Broadcast News

Last week Thursday saw the first premiere of a Nollywood movie – The Mirror Boy – in the heart of London’s cinemaland at the Empire, Leicester Square. However, this event was simply the culmination of over five years of work on encouraging premiers and theatrical release for Nollywood movies in the UK. With a new wave of more cinematic releases from Nollywood makers, they seem to be on the verge of a breakthrough into international theatrical release. Russell Southwood spoke to Moses Babatope, the Special Projects Manager, Odeon Cinemas about how things are changing.

Last week, Africa’s biggest content market – Discop Africa – took place in Accra. The event brings together African broadcasters and producers with their international counterparts. It offers an ideal moment to take the pulse of what is happening in the industry. The event was spread over three floors so Russell Southwood expended serious shoe leather to find out what was happening both above and below the radar.

The event produced no single big story but a clear set of trends emerged from the public conference sessions and discussions with a wide range of people:

Sylvain Beletre interviewed South African Kevin Kriedemann, Editor at Film & Event Publishing (The Call Sheet) about how African cinema – in particular South African cinema - is doing and how it can overcome the challenges it faces.

Q: How can African film producers survive today, and who should fund the industry?

It would be easy to think that the only sport of interest to Africans was football. It grabs all the attention and the largest slice of the programme rights money spent on sport to be shown in Africa. But African television channels are beginning to realise that they can’t all end up with the key football rights so developing other sports programming may be a smart move. Russell Southwood talked to CAfrica’s Managing Director Cathy Fogler about its ambition to deliver “premium sports programs through a formal network of free-to-air broadcasters in sub-Saharan Africa.”

The huge task of the digital transition in broadcasting is beginning to pick up pace in East Africa. In February Uganda will become the third country in the region to offer live digital transmission as an alternative to the existing analog signals. However, key obstacles still need to be cleared if the process is to find favour amongst Africa’s TV viewers. Russell Southwood has spoken to Jacaranda Digital Broadcasting’s CEO Richard Lutwama about its investment in a Uganda-wide digital transmission network.

“TV5 Monde Afrique” is one of the leading pan-African TV network in particular across francophone Africa. TV5 Monde transmits to 210 million households globally on a weekly basis. 22 million of these households are on the African continent. Denise Epoté, Director de TV5 Monde Afrique talked to Sylvain Beletre about its plans for 2011.

Africa’s broadcasters desperately need to develop rights revenues by selling their programming elsewhere if the market is to develop. French distributor Thema has played a big part in making this a reality for francophone broadcasters and is now moving on to launch lusophone and anglophone channels for the same target audiences. Last week, Sylvain Beletre spoke to François Thiellet, founder and director of Thema TV about these latest developments.

Two new Briefing Papers from Balancing Act published this week highlight the dilemmas faced by TV and radio broadcasters and more broadly media houses which also include newspapers. A range of factors are converging that will produce significant fragmentation of audiences in the faster developing countries. And although advertising spend is set to increase, changes in how it is spent will again pose significant challenges. Russell Southwood looks at the findings of the reports and the challenges they identify.

The African cinema sector seems to be coming out of its Rip Van Winkle slumber at last. A Nigerian cinema chain has set its sights on becoming a pan-continental player by offering a different business model. Russell Southwood spoke recently to Cinemart’s Dayo Ogunyemi.

The number of groundbreaking African television programmes is relatively small, given the huge size of the continent. One of the stand-out programmes is Kenya’s XYZ Show, a 15 minute shot of political satire, based on Spitting Image, a similar programme produced in the UK in the 1980s. In a continent where sharp comment on the antics of politicians is often limited by political control and self-censorship, the XYZ Show pushes the envelope. Russell Southwood spoke to its creator Gado in Nairobi recently.