I'm freaking out here people...
South African soapies need to be given Essential Services status as a matter of urgency.
As we all saw last week, our soapies are in an extremely critical crisis.
Isibaya and Gomora have already run out of new episodes to air and Uzalo, The Queen and The River run out on 8 May.
If the rest of our soapies don't get back to filming from Friday 1 May, they're going to run out shortly too. Some have more episodes available than others but if we want to rescue our soapies, the time is NOW.
I wholeheartedly and absolutely believe that these shows are Essential Services and that they need to resume filming in Level 4.
This is why:
They're the essential backbone of our entertainment industry, which can't take another blow because it's already suffering too much.
The cancellation of all live performances is killing our Arts and Culture sector and right now, the only remaining entertainment entity that can still perform for crowds while adhering to social distancing is television.
The survival of our TV shows has become more important than ever because of how many people they employ in the industry.
Actors, writers, camera people, crew of all kinds - it's the only remaining industry in Arts and Culture that's still able to employ people!
Joy. Or rather, the lack thereof. As from this Friday (1 May), no-one can go out after 20h00 and now we must do what?!
Watch re-runs of old shows while we sit and sip water?!
Oh wait, no, some people don't even have water so they're gonna do what exactly?
I understand there's a pandemic but honestly, if this is the end, then it has to have some joy to it at least!
Soapies provide comfort, routine, stress relief, escapism and a sense of connection and community to millions and millions of people round the country. We CANNOT lose them.
Speaking of millions and millions... this is the total when you add up the viewership for each local soapie in the Top 30 shows on TV (based on March 2020 viewership figures
- without Isidingo and Isithembiso which ended):
|Generations: The Legacy
I know that many people watch more than one soap per day but still, that number's essentially the size of our population!
This is more eyeballs than any
other cultural phenomenon in South Africa.
This means something. It means A LOT.
For starters it means our soapies can be part of the COVID-19 messaging and they'd reach more people than any of the news bulletins or briefs.
This could happen in two ways:
A. Public service announcements in adbreaks by the soapie stars, informing, educating, supporting etc.
inclusion in storylines. This definitely can't be too much because we want to keep the sense of entertainment in the shows. People need time to not
worry too, so this would be a delicate balance and should be up to the show's writers to decide on whether or not they wish to include this.
If the soapies do either or both of the above, they fall into the Media and Broadcast guidelines for Level 4, which is as follows:
The viewership numbers are crucial for another very important reason: Money. Advertisers.
What makes this entire situation even more heartbreaking is that our shows were just starting to get their mojos back after being bludgeoned by loadshedding.
They had a such a rough time of it through Stages 6 and 4 and then suddenly all South Africans could watch again.
It's devastating that they could lose that.
Of course the knock-on effect doesn't only impact on those employed by the shows and viewers BUT on the entire television ecosystem.
They're the essential backbone of every broadcaster. What happens with them has a direct, dramatic impact on the SABC, DStv and e.tv - all of whom provide employment across the television industry.
As we know, the SABC cannot afford to lose its most popular shows for weeks if not months. It's a matter of survival!
All this proves without a doubt that our soapies are Essential
and Of Service
Obviously filming would be diifferent once they go back and they'd have to adhere to similar rules as Neighbours, which returns to filming in Australia this week.
Some of their on-set safety protocols include: temperature checks of cast and crew each day, no extras on set, division of the production team into smaller working groups and social distancing in scenes with no kissing or touching - they're using camera tricks to make the characters look closer.
We can do it too.