A gloomy cloud hovered over Nairobi and other major cities across Africa when Gateway Broadcasting Television (GTV) suddenly went off air. Men who walk around with a lot of self respect suddenly realised they are emotional wrecks without access to the quick fix in the form of a Didier Drogba trick, a Samwel Etoo flick or a sleek Benny McCarthy move. ‘Globalisation’ (or more aptly, Westernisation!) may have brought ‘everything’–including GTV–at the doorsteps of Africa, FRED MBOGO argues, but in the process it has made Africa dependent to the point of killing her own innovation.
GTV and its likes have packaged themselves so sweetly, ‘bribing’ us with some token ‘African’ representation while chewing into our space and drugging our tastes. With flashy presentations that are sure to win over our consciousness and sink into our subconscious, these pay TV channels package their ideas so cleverly as to make us imagine they have our interests at heart. The English Premier League football games become a ‘must-watch’ because a few tricks from the token African footballers in them will excite the big populace that supports them back in Africa. But the game remains English!
Subtly, the big African populace is introduced to the tasty life of England and the larger Europe which blinds it from seeing its own pathetic reality and fixing it for its betterment. Hordes of these Africans jump into makeshift boats after travelling through tough and harrowing terrain in the deserts and thickets of Africa’s trickiest routes, all in the hope of joining the worlds they see on pay TV channels. Or is this a curse of sorts? One that requires others to be ‘shown’ how to live and only end up seeing this way of life and doing nothing to better itself?
A lot of Africans like to ‘roll’ about thinking they are ‘free’ and independent. With their hands in pockets, they can recite the histories of their countries and stop proudly for effect at the year they attained political independence. But that is just all. The same Africans cannot tell you how independent they are when it comes to quenching the need for entertainment. What have they created for themselves as entertainment that speaks their language and makes them see themselves in a better light?
When GTV closed shop, it brought a growing industry to a stall. Commentators who earn cash by whipping up emotions of football supporters from one side to the other suddenly had nothing to report home about. Acres of newspaper pages that are dedicated to this sort of to and fro swing between supporters of the various English Premier League teams suddenly turned dreary and boring with curses being thrown in GTV’s direction. Radio stations that have call-in sessions that discuss these teams suddenly turned into condemnation zones. GTV was cursed yet again, in the same fashion a drug addict would curse the day he came to depend on a particular supplier who suddenly has stopped working!
Without GTV’s goodies, it seems men cannot be men. They cannot meet at the bar and escape from the reality surrounding their lives by focusing their eyes on the screen supplying the ‘enchanting’ foreign football. They cannot sing slogans created in England, Spain or France. They become angry and cannot control themselves. Only then can they realise that they have become so dependent on these foreign goodies that they have forgotten their own realities. With the kind of goodies that GTV supplies, these men find their ‘essence’ because for them reality only comes alive when the screen is on!
Conspiracy theorists must jump at this opportunity and connect the well established industry surrounding the goodies that come with these international pay television channels to the death of many African initiatives in the entertainment sector. Nothing is original any more. Of course one can argue that nothing has ever been original but can’t our television producers do something more than a direct aping of programmes brought through the likes of GTV? It is true that such channels will always spread their wings into our African living rooms and give us no chance to think creatively in the making of our own programmes.
Many trained African television experts are left in the cold when as the likes of GTV make inroads into African living rooms with their programmes. These means that a lot of creative minds cannot put their minds to task in the process of creating television programmes that make African audiences interact with their own realities. Instead the few television experts that remain in the industry fail to creatively weave African experiences into their programmes but continue with the creation and perpetuation of little ‘England’, ‘Europe’ or ‘America’ in Africa.
African football as a form of entertainment is suffering. In Kenya, for example, supporters hardly ever go to stadiums in any respectable numbers. Critics like to point out that potential supporters do not have enough money to pay gate charges. But increasingly the main reason is emerging: African footballers cheer the few Africans playing in European leagues. They gain access to these football games through the likes of GTV. And the GTVs of this world do not disappoint. They marshal their creative energies into creating a new world where viewers must escape into.
Interviews with Didier Drogba, or Al Hadji Diof, who play in England for example, are interspersed with their dribbling or energetic runs. Stars are created and their storylines given some taste in relation to something familiar in the audience. Concerns of players for Africa in the form of having started football academies in Ghana, Senegal or running football clinics in Kenya are highlighted, for example.
These stories are given a dream-like edge. Going to Europe is the new dream for any aspiring African player. It means that playing in the local league is not good enough. In fact the agreed upon idea is that African football will only grow if Africans go to Europe. But can all football players fit in these European clubs? Of course they cannot, but the lie must be peddled anyway. These channels must excite their viewers about this Europe in such a way that a connection with Africa remains possible all through if only to ‘cheat’ them into imagining that they really do have their interests at heart. This way no one sees African footballers being shipped out to Europe in sometimes dubious circumstances. This way, too, everyone keeps hoping for something positive to happen for African football but not doing anything about it, least of all going to the stadium to show support for their local teams and players!
The GTV incident shows that Africa has sold her soul to international corporations. Independence has not come as African countries have become little ‘Europe’ and ‘America’ in the midst of corrupt systems of governments. In fact it wouldn’t be a surprise to learn that the likes of GTV can do anything, including ‘corrupting’ African government officials, in the process of setting up camp to ‘drug’ the citizenry of many an African country. If this is unbelievable, just see the pomp that characterised GTV’s entry into Kenya in 2007, for instance. Someone is selling Africa’s independence!