Visual youth content on South Africa’s public broadcaster has gradually become a repetitive re-creation of profitable international programmes. Simply, it is wanting in diversity and originality.
This possibly could be blamed on a lack of fresh content, but what of the upcoming youth programmes which represent South Africa’s most important demographic? Are there any?
A research report conducted by the Rhodes School of Journalism on “Youth identity, media and the public sphere” compiled by Vanessa Malila in 2013 indicates that “compared to levels of trust in political institutions, levels of trust in the media are significantly high amongst South African youth.” South African youth, in other words, would rather trust TV than their leaders.
Furthermore, Malila said the media forms “part of the resources [youth] draw on to establish their identity as South African citizens.”
Popular channels such as VUZUtv, MTV base, and Channel O provide some content that adds to the diversity and vibrancy of youth programming. Yet they are also bemoaned for amplifying international content and influences, which some young people unquestioningly adopt. The music videos broadcast on these channels are also often perceived as promoting, or even inspiring, reckless lifestyles amongst youth.
But there’s hope. Some young, driven South Africans are moving against the tide by creating programming they believe suits their interests and aspirations. This resurgence has been seen recently in original lifestyle shows such as SABC 1’s “Hands Up Campaign”, “Hectic Nine9” on SABC 2 and “Making Moves” on SABC 1.
Live Magazine SA got a sneak peek at a new youth television production called “Campus Vibes” outside street apparel store Amerikana in Braamfontein. Produced by Red House Films, the show specifically targets the generation residing and studying in Johannesburg.
On set, production manager Thabang Morake stood alongside director Steve Gyami while they were capturing the pilot footage. “I am excited about the show as it is the only lifestyle show in Johannesburg that especially addresses the cultural nuances of campus culture and student life,” Morake commented.
With episodes expected to run for 45 minutes, the show is being shot at locations such as Wits University, UJ and Varsity College, among other campuses, and features two main presenters: Sthe’ and Yumi. The show will be divided into four distinct cultural and lifestyle segments.
“We don’t have competition. No one does what we do,” Morake said. “It will bring out fresh talent and all that students like but have never gotten before,” Gyami confidently added.
Shows such as “Campus Vibes” are a welcome breath of fresh air under South Africa’s youth content umbrella. Beyond the glitz and glamour these programmes also have the unique opportunity to start discussions and contribute to finding solutions to issues common to the audience.
“How and what media we consume are as important as the kind of food we eat,” reads a research report by media watchdog organisation Media Monitoring Africa’s Policy Unit. It remarks, “The programmes we watch on television for example can be nutritious in so far as they stimulate or expose us to new ideas, fresh perspectives or challenge our beliefs, values, etc.”
It is without a doubt that South African youth – who make up 66% of the population according to Statistics South Africa – have the power to influence change. The youth’s proactive participation in society can help address critical issues such unemployment, education, and health.
For that, we need more inspiring content that youth can relate to, both diverse and well thought-out, while equally fostering growth and improvement.
Words by Motshabi Hoaeane
Photography by Neo Mahame