Tuesday, April 30, 2019

DStv is done with Steve Hofmeyr; pay-TV operator MultiChoice says that it will no longer carry any content that includes him.

MultiChoice is done with Steve Hofmeyr with the pay-TV company that will now actively block him and content in which he might appear in future, including a block on the broadcast of any library material that features him, from being shown on DStv.

Going forward, MultiChoice's DStv service won't give the Afrikaans artist Steve Hofmeyr (54) any public exposure through airtime, or further opportunities for him to earn money for any of his possible future work or any past material he appears in, by no longer providing a platform for it to be broadcast.

The controversial and race-baiting artist who previously stated on social media that "blacks are the architects of apartheid", who kept singing Die Stem at concerts and arts festivals and would gaslight with photos and messages of the old South African flag will no longer get any exposure on, be allowed to appear on, or be able to make any money from DStv or any of its broadcasting brands like kykNET.

MultiChoice, that threatened to withdraw its sponsorship of an Afrikaans music awards show held earlier this month if a new music video in which Steve Hofmeyr appeared wasn't removed as a nominee in one of the categories, no longer wants to be associated with him or any of his past or future content.

Earlier this month, after the organisers of the 2019 kykNET Ghoema Music Awards pulled the nomination of Die Land (The Land) music video in which Steve Hofmeyr appears alongside other Afrikaans singers, Joe Heshu, MultiChoice's group executive for corporate affairs, in a statement said "We are committed to the building of a non-racial society and strongly condemn any acts of discrimination".

"MultiChoice is proud of its support for Afrikaans, not only our investment in content for our DStv platforms but also our sponsorships of festivals, events and the broader Afrikaans performing arts sector."

"Our commitment to Afrikaans and all local languages will not change. It has come to our attention that Steve Hofmeyr was nominated for a Ghoema music award in the category for Best Music video."

"We have requested that Steve Hofmeyr not form part of the event that we sponsor as his views are not aligned with our values. We welcome a society where freedom of speech is celebrated, however we take a stand against racism."

Following this, TVwithThinus sought clarity from MultiChoice and asked if it's distancing itself as a broadcasting company from a new music video featuring Steve Hofmeyr, what its view is in terms of showing any other existing or future Hofmeyr-connected content.

Following the Ghoemas brouhaha, the Randburg-based pay-TV company is now making it clear that it's not just the new music video but any content that includes Steve Hofmeyr.

MultiChoice won't air future Steve Hofmeyr content he might appear in and will try to prevent the broadcast of any archive material in which he features.

"The MultiChoice Group will in future not carry content that includes Steve Hofmeyr on any of its platforms," the company told me.

The impact of MultiChoice's decision will be wide-ranging for the artist.

He has a big collection of music videos and popular songs that once enjoyed continuous airplay across DStv channels, and once was the host of the long-running talk show Dis Hoe Dit is ... met Steve on kykNET (DStv 144).

He made numerous appearances until recently across a wide range of music, variety and magazine shows across the kykNET channels like Kwêla and Afrikaans music concerts that were broadcast as TV specials.

He appeared as a soap star in M-Net's Egoli getting re-airings, and drama series like Agter Elke Man repeated on kykNET as well as the SABC Encore (DStv 156) channel that is part of a MultiChoice channels deal with the SABC.

Steve Hofmeyr also appeared in several feature films, like for instance Agter Elke Man (1990), No Hero (1992) and more recently Platteland (2011), Pretville (2012) and Treurgrond (2015). MultiChoice's decision means those movies likely won't be screened on DStv anymore.

It's now also a given that Steve Hofmeyr won't get any mention, or appear in anything that kykNET produces in terms of special look-back TV programming as part of its celebration plans in 5 month's time for its big 20th anniversary happening in October 2019.

Should a channel like Comedy Central (DStv 122) from Viacom International Media Networks Africa (VIMN Africa) for instance want to show a marathon of its Comedy Central Roast of ... episodes, the 2012-episode featuring Steve Hofmeyr will in such a case likely not form part of such a multi-episode airing.

A flood of tears as Ewan Strydom leaves SABC3's Expresso after 8 years in highly-emotional farewell and co-hosts say: 'You've been the best part of our mornings'.

Tears unashamedly streamed down his face on Tuesday morning as Ewan Strydom bid goodbye as a TV presenter of SABC3's morning show Expresso 8 and a half years after he joined the Cape Town based lifestyle show, as his co-hosts shared moving messages in a highly-emotional on-air farewell.

Tuesday was announced as his last day on air with Ewan Strydom who teared up when his co-presenters shared final goodbye messages during this morning's broadcast, along with a tribute lookback including clips that were played.

The various goodbye on-air messages on Tuesday on SABC3's Expresso made for extremely compelling and moving morning television.

The energetic and friendly Ewan Strydom is one of the remaining original presenters together with Katlego Maboe and Leigh-Anne Williams who are both still with the show, when it made its debut, done from The Equinox Building in Sea Point since 4 October 2010 as a new live breakfast show on SABC3.

Before joining Expresso, Ewan Strydom was part of M-Net's All Access weekly magazine show produced from Cape Town before it got cancelled.

During his time with the programme he also became a dad of two.

No reason for Ewan Strydom's departure from Expresso was given on Tuesday but Cardova responsible for the show issued a statement through SABC3 to TVwithThinus later in response to a media enquiry, saying "Expresso bids farewell to Ewan Strydom and wishes him all the best with his future ventures".

"After almost 9 years on the Safta award-winning Expresso, Ewan Strydom is leaving the programme to pursue other business ventures."

The show said "Ewan was one of the first of a line of presenters who have been crafted into quality live and field reporters on the popular breakfast programme, including those who won their places on the show through the rigorous audition process of Presenter Search on 3, which introduced the likes of Zoe Brown, Thabiso Makhubela and Mosa Kaiser to Expresso viewers".

"Cardova Productions and the Expresso morning show recognise the hard work Ewan has invested in helping the show grow to where it is today, and appreciate the positive feel-good attitude that Ewan has always displayed, on and off camera. We wish him all the best with his future endeavours".

