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Thinus Ferreira

SABC1, Tropika - let Reeva rest in peace

2013-02-15 15:09
It's extremely sad, distressing, disappointing and actually scandalous-incredulous that SABC1 and production company Stimulii are not pulling (or at the very least postponing) the reality show Tropika Island of Treasure 5 with the late model Reeva Steenkamp who will appear on television on Saturday.

She's not even buried yet.

Steenkamp, the girlfriend of Oscar Pistorius, was allegedly shot in the head and killed. Now a case of murder is being investigated by the police.

The very least SABC1's channel head Leo Manne and Stimulii executive producer Samantha Moon and Tropika could have done (or should do) is to postpone the advertiser-funded reality show until Steenkamp at least had a funeral or some kind of memorial service.

The nice words of sympathy from SABC1 and from Stimulii and Samantha Moon echo horribly hollow as they push for Tropika Island of Treasure 5 to go ahead, instead of immediately doing what in my opinion would be the sensitive, gracious, non-commercial and right thing to do by pulling it off the schedule. At least temporarily.

How much more mature do M-Net and DStv come across who immediately took off all on-air promos and ads and immediately removed billboards yesterday? Their actions publicly line up with their words of saying that its done out of "respect for the bereaved".

Tears and words of sympathy mean very little if you don't actually show you care. Yes, television is a business. And the show must go on. I get that.

But sometimes because it's television, because it's media, you need to be adult about it and not put someone on television two days after she was shot dead.

Do we as a TV industry really lack the moral leadership, insight, best practice and emotional intelligence as shown by overseas broadcasters who pull episodes, shows and commercials when people in those productions unexpectedly die due to killing, suicide or some form of tragedy like an accident?

Discovery, after the recent Sandy Hook primary school massacre, even pulled and cancelled a reality show about guns which doesn't even directly have anything to do with the Sandy Hook school shooting. Are we that much more insensitive, uncaring and confused in South African television about what the right thing is to do?

Ask yourself: If you're a TV executive what would be more difficult? Keeping a TV show on in which a person appearing in it died a violent death, or taking a TV show off air? And, are you able to make that call and the more difficult decision which - yes - will disrupt a schedule, will cost money, will create logistical problems and require more effort than just letting everything be as it is?

I've asked the SABC and SABC1 some questions about the issue, questions which the SABC and SABC1 have so far not responded to and which I now actually suspect they won't bother to answer. They're difficult questions but questions as a journalist I have to ask.

What is SABC1, Stimulii and Tropika's rationale for keeping the show on and not pulling it, at least temporarily? Why if someone dies a violent death in South Africa does the programming remain on-air if it hasn't started yet? Why can't the starting date of the show be postponed until there's been at least some adequate time for the family to grieve?

Do you want to see your mom, sister, daughter or niece appearing on TV in a pre-recorded show two days after they've been killed?

Steenkamp will be seen by South African viewers on television on Saturday at 18:30 on Tropika Island of Treasure 5. And for me, that's not right. This is a sponsored show by Tropika. It's a sponsored advertiser-funded production (AFP) that's supposed to sell, and be about, happiness.

Now, Tropika Island of Treasure 5 will just be terribly sad; at the very least extremely ironic in a post-modern television context, like a Marilyn Monroe or Che Guevara image which belies a sad, twisted and highly ironic truth behind the external veneer.

Every time Steenkamp says something, smiles or does something on the tranquil beaches of Jamaica, you won't want to reach for a Tropika to drink. You won't think the show is great. You won't wish you were at the beach. Every time you watch Tropika Island of Treasure 5, you will be thinking that Reeva Steenkamp is dead.

Why the people making television can't see that, can't sense that, is probably the most ironic thing of all.
 

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