statement on Tuesday.

For now Real Talk has been removed and no longer appears on SABC3's schedule from March.

Unconfirmed rumours somehow suddenly started swirling in September 2018 that Real Talk on SABC3 was cancelled, although the SABC has not taken any decision at that time to do so.

The SABC denied the rumours that the scandal-damaged Real Talk, produced by Cheeky Media, was cancelled and said that the public broadcaster's TV division was currently in its planning cycle and that no ideas around programming had been finalised.

Those plans are now however crystalising with Real Talk that after the end of February won't be continuing for the foreseeable future.

In September 2018 the SABC told parliament that it's working on yet another SABC3 reinvention and brand and demo target shift for the struggling channel and that SABC3 will reposition itself yet again in 2019 with a focus on "strengthening our talk".

Real Talk doesn't form part of that "strengthening our talk" plan.

Things turned sour for Real Talk with massive brand and reputational damage for the show and SABC3 in December 2017 in a "pay-for-play" scandal when the SABC broadcast two episodes on SABC3 in which then-host Anele Mdoda interviewed and fawned over the caustic and controversial former minister of social development, Bathabile Dlamini as well as her publicist Lumka Oliphant.

Unknown to viewers, undeclared to the audience and completely against SABC rules, the department paid and SABC took payment, without disclosing to viewers that they are watching paid for "talkomercials".

Taking payment from politicians for interviews, as well as taking payment for interviews without disclosing it to the public is against the SABC's own editorial policy. The SABC board got involved and met about the serious lapse that damaged the SABC's integrity.

Neither Real Talk, Anele Mdoda or SABC3 ever directly addressed the controversial issue on air although a Real Talk producer said most brands pay to be on the show.

UPDATE Tuesday 29 January 2019 - 17:37:
The SABC now confirms what TVwithThinus reported on Monday, that Real Talk on SABC3 has been cancelled.

The SABC in a statement tells me: "The SABC would like to announce that SABC3's talk show programme Real Talk will not be returning for a 5th season, when the current episodes of Real Talk, which are repeat episodes conclude. The decision was taken following the new direction which the channel will be taking."

"The SABC would like to thank Cheeky Media for their hard work and dedication in delivering Real Talk to SABC3 audiences."

SABC fires its latest political editor, Dumisani Hlophe, after just 5 months, according to reports, with his axing in 2019 as an important election year coming just months before voters go to the polls.

The South African public broadcaster has apparently fired its political editor, Dumisani Hlophe, after just 5 months, according to reports.

With his axing coming in 2019 as a national election year for the country, the firing of Dumisani Hlophe - irrespective of the reasons - will raise further concerns and questions about the credibility of the SABC's SABC News division.

Dumisani Hlophe was appointed as the SABC's political editor in September 2018 with the SABC and the SABC's head of news and current affairs, Phathiswa Magopeni, who at the time said that "his appointment [is] yet another step taken by the public news service to consolidate its position as an independent and impartial news provider".

"We are therefore confident that with the experience and political expertise he brings, Dumisani Hlophe will add value to our political coverage, especially with general elections coming in 2019."

The Democratic Alliance (DA) political party at the time criticised Dumisani Hlophe's appointment as a "step backwards" for South Africa due to his apparent bias towards the media and political parties.

Sunday World first reported the news about Dumisani Hlophe's apparent firing, with the SABC that has decided to remain silent about a crucial aspect of its editorial SABC News service, unwilling to as of yet confirm or deny Dumisani Hlope's axing.

Dumisani Hlophe, on long leave, was apparently fired over alleged "poor performance", and he was reportedly "managed out" after allegedly "struggling to cope" in the position of political editor.

M-Net's 7th season of Survivor SA: Island of Secrets set 'extremely far, far away'; filming with 21 contestants to start soon on an island furthest away from South Africa yet, with some much older contestants than before.

With pre-production that's been underway, filming is about to start on the 7th season of Survivor SA on M-Net (DStv 101) - set on the most remote island location that the South African version of the show has ever done - "extremely far, far away" on literally the other side of the world and including some much older contestants than before.

TVwithThinus can reveal that Survivor SA: Island of Secrets, with South African production company Afrokaans again producing the Banijay Group's Survivor format show for its second consecutive time, will have 21 contestants for its 7th season, again filming for 39 days like the previous season.

With Nico Panagio once again back as Survivor SA host, the new season is set on a location further away from South Africa than ever before, with the show that previously had exotic set-piece seasons playing out as far away as Panama, the Maldives, Malaysia and even the Philippines in the previous 6th season.

With a rough time difference of between 10 to 11 hours compared to South Africa, it takes the production crew, filming equipment and contestants between 4 to 5 different - including extremely long - flights just to reach the fantasy island locale in its far-flung time zone.

The travel time? Roughly over a 24-hour day and a half spent on planes and waiting in international airports for flight connections to get there.

Coming with the exclusive M-Net show however - that will once again feature built-in scene-chewing location shots including waterfalls, dense jungle vegetation and tropical palm trees, beautiful beaches and vivid blue hues of completely transparent waters - is a premium TV production price to match.

With Survivor SA: Island of Secrets currently in pre-production and set for broadcast from mid-May on M-Net after the first season finale of The Bachelor SA, Afrokaans will be under extreme time pressure to film, edit and deliver the new season's episodes for playout on air, having roughly three and a half months to do so from when the castaways are dropped on the island, to the broadcast date.

As in the previous season, some of the editing of the thousands of recorded and logged hours will already start and take place in a production room on-location once filming starts.