"I don't know how we're going to do Expresso without you. I feel Expresso is you. But you have been the best part of our mornings," said Leigh-Anne Williams who described Tuesday as "a bitter-sweet day".

"You are one of the most incredible people we will ever know in this lifetime. You are as real off-screen as you are on-screen," said Leigh-Anne Williams.

Katlego Maboe mentioned how he was "On this journey with you since day one when this studio was nothing but rubble and cement bags and kruiwaens".

"In such a massive way over the years you have been my support in so many of the life challenges that I've gone through." Katlego Maboe said "there's no way that I could ever have done this without you. Thank you for your friendship. From my heart, thank you."

Graeme Richards said "I can't tell you how much you mean to me; how much you mean to everyone here. Everyone is a little bit broken because you are just honestly one of the most authentic, genuine guys." He said "this bond, and this connection - nothing will ever affect that".

"You guys are family man, you guys are my family," said Ewan Strydom.

As Tuesday's end credits rolled and his voice wavering, Ewan Strydom said "It's incredibly difficult to say goodbye. I will miss you all dearly. You are my family. You've become my world. I don't know how to do this. I'm not a crier. But it's been a journey that I will never forget."

"It's been an incredible past couple of years. I treasure so much you guys who became the closest people in my life. And the thought of having to say goodbye and not spending the mornings with you is heartbreaking for me. It really is."

"To you at home as well, thank you for allowing me into your homes every single morning."

TOLDJA! New TV news channel, Newzroom Afrika, to oddly launch on 2 May on MultiChoice's DStv with some familiar TV and radio names.

Exactly as TV biz insiders whispered, the new South African TV news channel Newzroom Afrika plans to launch on Thursday 2 May with news talent including the former eNCA stars Cathy Mohlahlana, Thulasizwe Simelane and Karyn Maughan who have jumped to front-face the new channel.

While MultiChoice and Newzroom Afrika executives in August 2018 when they announced the successful news channel bidder promised to keep the media updated on the channel's progress towards its "early-2019" launch, nothing had been forthcoming.

"We'll be sharing further details about the channel in the coming weeks," said Thabile Ngwato in the MultiChoice press release that was issued on 28 August 2018 but that was 8 months ago and Newzroom Afrika failed to share details with the media.

Thabile Ngwato's Rapid Innovation and Thokozani Nkosi's Eclipse TV are behind Newzroom Afrika that will directly compete against rivals like eNCA (DStv 403) and SABC News (DStv 404) in a highly-contested TV space for eyeballs and advertising rands and where eNCA lures more than 50% of the combined and existing TV news channels' audience on DStv.

Last week when asking MultiChoice in a media enquiry whether Newzroom Afrika will be launching on 2 May, Benedict Maaga, MultiChoice spokesperson, said MultiChoice can't confirm any dates.

Newzroom Afrika suddenly announced on Monday evening that it will be going live on Thursday late-afternoon.

Although missing its "early-2019" launch date, its second quarter activation means that Newzroom Afrika will try to gain viewers in the few days remaining to do pre-election coverage in the lead up to South Africa's national elections on 8 May.

On Thursday Newzroom Afrika, will take over the open channel spot on channel 405 on MultiChoice's DStv satellite pay-TV service left vacant after it axed the controversial Gupta family's ANN7 channel that was acquired by Mzwanele Manyi and rebranded as Afro Worldview until it shut down in August last year.

While the programming line-up, content and on-air talent of Newzroom Afrika isn't known, other media talent who will be involved with Newzroom Afrika include some established radio and TV voices and faces including several Power FM name-brands.

Newzroom Afrika on Monday night listed Liezle Wilson, Thami Ngubeni, Sizwe Dhlomo, Gugulethu Mhlungu, Natasha Thorp, Thabo Mdluli, JJ Tabane, Aubrey Masango, Marc Lewis, Jacob Moshokoa, Bongiwe Zwane, and the former Afro Worldview editor Mpho Sithole as now being a part of the TV news channel.

Journalist Karyn Maughan has also been hired, as well as Ayabonga Cawe. 

According to the DStv electronic programme guide (EPG), none of the information which has been shared with the media, Newzroom Afrika programming will include a morning news show, Breaking Dawn, with presenters Sizwe Dhlomo, Carmen Reddy and Gugu Mhlungu.

Other programming will be shows like Newzfeed and Business Unusual.

Newzroom Afrika's flagship news show will be Newz@Prime (or NewsAtPrime) anchored by Cathy Mohlahlana and Marc Lewis as sports editor.

As Thursday's 2 May launch date looms for Newzroom Afrika, DStv Media Sales, MultiChoice's advertising selling arm, apparently entered into a commercial partnership with Newzroom Afrika from 24 April to sell on-air advertising on behalf of the channel.

In March 2019 Newzroom Afrika started a recruitment process looking for reporters, producers, editors and people to fill various other positions.

Insiders last week said they hope that Newzroom Afrika will be able to sidestep the mistakes of ANN7's disastrous on-air launch that immediately went viral with lasting damage to that channel's credibility.

With Wednesday's Workers' Day as a public holiday in South Africa and the odd launch date the day after, there's been no word from either MultiChoice that was asked, nor Newzroom Afrika about a possible press briefing about the news channel, or of a media launch event to mark its start on DStv as usually happens when new TV channels launch.

Newzroom Afrika will be available to all DStv subscribers from DStv Premium to DStv Access.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Avengers: Endgame shatters Africa box office records to become biggest film opening in South Africa as well as East and West Africa ever.

Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame film has not just shattered American and global cinema records but also box office records in South Africa, East Africa and West Africa, where it raked in respectively, a massive R34 million, kes 33 million, and N214.4 million to become the biggest industry opening weekend opening in SA and the other two African territories.

Filmgoers in South Africa and elsewhere across Africa assembled to watch the 22nd and final film in Disney and Marvel's so-called "Infinity Saga" with over 377 000 attendances for its opening weekend in South Africa, including Thursday night previews.

This debut ranks as the biggest industry opening weekend ever in South African Box Office history, beating out previous record holder, and its predecessor, 2018's Avengers: Infinity War.

