The return of apartheid TV. Really?

2014-05-26 10:00

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Thinus Ferreira

Apparently, no white people in South Africa drink Tropika. Take a close look at SABC1’s sixth season of the advertiser-funded Tropika Island of Treasure: not a single, sad whitey was included.

Why is that troubling? Because the SABC, as a public broadcaster, is supposed to represent and reflect the country’s entire demographic spectrum, and is not ­supposed to be influenced or be subtly socially engineered by commercial interests.

SABC1 and Tropika are blatantly practising TVapartheid 20 years into our democracy. Imagine seeing an all-white cast of a local reality show on the public broadcaster. It will never happen, unless someone dreams up something like The Real Housewives of Orania.

It seems that Tropika and SABC1 feel that it is okay to just exclude a certain group of viewers and consumers – who also watch and buy the product – in a so-called reality show on the publicly funded broadcaster.

Asked where the whites are this season, SABC1 told #Trending that the channel “has no part in the contestants’ selection process, which is the responsibility of Tropika and their agency, Seven ­DifferentKinds of Smoke”.

The channel says the brief was to “get the best contestants on the show, irrespective of race, and we believe that’s what was achieved in this case”. The danger here is that the SABC is subtly sliding back to the 1980s, when the lily-white SABC literally banished The Cosby Show for portraying a black family – a kind of family that the SABC didn’t want to acknowledge.

How much of a rainbow nation will South Africa remain once we consciously start to delete the colours we choose not to see?

Gugulethu Mhlungu

It truly boggles my mind how quickly apartheid as a ­metaphor, a joke, or any other descriptor other than its actual meaning is brought up when South Africans don’t agree with something. This week, the complete absence of white contestants on Tropika Island of Treasure is ­apparently evidence of the SABC and Tropika blatantly practising TVapartheid.

I am interested to know how one systematically disenfranchises, criminalises and violates a whole group of people based on the colour of their skin at a social, economic and cultural level by not including a white contestant on a ­reality show. Why not just call it television holocaust? Or television slavery? I mean, since we’re already here.

SABC claims to have had no part in the selection of the contestants, which only partially absolves the public broadcaster. It is not unreasonable to expect that the SABC has oversight on what it finally decides to air, so “we were not involved” is, frankly, a cop-out. The question is, why did Tropika and its agency not select any white contestants? Yet is it unthinkable that maybe, just maybe, none of the white entrants is up to scratch?

It must be incredibly difficult to be the cultural hegemony and not be able to find yourself in one game show. Is the absence of white contestants on Jika Majika (which also airs on SABC1) also “television apartheid”, or is it just on the Tropika show because “white people drink Tropika too”?

It is laughable that anyone thinks what has happened on a reality show is anything like the 1980s. Argue the point about where the representation of the 9% is, but don’t insult the 80% represented by implying that this is anything like apartheid.

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