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The moral, economic values of reality television shows

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Big Brother Housemates

Since the maiden edition of Big Brother Africa (BBA) in 2001, in which a Nigerian was featured in a reality show for the first time, reality TV programmes have become the ‘new big thing.’

Realities shows continue to snowball. They include Star Quest (2002), Gulder Ultimate Search (2004), Who Wants to be a Millionaire (2005), MTN Family Game Show (2005), Three Crowns Family Game Show (2005), Next Movie Star (2005), Amstel Malta Box Office (2005), Big Brother Nigeria now Big Brother Naija (2006), MTN Project Fame West Africa (2008), Malta Guinness Street Dance (2008) and Peak Talent Hunt (2009).

Others are: Glo Naija Sings (2009), Sprite Triple Slam (2010), National Comedy Challenge (2010), Lucozade Boost Freestyle (2010), Roc Da Mic Nigeria (2011), Nigerian Idols (2011), The Voice Nigeria, Nigerians Got Talent, Glo X Factor and Oceanic Football Challenge (now rested), among others have filled the television airwaves.

It’s no news the controversy surrounding the authenticity of these realities TV shows in Nigeria, as some of them come with global franchises and adaptations. Hence, time and again, people have questioned the authenticity of these reality shows.

Analysts say there are primary and secondary objectives of sponsoring these TV reality shows. They are primarily to build awareness, develop customer loyalty and improve brands’ perception. The secondary reasons are more contentious, but generally, they could be seen to attract new users, support dealers and other intermediaries and act as a form of staff motivation and morale boosting.

In discussing the nature of reality shows to the audiences and what they do to them, a study carried out in the United States showed that reality television shows make personal thoughts, behaviours and interactions of their characters the main focus of the audience’s attention.

No doubt, these shows have been completely embraced by Nigerians as they not only make celebrities out of talented people, but also serve as a great family pastime.

The ongoing Big Brother Nigeria now Big Brother Naija (BBNaija), has stolen the hearts of most Nigerians, especially the youth.

Since its debut in 2006 and with the maiden edition hosted in Nigeria, the second and ongoing editions were recorded and transmitted live from the Red Pepper Studio, Big Brother House in Johannesburg, South Africa. It had since gained huge viewership within and beyond the shores of Africa.

It has created and still creates a buzz, particularly in the social media space, with high level of engagement in voting and followership among the Nigerian youth in particular, who devote their time and resources to follow the show religiously throughout the 85 days it features on MultiChoice’s DStv and GOtv platforms.

While the maiden edition may have endeared itself to the Nigerian viewers, particularly as it was shot in the country. The second edition, with the theme See Gobee, which held in 2017, ushered in a new wave of excitement and curiosity from its lovers. The ongoing edition (Season Three) with the theme: Double Wahala, like See Gobee, has been a rave for the good and wrong reasons.

Some of its critics argue that as a Nigerian show for Nigerians, it was not out of place for it to be shot in Nigeria instead of South Africa, particularly as it rakes in huge revenue from the country.

For some of its followers, the clamour for it to be shot in Nigeria is understandable, but it is wrongly framed. Many believe that Nigeria is under some mysterious conspiracy by South Africans. Hence, they could not understand why a Nigerian programme with Nigerians as participants is being shot in South Africa.

Besides its entertainment value, the show has raised several cogent debates about morality and the essence of hard work, as the winner walks away with N25 million prize and N20 million worth of SUV, amounting to a total package of N45 million.

Investigations revealed that during the (Season 2, See Gobee), 11 million votes were recorded at the last eviction before the grand finale. This increased as the frenetic campaigns on social media got heightened, putting the final vote tally at over 26 million, which was almost the 28.5 million votes recorded in the 2015 general election.

The winner, Efe polled 57.61 per cent of the total votes to emerge victorious, having defeated Bisola (first runner-up), TBoss (second runner-up), Marvis and Debie-Rise, who came fourth and fifth with 18.54, 13.60, 8.7 and 1.4 per cent of the votes respectively.