Avengers: Endgame raked in just over $1.209 billion over the weekend in its box office debut to instantly land at the 18th place of Wikipedia’s list of the highest-grossing films ever - reaching the milestone after just three days with weeks left to earn more.

It has become the first film ever to surpass making $1 billion worldwide in its cinema debut, earning $859 million internationally.

Besides South Africa as a country and the West and East African territories, Avengers: Endgame so far led to the highest opening weekend in film industry history in 44 other markets outside of the United States, including China, the United Kingdom, Australia, Korea, Brazil, Mexico and Spain.

On big-screen IMAX, Avengers: Endgame also broke global records becoming the super-format’s new all-time worldwide opening record contributing $91.5 million so far in tallied box office sales, bigger than the debut of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. In 3D, Avengers: Endgame has also become the biggest global cinema debut ever.

Friday 26 April saw Avengers: Endgame take in over R9.2 million with over 100 000 attendances in South Africa - making it the biggest industry opening day ever at the local South African box office, toppling the prior holder of the title, again Avengers: Infinity War, which opened on 27 April last year. 

Furthermore, the film’s Saturday takings totalled more than R11.8 million, making it the biggest single day at the local box office and the first to pass the R11 million mark in one day in South Africa.

In addition to the biggest opening weekend of all time in South Africa, Avengers: Endgame passed a number of other milestones, including the biggest ever opening weekend of any superhero, Marvel Studios and Disney film, and it has become the fastest film to hit the R30 million mark in South Africa.

"These records showcase the extraordinary support the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) continues to garner from fans across the continent, following last year’s historic runs of both Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Infinity War and Black Panther, with the latter becoming the number one film of all time in South, East and West Africa," says Disney Africa.

In a statement, Alan Horn, chairperson of The Walt Disney Studios, says "Kevin Feige and the Marvel Studios team have continued to challenge notions of what is possible at the movie theatre both in terms of storytelling and at the box office."

"Though Avengers: Endgame is far from an end for the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), these first 22 films constitute a sprawling achievement, and this weekend’s monumental success is a testament to the world they’ve envisioned, the talent involved, and their collective passion, matched by the irrepressible enthusiasm of fans around the world.”

Kevin Feige, Marvel Studios president, says “From the very beginning with Iron Man, all we’ve wanted to do was tell stories that brought these characters to life on-screen the way we’ve experienced them as fans of the comics”.

“That we’ve had so many other successes in this journey leading to this unbelievable result with Avengers: Endgame has been almost entirely due to the fans around the world who have supported us through it all."

"Our directors, Anthony and Joe Russo, and our writers, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, really brought this story home, and I am also incredibly thankful for our cast and filmmakers from across the MCU and all who’ve worked so hard to make these films the best they can be, including the amazing teams at Marvel Studios and Disney. And of course, without Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, none of this would have been possible”.

The directors Anthony and Joe Russo say “We poured our heart and soul into Avengers: Endgame, hoping to tell a story that would inspire audiences around the world. Our family of cast and crew felt honoured to be entrusted with bringing the Infinity Saga to a close. To Kevin Feige, everyone at Disney and Marvel, and the incredible, global community of fans – thank you.”

SABC3 adds Harry Connick Jr.'s talk show, Harry, from 13 May in the 5:30pm timeslot, replacing Democracy Gauge after South Africa's elections.

SABC3 has acquired the American TV talk show, Harry, from Harry Connick Jr., that will start on the channel from 13 May in the 17:30 timeslot.

Harry will replace the Democracy Gauge voter education show from SABC News from mid-May after South Africa's upcoming general elections set for 8 May.

Harry, was cancelled by NBCUniversal Television Distribution last year after two seasons but what makes this talk show more unique than most is that Harry Connick Jr., who has won multiple Grammy and Emmy awards and who is a good conversationalist, is also a great singer and a musician which he smartly works into the show.

The result is that Harry has much more of a "festive atmosphere" than the more cut-and-dried type of talk shows. Harry also features his touring band, so the talk show includes several musical performances.

During the first season that viewers will see on SABC from May, the show received five Emmy nominations, including a nomination for best host.

Disney and Marvel's Avengers: Endgame shatters global box office records with a $1.2 billion weekend debut.

Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame film has shattered American and global cinema records, raking in just over $1.2 billion over the weekend in its box office debut and instantly landing at the 18th place of Wikipedia’s list of the highest-grossing films ever and reaching the milestone after just three days with weeks left to earn more.

The previous record-holder for an international film debut was Avengers: Infinity War with $640 million.

While South Africa box office statistics aren’t available yet and cinema revenue from countries in East and West Africa will take a few days to funnel through, Disney and Marvel’s 22nd film bringing the so-called “Infinity Saga” to a close has become the first film ever to surpass making $1 billion worldwide in its cinema debut, earning $859 million internationally.

While South African box office data isn’t available yet, Avengers: Endgame so far led to the highest opening weekend in film industry history in 44 markets outside of the United States, including China, the United Kingdom, Australia, Korea, Brazil, Mexico and Spain.

On big-screen IMAX, Avengers: Endgame also broke global records becoming the super-format’s new all-time worldwide opening record contributing $91.5 million so far in tallied box office sales, bigger than the debut of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. In 3D, Avengers: Endgame has also become the biggest global cinema debut ever.

Kevin Feige and the Marvel Studios team have continued to challenge notions of what is possible at the movie theatre both in terms of storytelling and at the box office,” says Alan Horn, chairperson of The Walt Disney Studios, in a statement.

“Though Avengers: Endgame is far from an end for the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), these first 22 films constitute a sprawling achievement, and this weekend’s monumental success is a testament to the world they’ve envisioned, the talent involved, and their collective passion, matched by the irrepressible enthusiasm of fans around the world.”

Kevin Feige, Marvel Studios president, says “From the very beginning with Iron Man, all we’ve wanted to do was tell stories that brought these characters to life on-screen the way we’ve experienced them as fans of the comics”.

“That we’ve had so many other successes in this journey leading to this unbelievable result with Avengers: Endgame has been almost entirely due to the fans around the world who have supported us through it all."

