Thanks to my colleague leo africanus, I could include Yizo Yizo, a groundbreaking and gritty TV show from South Africa, in my course on Global Media. Yizo Yizo is a terrific text with which to invite students to think about the question of “development communication” and the central role that this strand of communications research (carried out, for the most part, in mass communication departments in the U.S.) has played in shaping media policy in much of Africa and Asia. But what sets Yizo Yizo and Wetin Dey apart from other “pro-development” Miguel Sabido-inspired dramas developed in places like India during the 80s is the socio-cultural and political context – post apartheid South Africa.
Where radio and television in India were imagined and controlled by the state as a means for integrating the “nation,” in South Africa, radio and television were central to the project of racial and ethnic separation. Yizo Yizo, however, is in many ways emblematic of “post-apartheid” TV in South Africa – by which I mean not just the re-structuring of the South African Broadcasting Corporation and the growing influence of transnational formats and genres on TV in South Africa (Big Brother Africa, for e.g.), but also the ways in which TV has emerged as a key site for the re-articulation of cultural citizenship. And Yizo Yizo is a brilliant text to work with for the simple reason that it is so uncompromising – it lays bare the many issues troubling township life in South Africa (violence, drug abuse, sexual harassment, and so on) in unprecedented ways. And needless to say, the show generated tremendous controversy and attracted considerable public discussion. TV done right.
While I’ve planned to screen an episode or two of Yizo Yizo in class, it looks like I now have to make time for another show – Wetin Dey, from Nigeria. A story in the BBC says that this show, produced by group of international TV, film and advertising producers, is designed to raise HIV and AIDS awareness across Nigeria (here). Nigeria, as we know, gets talked about in both popular and academic settings in relation to Nollywood and the enduring popularity of Bollywood. I’m hoping this show (clips available on BBC) will help add another dimension to our understanding of media production in Nigeria and force us to think anew about TV and the question of “development” in an age of global flows – Wetin Dey is, after all, funded in large measure by the U.K.’s Department for International Development (DFID) and produced in collaboration with a number of NGOs.
[Pic from BBC]