Nigeria: Big Brother Africa III runs into House of Representatives’ opposition

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The House of Representatives Committee on Information and National Orientation has warned that DSTV Multichoice would not be allowed to broadcast its planned third series of Big Brother Africa (BBA) to Nigeria unless it gave adequate guarantees to abide with the country's broadcasting codes.

The chairman of the committee, Hon. Dino Melaye told officials of DSTV Multichoice during an meeting with them on 3 July 2008 in Abuja that the ban placed on the programme last year remained in place as the committee had not changed its perception of the programme which the chairman said was "indecent."

He observed that the programme put pressure on the inmates to engage in unwholesome activities in order to remain popular with viewers, saying that the broadcasters' attempt to control the viewership through age specification cannot work because children still had access to the programme.

"Nigeria and Africa are under threat of HIV/AIDS, promoting widespread pornography under whatever guise is counterproductive. This reinforces the notion that one does not need to work hard to become rich and famous. All the participants need to do is to humiliate themselves, seek for attention and use other participants. This is exactly the kind of notion that our nation needs to do away with," he said.

According to Melaye, "the negative consequences of BBA cannot be over emphasised as we are aware of the moral decadence and debasement of our cherished cultural heritage occasioned by it. As members of this noble committee, we have a call to duty in our hands. We shall therefore not fold our hands and watch our society degenerate but act decisively".

Citing some of the provisions of the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC) codes, Melaye remarked that the committee's position was supported by the regulatory body's opposition to "obscene, indecent and vulgar language expression or representation."

He added that "in view of the provisions of the code, we shall only allow Big Brother Africa III on Nigerian Airways if Multichoice and MNET undertake to abide by these codes otherwise we cannot but join our hands in condemning and banning this show of shame."

However, the Managing Director of DSTV Multichoice, Collins Khumalo told the committee that his organisation had no control over the content of the BBA as it was a reality show provided by MNET but added that in view of the criticisms that have trailed it in the country, DSTV Multichoice had prevailed on the content providers to take the complaints into consideration.

Khumalo noted that one of the achievements of the BBA was it ability to showcase that people from all parts of Africa could live together in one house without acrimony, adding that the high level of interest in the programme by Nigerians was demonstrated by the fact that the country was the second highest in downloading materials on it, second highest in sending text messages and third highest in voting.

Vanguard (Lagos) 4 July 2008