"Our directors, Anthony and Joe Russo, and our writers, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, really brought this story home, and I am also incredibly thankful for our cast and filmmakers from across the MCU and all who’ve worked so hard to make these films the best they can be, including the amazing teams at Marvel Studios and Disney. And of course, without Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, none of this would have been possible”.

The directors Anthony and Joe Russo say “We poured our heart and soul into Avengers: Endgame, hoping to tell a story that would inspire audiences around the world. Our family of cast and crew felt honoured to be entrusted with bringing the Infinity Saga to a close. To Kevin Feige, everyone at Disney and Marvel, and the incredible, global community of fans – thank you.”

'NOWHERE SEEMS TOO FAR AWAY.' How Carte Blanche's John went away yet stayed - and in his next chapter made DStv's M-Net viewers part of a bigger, worldwide Webb.

When they leave, they - and their shows - say they'll stay. But they hardly ever really do and you can't at all blame them.

Yet, since the veteran Carte Blanche presenter John Webb emigrated to the United Kingdom a year ago, he has actually not just kept to and made good on his promise to remain and keep reporting on Carte Blanche - he completely shattered and surpassed all expectations.

John Webb didn't disappear off TV screens and he refused to fade away.

In fact, the highly-respected journalist did the opposite. Over the past year, John Webb has helped to elevate South Africa's long-running, weekly investigative programme on M-Net (DStv 101) that has remained outstanding, to even more eye-popping and must-see appointment television on Sunday nights at 19:00.

Bringing incredible production values and visuals to Carte Blanche inserts as he continues to file multiple extremely interesting inserts and interviews from the United Kingdom and across Europe, John Webb as producer and presenter has managed to successfully infuse the venerable current affairs show in its 31st year of pay-TV existence on DStv with something incredible - a great international flavour.

To a masterful extent in a manner of speaking, the intrepid John and his reporting wanderlust has made Carte Blanche and DStv subscribers, on almost a weekly basis, part of the "world wide webb".

TV viewers might see and then have an underlying awareness that something is of above-average quality - or not - but rarely sit down to deconstruct exactly why that's the case.

Yet, when Carte Blanche and the seemingly indefatigable John Webb in October 2018 broadcast a fascinating insert on global warming when he went to Sweden on assignment to report on global warming, utterly mesmerising visuals and can't-look-away storytelling formed part of the package.

It was beautifully shot.

Part of the incredible scene-setting shots included fly-over landscape panning scenes of the Swedish wilderness along winding roads. It was absolutely movie quality and obviously done using a camera drone - a seemingly small touch that literally elevated the entire story and enhanced it in scope, content, visuals and substance.

You just don't really see that in or on South African weekly television but the effort, the thought, and the enhanced production values in that indelible moment raised the bar yet again of what Carte Blanche is and what it shows to M-Net viewers.

The incredible quality of camerawork, combined with interesting topics and well-done research that are part of John Webb's filed overseas stories have now been seen - and noticed - several times since.

TVwithThinus decided to reach out to John Webb not just about his incredible and dedicated work over the past year for Carte Blanche but to find out how working for the Combined Artistic Productions show has been different since he's now been doing global stories from afar and reporting on stories that have a resonance for South African and African viewers on DStv.

"The most significant difference has been taking on the additional challenge of producing as well as presenting the inserts," says John Webb.

"It's heightened my regard for the Carte Blanche production team which has - for 30 years - generated amazing content in often very taxing conditions and with very short turn-arounds."

"You're taking responsibility for something which is only a concept when you begin shooting - a collection of thoughts and images in your mind's eye - and trying to find the visual and human components that bring it to life."

"Not only that, but then you have to bring it to life in a way that draws people into their TV rooms on a Sunday night - and, while doing that, you're booking yet another Uber and thinking about what to buy your crew for lunch," John Webb explains.

"It's also brought home the central role of the presenter - not only as the person guiding the viewer through the complexities of any given story, but as someone to turn to for help with the creative process and bounce ideas off."

"In my case, the absence of a second set of eyes and ears can sometimes be a little disconcerting," he says. "In those instances, it helps to have a camera operator not afraid to voice an opinion."

Tales from a true international TV correspondent
And who now comes up with the story-ideas that will find John Webb in Italy the one week, interviewing experts about Brexit and what the impact will be for South Africa the next, or literally standing in the middle of a frozen river somewhere in Europe?

"These are discussed and dissected at our weekly editorial meetings," he says. "The ideas come from the producers themselves, the editorial and management team or our excellent researchers. They're pitched, discussed, refined and then either approved or turned down."

"It's a thorough and - quite rightly - rigorous process. The challenge for me is finding ideas that will make it through that process unscathed," says John Webb. "And that means stories that aren't being shot in Europe simply for shooting in Europe's sake."

"For example, a piece-to-camera in the middle of a Norwegian fjord might look extraordinary, but there'd be very little point filming one if what was happening in Norway wasn't in some way relevant to a South African audience."

"So, while there are always interesting events unfolding in the northern hemisphere, our task is to seek out the ones we think our viewers will feel a connection with. It's an inexact science and it's always extremely helpful to have the input of the editorial team in Johannesburg, as well as the other producers and presenters."

"Thankfully, I think our audience responds to a wide variety of stories. The key is ensuring they're well-told and well filmed. And, given that we're in the story-telling business, as long as we get that part right, we're on the right track."

Then I ask John Webb - who already travelled extensively to several places and countries around Europe the past few months, how this experience has been.

"Travelling is one of the great privileges of this job," he says. "Driving through the magnificent tundra of the far north of Sweden or sharing a bowl of clams with a cameraman in downtown Lisbon isn't part of the job description of too many other professions."

"It also helps that nowhere seems too far away when you're flying within Europe. I can board a plane in Dublin at 6am and be shooting pieces-to-camera in Munich three hours later."

"There's also an upside to using local crew when shooting abroad. They tend to show great enthusiasm as amateur tour guides and are often very knowledgeable. A story in Germany last year involved a long drive from Munich to Stuttgart."

"The cameraman, while driving at obscene speed down the autobahn, filled me in on just about every historical aspect of the areas we were passing through.  My life would be poorer for not knowing how deeply some Germans feel about asparagus!" says John Webb.

