by Leo Uzo
First published in the The GUARDIAN, Tuesday, June 10, 2008
SIR: It has been announced that Big Brother Africa will be returning for a third season. It will start on August 24, 2008 and will last for 91 days to end on Sunday, November 23, 2008.
It is pertinent to review the second of the series of Big Brother Africa which began airing on August 5, 2007 and ended on November 11, 2007. The 12 contestants were chosen from 12 countries within Africa including Nigeria.
The show attracted a lot of criticism all over Africa, for not showing positive values to young people. The organisers of this programme are not interested in morals or values, they are driven by the quest to make money at all cost, because they believe that money is everything and where a little profit can be made, anything is fair. Quoting The Guardian of September 16, 2007, “M-Net and its mobile phone company collaborators are making a lot of money from SMS messages being sent at high cost by viewers during voting sessions and in form of feed back. They are likely to make more than triple the prize money of $100,000 and the cost of production, not to talk of advantages in terms of brand equity. At work here is capitalism without moral restraint.”
This aptly described the reason for airing Big Brother Africa. The organisers do not mean well for the viewers or for Nigeria. Are we helpless with this assault on our values by M-Net / DSTV? DSTV which aired Big Brother Africa II carries the show on an age restricted channel that has an age 16 rating and warns that the show contains nudity and strong language but we know this is mere lip service, because this does not work in practice. At that age, children are impressionable and a lot of harm is done by the programme.
The last edition of Big Brother Africa II was well-described by Dr. Reuben Abati, in The Guardian of September 16, 2007 with the caption: Big Brother Africa II – Pornography and Money. He said:
“In 2003, the programme was criticised on two grounds; an over arching obsession with money and low morality content. On the second ground, religious groups in Zambia and Uganda asked that the show should be banned from television. There were misgivings also in Nigeria.
In comparison however, the class of 2007 has played up all the negatives, making BBA II look like a terrible experiment in on-air pornography with the girls behaving like sex-starved animals in a zoo, and the men like a bunch of barracudas with “uncontrollable third legs”. For over 40 days we were treated to a gross overdose of sexuality and pornography, the portrayal of women as sex objects, self-denigration by women and the spectacle of 12 young Africans whose laziness is non-paralleled and whose love of obscenity is without boundaries. I believe that there was a problem of casting with BBA II; the show’s director must accept the blame for coming up with such a selection of trashy set, M-Net must return to the drawing table and ask the question; what is the objective of the programme? What value is it adding? Is this corporate social responsibility or a search for brand equity and profit going out of hand?”
Nigerian viewers will not forget in a hurry the sexual assault of Ofunneka after a sip of Vodka (a Russian drink) and the subsequent assault by Richard. The question now is: should we continue to be fed with all kinds of undesirable materials on our airwaves?
The Nigerian Broadcasting Commission should stop the airing of this programme. It is within its power to stop the airing of Big Brother Africa III. The Ministry of Information should sanction this programme. Nigeria has nothing to gain from it.
Mr Uzo writes from Lagos