On Friday morning M-Net showed the gaggle of press and TV critics attending its comprehensive 3-day programming upfront at Gold Reef City in Johannesburg a brand-new teaser of Survivor SA: Island of Secrets containing some brand-new location shots in the video promo that was packaged and emailed from the show's production hub on one of the islands.

Lani Lombard, M-Net's head of publicity, says M-Net will reveal the location of the Island of Secrets soon but only once all of the selected contestants have arrived and filming has started with the 21 contestants in the game.

"Contestants on this season of Survivor South Africa, similar to all previous ones, are not allowed to know beforehand who the other contestants are or the location. Even when they arrive at the mystery location they are kept in isolation."

"If they know what the location is, they can research quite a lot about the location, so the whole idea behind Survivor is for it to be a surprise for them when they go."

"As soon as all of the contestants are there, M-Net will make an announcement of where the latest season is set," says Lani Lombard.

"This season is going to be very interesting. Of course the contestants are going to be very different to the previous season's contestants. I can reveal that there are a couple of much older contestants this year, and then there's the Island of Secrets where a lot will happen that will create all kinds of drama."

"There's a big difference between the ages of the contestants this season - there are very young contestants and there are much older contestants as well, and there are very feisty contestants, and then very funny contestants as well."

Pearl Thusi to be the roast master of AKA’s Africa Comedy Central Roast in February.

Pearl Thusi will be the roastmaster of the Comedy Central Roast of AKA that will be broadcast on Comedy Central (DStv 122) and Showmax.

The Comedy Central Roast of AKA (real name Kiernan Forbeswill be recorded on 21 February at The Teatro at Montecasino in Johannesburg and broadcast on Comedy Central (DStv 122) with the uncensored version going to MultiChoice's Showmax video streaming service.

The Comedy Central Roast of AKA will be taking place and be recorded at The Theatro at Montecasino on 21 February 2019 where the musician will be roasted by a panel of people that will still be announced.

Pearl Thusi is the first woman in Africa to host the localised African version of Comedy Central Roast.

"I'm very excited to be the Roast Master and to work with Comedy Central for the first time," says Pearl Thusi.

"To be the first female Roast Master in Africa and first black woman globally is a great achievement. To AKA - we've talked a lot of mess on Twitter and in private, but now we're going to settle this in front of the world, with no one to protect you."

"This is deeper than rap beef. It will be on stage and to your face. I honestly can't wait. Oh, and I won't be alone as I've got a team of Roasters with me. So poetic. Just remember: Composure, composure".

Dillon Khan, vice-president for Comedy Central and creative services at Viacom International Media Networks Africa (VIMN Africa), says "Our phones have been inundated with celebrities who want to be on the Comedy Central Roast especially with AKA in the firing line".

"Having someone as fierce as Pearl at the helm means AKA is guaranteed to be hit close to home. The revelations will be televised."

Candice Fangueiro, Showmax's head of content, says "Showmaxers love to laugh but we still had to take our brave pills to put the last Roast on Showmax fully uncensored. This fresh Roast led by Pearl is set to take things even further - viciously funny and downright rude, just the way our viewers like it. I can't wait."

Sunday, January 27, 2019

IN IMAGES. 69 photos of M-Net's 2019 Content Showcase programming upfront.

This past week M-Net held a 3-day press tour in Johannesburg, with an "FBI investigation" theme since the new American drama series FBI just started on M-Net (DStv 101) this week, inviting journalists covering television and TV critics from across South Africa to Gold Reef City.

M-Net did Q&A sessions with the talent of several of its new and upcoming local shows like The Voice SA, The Bachelor SA, Finding the One, and Trackers; held panel sessions with producers and M-Net executives regarding the broader M-Net, M-Net's local content, M-Net's international content slate, its M-Net Movies division, and took media to the recording of the second season finale of The Wedding Bashers.

Besides a full, set schedule of morning and afternoon press events and breakaway panel sessions on Wednesday and Thursday, including evening events, and ending Friday afternoon; M-Net also constructed a "Case File" to be solved.

Journalists were all allocated to different coloured FBI hat teams, having to work together to gather clues and evidence to "solve" the overall case, as well as complete several tasks in-between.

The entire M-Net press tour was extremely well conceptualised, creative, beautiful, well thought-out and flowing, and very well-organised, especially given the large media contingent who were invited and attended - certainly the biggest South African one I've ever been a part of.

Here are photos of M-Net's 3-day #MNetCaseFile programming upfront press tour:

Arrival and registration at MultiChoice City

Arrival at Gold Reef City and welcoming

Wednesday morning: The Voice SA season 3

Wednesday afternoon: Finding the One

Wednesday late afternoon: The Bachelor SA personal grooming, makeup and makeover session

Wednesday night: The Bachelor SA dinner and press event

(Heavy, continuous thundershowers caused a wash-out of the event that was beautifully set up at the Gold Reef City pool - I saw pictures.)

Instead of cancelling, M-Net pushed the start time out to later, constantly messaged the media Whatsapp group with updates and jumped to Plan B reorganising and redressing an available conference room.)

Thursday morning: The Bachelor SA exercise with Lee Thompson Fitness and "FBI training"
(Kill me now.)

Wednesday mid-morning: M-Net international content slate panel session

Wednesday afternoon: M-Net Movies press session

Thursday night: The Wedding Bashers season 2 finale studio recording

Friday morning: M-Net scripted local content panel session (like new drama series, Trackers)

Friday afternoon: "Graduation" and lunch

And finally, the haul from the M-Net swag bag, as journalists received gifts and promotional items from M-Net and the sponsors of various shows on M-Net over the course of the 3 days.