Of camerawork that lifts a story
And the very noticeable high production quality of some of the inserts - how has this been made possible?

"I've been fortunate in finding capable camera operators," says John Webb. "When almost all your stories are shot abroad, this can be a bit of a lottery, you're never entirely sure what you're going to get."

"Where I'm unable to rely on the recommendations of colleagues, I do my best to research their work online. It also helps to know if they're shooting with up-to-date gear."

"I also think that, when you've worked for Carte Blanche for a while, you recognise the importance of spending time shooting well-considered 'b-roll'. This is the footage that generally covers the voice-over in a script and the rule-of-thumb is that you can never have enough."

" But, if you ensure that what you do get is well shot, then it can make an extraordinary difference to an insert. As for the drones, well, at the outset, I should admit to being an absolute sucker for drone footage shot in good light," says John Webb.

"I think the aesthetic impact is undeniable. But, on some stories they've become a crucial device in helping to tell the story."

"Even the best scripting in the world can't fully capture the brooding grittiness of somewhere like Emalahleni or the sheer magnificence of the Arctic Circle in the way that a drone can.  There's always a danger that these shots can be overused, but I think the additional dimension shot with such stability can really lift a story," he explains.

"All of which, I hope, contributes to a product that is pleasing on the eye.  It's something that we pay a lot of attention to at Carte Blanche and I think our viewers - given their own investment in HD technology and beyond – have every right to expect of us."

Reaching out in the dark with a new contribution
When you moved, did you really think or envision that you would do such a lot of stories and inserts, I ask. Was it a resolute goal from the beginning, or something that developed and continued more organically?

"I certainly hoped to do as many but, in a lot of ways, I was reaching out in the dark," says John Webb. "I wasn't sure I would be able to regularly find stories that my colleagues would consider interesting and worthy of an insert."

"I'm absolutely thrilled that it's worked out that way and delighted that my executive producer, Wynand Grobler, sees the value in global content."

And what does he want to say about this new chapter of working for Carte Blanche from the United Kingdom? "I'm sure I'm going to be accused of cheerleading here, but I think it's important to say that Carte Blanche, even by global comparisons, is a unique product," he says.

"I simply don't see, outside of the flagship programmes on the major networks, anyone in any other part of the world with our level of content."

"Of course, there's astonishing programming being produced all over the world at any given time, but to broadcast up to five world-class inserts week-in and week-out is quite unprecedented.  And the ability to make my contribution from thousands of kilometres away is a rare privilege," says John Webb.

Creative visuals, yet meticulously factual
I also knocked on the door of Wynand Grobler, Carte Blanche's executive producer, for answers to some questions about John Webb's global contribution.

"Since his relocation overseas, John has been able to bring a fresh global perspective to the programme and to specific inserts," says Wynand Grobler.

"While more than 90% of Carte Blanche content is local, Carte Blanche recognises that our viewers are worldly citizens who appreciate multiple outlooks - and now we can bring that home where relevant."

"There are numerous examples: We recently produced a story on the possible impact of Brexit on South Africa. John's presence in the United Kingdom made it possible for us to physically show our viewers what an Irish border looks like and what the complicated intellectual debates around it really mean, rather than to merely refer to it."

"But the first consideration is always to be relevant to our viewers," he says.

About how Carte Blanche decides when and how many inserts to do and use from John Webb or when to include those, he says "there is no rule as such".

"Each story idea is subjected to editorial scrutiny like any other, its relevance to South African viewers debated and its practicality considered. John plans to regularly return to South Africa and produce and present stories while here too."

"John is an exceptional journalist and astute presenter who is creative in his visual approach to stories while being meticulously factual," says Wynand Grobler. "He has a knack for telling stories that are accessible but thought-provoking."

"This gives him the ability to bring a fresh take to South African problems by looking at solutions that have been successful elsewhere in the world."

"John recently visited the city of Lisbon to get the lowdown on the unconventional methods the city used to deal with its drug problem. This also applies to South Africa, a country with an equally serious drug problem, which Carte Blanche has featured on numerous occasions in different guises."

"While addressing the problem head-on, his stories bring a sense of hope and the suggestion that there are solutions to be found to many of the country's complications."

Wynand says "every aspect of John's work is of exceptional quality and compares favourably to the best from around the world".

"His stories bring an added dimension to the show which we hope viewers will appreciate. We look forward to more instalments from him."  

Carte Blanche is broadcast on M-Net (DStv 101) on Sundays at 19:00.

Carte Blanche is available on MultiChoice's DStv Now Catch Up, and is also made available to international Showmax subscribers.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

MultiChoice on why it helps community TV stations in South Africa like Bay TV in Port Elizabeth: 'We want a video entertainment sector that has many players who serve and understand the nuances of communities'.

The MultiChoice Group that has been investing in and helping community TV stations across South Africa like Bay TV in Port Elizabeth with equipment upgrades, technical training and content-sharing partnerships on community-level, says the pay-TV service is doing so to build out bigger and more video entertainment players in the country's broadcasting sector.

MultiChoice says that South Africa's community TV stations will not escape the onslaught of the rapid technological changes and innovation and the drastic global consumption trends that are sweeping the world and impacting all broadcasters, and will have to make adequate preparations, adapt and change with it, to ensure their ongoing existence and relevance as well.

On Thursday Port Elizabeth's Bay TV (DStv 260) officially unveiled its upgraded green-screen studi and control room facilities that are part of a R2 million upgrade investment in the community TV station from the MultiChoice Group.

The studio, servers, cameras and control room investment will help Bay TV as a community TV channel to improve its production values and on-air playout quality with the station that serves viewers in the Nelson Mandela Bay area in the Eastern Cape but can be watched nationally in South Africa on MultiChoice's DStv satellite pay-TV service as well.

The upgraded Bay TV facilities include digital mobile news-gathering DMNG Pro 180 – RA (3G/4G) with a downlink server and uplink; 8 professional studio cameras; as well as a digital screen panel for alternate backdrops.

In 2014, MultiChoice donated a state-of-the-art final control centre (FCC) to Bay TV and in 2018 MultiChoice installed a studio and control room, making it possible for Bay TV to produce their own talk shows, news and other local content.

Mandla Ndlovu, MultiChoice's senior manager for corporate social investment (CSI) and transformation, about Bay TV said "you can't take for granted what it takes to build a TV station from nothing to what Bay TV is today".

"For us, it really reinforces our vision, which is a video entertainment sector that has many players; players who are able to understand their communities; players who are able to build opportunities for young people, and players who are able to bring the nuances of communities to the fore."

"That is why we invest in local community TV stations because we believe that the story of local communities, of young people, the story of our history - all of those stories are important and the best people to tell those stories are these TV stations."

"For Bay TV we were not just looking at helping to improve the studio or final control centre (FCC). We also look at what goes on to the screens - what do people see, and to what degree are the people putting this together trained," said Mandla Ndlovu.

"So what we've done over the past few years - in fact, it's been 5 years now that we've been investing in Bay TV in particular - we started with the FCC in 2014 ... so it was the equipment and then the content that goes with it."

"We also help to train the young people who work at Bay TV or Soweto TV on how to use this equipment. So they've become hot property now. You find them everywhere. You find them at SABC. You find them at e.tv. You find them at MultiChoice. But they started here."

"If you look at Bonang Matheba's show or Somizi's show and you track where that show comes from, you'll find that it's being produced by a young person who came from one of South Africa's community TV stations."

"A few weeks ago we had a State of the Province address in the Eastern Cape province and Bay TV carried that State of the Province address live. So from what Bay TV was in 2011 to what it is today, we are very, very proud."

"Bay TV, along with all the other community TV stations, need to understand that this environment of video entertainment is changing. They are not going to be competing with MultiChoice or e.tv or the SABC. There are now a lot of other players."

"So they are growing in a field where they are going to have to compete with people who are watching TV on devices in the taxi, or at work, or wherever they are watching."

So as TV stations like Bay TV and others grow, they need to be cognisant of what they need to achieve. They need to win all of those viewers," said Mandla Ndlovu.

Finding and building local broadcasting talent at community level
Motse Mfuleni, Bay TV chairperson, said "the important part is that you must build the talent locally so that they're able to tell the stories locally".

"It's important to use the expertise of these people for the Eastern Cape as well as Nelson Mandela Bay which includes Port Elizabeth, Dispatch and Uitenhage and not have that talent leaving the province and the Bay".

"Without talent, you're not going to be able to tell these stories. The biggest asset is Bay TV being able to play a role in skills development in television without people having to go to Johannesburg and Cape Town to work in the film and video content industry."

"Bay TV allows local content developers a platform to have airtime to show the portfolio of their work, without having to worry about waiting to be commissioned by a broadcaster. It's also important to reflect the cultural diversity of this region."

The TV and radio presenter Zizo Tshwete said "In this upgraded facilities the studio is beautiful and certainly the promise for the future looks absolutely bright for the Bay TV broadcasts that will be happening here".

Sibongiseni Tyali, Bay TV's head of production said "What Bay TV has done for people who want to enter the local media space is that it has given them a different avenue".

Reinhardt Botha, final control centre (FCC) controller at Bay TV, said "Bay TV has given me the opportunity to grow as a person and as a media professional as well".

Monwabisi Nzimela, the head of admin and HR at Bay TV, said "It has been an interesting journey. All I can tell you is that you learn new things every day and with all the challenges that are there, you get to understand that TV is changing on a daily basis.

A platform for local content creators to tell their stories
Joe Heshu, MultiChoice's group executive for corporate affairs, said that a community TV station like Bay TV is a platform for local content creators to "tell their stories - to tell stories about Nelson Mandela Bay, and in so doing create a talent pool that can help feed all of South Africa, and indeed take our stories to the world as we see Bay TV alumni going on and doing great things".

Tony Duba, an ANC political party member and portfolio chairperson for economic development, finance, tourism and environmental affairs in the Eastern Cape provincial legislature committee, said "Seven years ago Bay TV took its first steps as an infant in the South African TV industry but has since them claimed its rightful place as the voice of the people of not only Nelson Mandela Bay but of the entire Eastern Cape".

"The media industry in South Africa, in general, is a 'survival of the fittest' industry that is highly monopolised - which is highly monopolised."

"For community TV entities like Bay TV to survive it means people with passion and drive who are willing to kick open doors if they are not answered".

"I'm quite certain that to a large degree the pillar of support of Bay TV to date has been the support it has received from government and other progressive partners such as MultiChoice who are true to their conviction of pursuing the transformation agenda in our society."

"The Eastern Cape government has for many years been vocal about the need to transform and support new players in the media industry," said Tony Duba.

"Ownership of the industry is still too white. And what we must understand is that those who are at the top are not willing to lower the ladder so that the rest of us can climb to the top," said Tony Duba.

"This, therefore, exposes us to a dangerous situation where the few players in the broadcasting media are forcing their narrow narrative down our throats because they have means of control. As government, we have communicated our intention to transform the industry."

ALSO READ: IN IMAGES. 29 photos of the Bay TV community TV station's official inauguration ceremony of its upgraded studio and control room in Port Elizabeth done with the help of MultiChoice.
ALSO READ: Port Elizabeth's Bay TV community station officially unveils its upgraded studio and control room facilities with the help of MultiChoice.

TV CRITIC's NOTEBOOK. Many unanswered questions from MultiChoice and kykNET remain after TV and sponsors interfered and demanded the removal of an artist as nominee - it will cloud the credibility of all award shows they're involved with going forward.

At one point or another, MultiChoice and M-Net's Afrikaans channels division kykNET are going to have to answer the questions posed to it after they as television, sponsor and broadcaster directly interfered in a national performing arts award prize giving and demanded the removal of a nominee.

MultiChoice and kykNET handled it extremely badly and then didn't want to answer specific questions about the actions it took.

The heavy-handed way in which MultiChoice and kykNET said that it won't be associated with someone they don't want to be associated with anymore, and then botched the resulting fallout and controversy, will cast a pall going forward over all award shows where MultiChoice and kykNET are either acting as sponsors, or are involved with to whatever degree as name sponsors or organisers.

When MultiChoice decided to give the organisers of the 2019 kykNET Ghoema Music Awards an ultimatum to remove the singer Steve Hofmeyr as a nominee from one of the categories of the awards show because it deems the race-baiting Afrikaans singer now persona non-grata and a racist, it also made the mistake of overstepped the line as sponsor to become judge, awards show jury member and artist executioner.

In a functioning democracy with freedom of association, it's completely fine and correct for MultiChoice or any company or sponsor to say that they don't want to be involved with something or someone and to either not become involved or to withdraw.

Where MultiChoice and kykNET however erred were in their direct interference of nominees.

The interference meant that MultiChoice and kykNET - instead of the Ghoema Music Trust - became directly involved in who the nominees are - or more specifically who will not be - and effectively usurped a "choosing" or censorship right.

Sponsors of competitions don't choose the winners and losers - the experts, the judges or the public do.

With many unanswered questions from MultiChoice and kykNET it will now cloud the credibility of all awards they're involved with going forward.

MultiChoice and kykNET need to step up and answer and explain in detail and on the record to what degree and how they will - or won't - interfere in arts and art awards shows in future.

Nobody in South Africa's TV industry currently knows how MultiChoice and its brands like kykNET now see their role when they partner with awards shows.

Are they merely name sponsors or do they demand overall veto power over any and all categories and nominees before and after they're announced?

From the DStv Mzansi Viewers' Choice Awards, to the Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards, what guarantee do anybody in the industry and the public have that the sponsor isn't deciding who the winner or winners will be - or won't?

If a "Steve Hofmeyr" or anyone for whatever reason is deemed "unapproved" and makes an appearance, guest-appearance or has music licensed and used in any of the film nominee categories for the upcoming 2019 kykNET Silwerskermfilmfees, will that artistic work be thrown out, discarded, banned or be ineligible because the sponsor doesn't like the contribution?

And where exactly does MultiChoice now stand for instance with artistic work that is by or contains Steve Hofmeyr if it didn't want a new music video that included the artist to be part of an awards show? Are any of his music videos allowed to air on any DStv channels?

If Viacom International Media Networks Africa (VIMN Africa) for instance wants to run a Comedy Central Roast of ... marathon on Comedy Central (DStv 122) in future, would the Comedy Central Roast of Steve Hofmeyr episode be allowed as part of the set?

Clarity on these and multiple other questions and issues are sorely needed by South Africa's TV and its creative arts industry.

Instead of demanding the removal of an already-announced nominee, MultiChoice, if it felt it really had to act after nominees were already chosen and announced, should have asked the Ghoema board to rather waylay the entire category to rechoose new nominees from scratch, or to come to a new decision about the awarding of a winner for it later.

Although not desirable but the lesser of evils, in March, the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) and Saftas organisers withdrew the whole category for Best Documentary Short from 2019's 13th South African Film and Television Awards instead of just the one nominee, when a problem arose before the award show happened but after the nominees had already been announced.

The judges reconvened and only awarded a winner this week for Best Documentary Short after the category was rejudged.

You can understand why some artists said that they would boycott the 2019 kykNET Ghoema Music Awards after the interference.

You can understand how unfair it was for the singers and performers who were nominated and who did nothing wrong, to suddenly get thrown out and discarded because someone else happened to appear with them in a song and a music video.

It was also presumably very difficult if not impossible for some artists to protest about something being done to them that was wrong - a sponsor deciding that a nomination must be axed - without themselves coming across as supporting or endorsing a racist which is part of another issue entirely. 

Sponsors and broadcasters are not art directors. They're not the appointed judges and art critics to evaluate the artistic merit of nominees in performance art competitions. They don't get to decide who should win or not.

Furthermore, the way and the broad lack of communication from MultiChoice and kykNET during the furore and kykNET's lack of answers to pertinent questions from the media allowed other elements to hijack the narrative and mar the 2019 Ghoemas.

When future historians, researchers, students and the public use internet search engines and scour public records of this time about award show credibility in South Africa on television during the second decade of the 21st century, what will they find in statements and answers and explanations from broadcasters at the time?

MultiChoice and kykNET should have immediately switched to doing crisis communication, should have responded and have talked to the media much more and quicker, and should have had answers ready to not just what they were doing at the time, but what their stance is going forward.

Now not just the TV industry, but also the music industry (and the Afrikaans music industry in particular), the broader public, kykNET viewers and supporters, and those entering award shows, are all left wondering where exactly the dividing lines are.

ALSO READ: 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.
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: 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.  

E! gives the Kardashian-star Scott Disick his own home renovating reality show, Flip It Like Disick, set to start in late-2019.

E! (DStv 124) has commissioned a new home renovation reality series, Flip It Like Disick, following the Keeping Up with the Kardashians star Scott Disick and his house renovation and selling business.

The first season of Flip It Like Disick is set to start on E! in late-2019 and will have 8 episodes.

Scott Disick gained fame as an American reality TV star through his on-and-off relationship with Kourtney Kardashian and his alcohol and drinking problems.

E! says Flip It like Disick will bring viewers "inside the lavish personal and professional world of Scott Disick, as he tackles his most extravagant endeavour yet: high-end home flipping and remodelling".

According to E!, the series will follow Scott Disick and his team that includes former pop singer-turned-interior designer Willa Ford; Disick's best friend and business partner Benny Luciano; their all-star short-tempered contractor Miki Moor; and Disick's assistant Lindsay Diamond.

The group will rely on Scott Disick for design as they look to convert home projects for his celebrity friends and family, including guestrooms, studios and his kids' playhouse at their mother Kourtney Kardashian's home, as well as transform an ambitious multi-million dollar property in Los Angeles.

"Scott Disick is funny, unpredictable, and unfiltered," said Amy Introcaso-Davis, the executive vice president of development and production, at E!.

"Fans of Scott on Keeping Up with the Kardashians will get to see another side of him in Flip It Like Disick as an entrepreneur and design guru, leading his talented and opinionated team through difficult design challenges that result in astonishing reveals."

Scott Disick in a press release says "I'm excited to bring fans a new series that shows what I'm really passionate about professionally, which is flipping real estate and doing crazy and impressive renovations on celebrity homes".

"E! has never had a show like this before. It's a bit different than viewers are used to seeing, but I think they will be both entertained and inspired by my team."

Flip It Like Disick is produced by STXtelevision with Tower 2 Productions and Ryan Seacrest Productions, with Ryan Holcomb, Jason Goldberg, Lori Gordon, Scott Disick and Kris Jenner as executive producers.

The third season of The Voice South Africa on M-Net moves to the Battle Rounds from Sunday as the 4 teams add local music legend mentors.

The third season of The Voice South Africa on M-Net (DStv 101) moves to the Battle Rounds from Sunday, 28 April, as the 4 teams from coaches Riky Rick, Riana Nel, Lira and Francois van Coke add music legend mentors.

For the Battle Rounds, The Voice SA teams will get help from Majozi, Jo Black, Khaya Mthetwa and Ross Learmoth from Prime Circle. 

Following the KnockOut Rounds where the coached had to cut down their teams dramatically, the remaining talent now have to battle it out for a chance to make it to The Voice SA’s live shows. 

For the next 3 weeks from 28 April, the coaches will pair the singers in their teams to show off their skills with the same song.

It's not a duet, however but a vocal showdown. At the end of each Battle round, the coach who mentored the talent will be forced to pick a winner and say goodbye to their opponent. Raising the stakes, there are no Saves and no Steals.

Coach Riky Rick will get help from the singer-songwriter and TV presenter Khaya Mthetwa who won the 8th season of Idols.

The Afrikaans singer and former construction worker Jo Black, will be mentoring Riana Nel's team.

Lira's team is getting help from Ross Learmoth, the frontman of Prime Circle.

Francois van Coke's team is getting Majozi as a mentor.

The Voice SA is produced by Blackswanmedia.

TV CRITIC's NOTEBOOK. Nightwalker? 'Nearing' Westeros? With pandering, failing fan service MultiChoice shows how it can't care less about pretending to bother with proper messaging around HBO's Game of Thrones on M-Net and Showmax.

If the Nightwalker King were still alive, Melisandre the Green Man would probably have made him spin in his fire grave beyond the big mall.

Companies doing pandering product marketing messaging and passé consumer communication is nothing new. It's what most of them do.

While they often really can't care less about the actual service or product, most of them mostly do it just good enough so that their lack of actual proper effort, lack of attention to detail and superficiality are not made that obvious to ordinary consumers.

More and more examples, however, keep surfacing of just how little care and lack of proper effort MultiChoice - encompassing its divisions of M-Net and Showmax - has been putting into its localised marketing messaging, publicity and unified corporate communication for HBO's 8th and final season of Game of Thrones on DStv.

It feels as if MultiChoice, M-Net and Showmax were all perfectly fine to collectively ride the dragon tails of HBO's global PR and marketing machine that drove the build-up and buzz of the new season of Game of Thrones until the show's first episode started last week and until it became their collective responsibility to take over the Jon Snow fur cloak mantle for messaging to the media and the public in South Africa and across sub-Saharan Africa.

Then, like the Wall, that image collapsed.

While the actual cinema screening itself and watching the 8th season premiere episode of Game of Thrones on a big screen was great, the whole execution around it by M-Net, Nu Metro and Johnnie Walker in South Africa was tardy and decidedly just way off-message,off-brand, insufficient and ... weirwood weird.

Add things like the big screen showing in Nairobi by MultiChoice Africa's DStv Kenya (also executed in conjunction with M-Net and Johnnie Walker) that there, for example, had a beautiful, live string quartet playing the Game of Thrones theme music beforehand.

It's showed up the wildly differing experiential execution (or marketing "activation" as they say) for HBO's Game of Thrones in South Africa and Africa - and not done or overseen well - from under the marketing umbrella of the very same overall company that is MultiChoice.

Showmax that managed to send trinkets to some media beforehand, like for instance a local Game of Thrones aftershow, didn't really bother with any messaging effort to actually do something about its acquisition and roll-out of Game of Thrones.

Then MultiChoice, after being dismissive last week to DStv subscribers when its DStv Now and M-Net channel on its streaming version crashed for Game of Thrones in South Africa and across Africa, was completely reactive and way late in properly apologising without having to be asked, and to do so quickly.

What irks is when the lack of anything beyond mere superficial words and hollow actions in marketing and messaging become so noticeable that you can't miss (or dismiss) it.

Making it worse is when a person or a place pretends to care and does pandering fan service but in the process reveals how little they really know or even care.

Looking at MultiChoice's tweet, it clearly carelessly wrote and compiled it without any real regard for, real knowledge of, or real thought about Game of Thrones on Monday night this week at 21:00.

Why is MultiChoice talking about a "Nightwalker King" (it's Night King, nightwalkers are prostitutes)?

Why the use of "nearing" Westeros (the entire in-show universe is Westeros; what should have been here was the word Winterfell)?

Why is MultiChoice and M-Net still punting the old pre-show trailer long after the first episode had already been shown, together with a date that has come and gone, instead of the new and available episode 2 teaser?

Why does nobody seem to care?

It's emblematic of and reveals the messaging problem and attention-deficit that MultiChoice and its content playout brands as a collective have for Game of Thrones in South Africa and Africa.

It conveys an attitude of "let's do 'less-than' because the consumer won't care or notice".

 It keeps with the same-old pandering, barely-there, extremely corny and never-evolving season 1 circumscription of the show because nobody seems to care about the detail.

Well, people do care.

And MultiChoice - with brands like Showmax, DStv and M-Net who collectively should be working better together overall on something like Game of Thrones - should care more when they reach out to the public and the media.

It should have done and should be doing better, spot-on messaging that should brim with relevancy, accuracy and convey a sense of excitement.

Instead, consumers who pay for content and potential consumers they try to attract are saddled with lame nonsense in a half-hearted effort to try and feign a "we're also a part of it" feeling.

Broadcasters and TV services should put in the real effort and the actual time to watch and get to know the content bought, and then put together holistic communication efforts that reflect a true in-show in-the-know zeitgeist - not one that constantly seems to look like it's 7 seasons behind.