Sponsorship Deals
Going by PayPorte Global Systems founder and CEO, Eyo Bassey’s revelation during an interview with Techpoint.ng, a digital media platform dedicated to chronicling the impact of technology on the African narrative, if the platform was getting at least 5,000 daily orders last year, it’s safe to assume that there will be an increase this year. This is attributed to the fact that more people are now aware of the brand.

Supposing PayPorte fulfills more than 70 per cent of the orders, especially since it has terminated pay on delivery (PoD) and payments are now made before orders are fulfilled; it is safe to assume that the e-Commerce platform is on its way to raking in more money this year.

On why PayPorte is headlining the sponsorship of BBNaija, despite criticisms that have trailed the show from its second edition, Eyo explained that his company is bank rolling the show because: “As a brand, PayPorte believes in bringing out the creativity and talents that abound in Nigerians.

“So, the Big Brother Nigeria platform is an opportunity for talented Nigerians to harness their talents and make it a reality. As a Nigerian company, part of our Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is to enhance people’s lives and give them reasons to believe in themselves,” he added.

Brand Manager, Stout, Nigeria Breweries Plc., Oluseun Lawal, Legend Extra Stout, the sole sponsor of Saturday Night parties, said the continued involvement of the brand with BBNaija is to further strengthens its connection with loyal customers, while winning the hearts of the urban youth population in Nigeria and beyond.

He said: “For the Legend Extra Stout brand, last year’s Big Brother Naija, was quite rewarding. It was a delightful experience for both viewers at home and all the housemates. This year, we are eagerly looking forward to an even more exciting season for our customers with our sponsorship of the Double Wahala edition.

“Our goal is to always outdo past performances and this is guaranteed in the new season of BBNaija. The Saturday Night entertainment doesn’t just serve contestants, but also millions of fans watching from their homes,” he added.

Lawal further explained that the brand has been giving and would continue to give out surprise gifts to viewers who follow the show, adding that it would also host evicted housemates in its Lagos headquarters upon their arrival in the country at a proper Legend reception.

From investigation and interaction with sources in the know of the sponsorship deal, it was gathered that PayPorte as headline sponsor could charge co-sponsors like Legend Extra Stout, Minimie Noodles, Nokia and Pepsi millions of naira each to key into the show. But considering that brands like Nokia and Pepsi are big players in their space, there was a chance that they are also big sponsors of the show. Hence, they could stand alone as headline sponsor.

The Votes, The Money
To retain favourite housemates from being evicted, viewers have to vote and there are three ways to vote — online (mobile site, website) and offline (via SMS). While the latter costs  ₦30 per SMS vote, the former is free.

Following last year’s votes and a Twitter poll conducted by BBNaija this year, it is easy to estimate what comes to PayPorte as lead sponsor in terms of revenue share. With 26 million votes in the final week of last year’s show, and going by this year’s poll, it is safe to assume that about 20 per cent of the votes came in via SMS.

Therefore, 20 per cent of 26 million votes amounts to 5.2 million votes. This is believed to have come in via SMS and an SMS costs ₦30, which amounts to ₦156 million, an equivalent of $433,333, which is assumed to have been raked in within one week.

Assuming PayPorte has a revenue-sharing agreement with the telcos, MultiChoice and any other party involved in the partnership, even if in a worst case scenario, only five per cent of the revenue comes to about ₦7.8 million per week goes to PayPorte. And since telcos are known to take the larger share in such partnerships, that is not bad business.

There are also text messages that constantly roll through the screen while the show is being broadcast. These cost ₦50 per SMS. If one million viewers send such text messages every week, that comes to ₦50 million, which is shared among the parties in the show.

‘I Would Want To Participate If Given The Opportunity’
From Lawrence Njoku (Enugu)

Evangelist Miriam Ilechukwu was at an event organised for youths in one of the orthodox Churches in Enugu last week. She referred to the ongoing Big Brother Naija Reality Show as one of the schemes of the end time to deceive Christians.

She urged the youths to avoid things that could distract them from serving God if they must overcome the enemies in these last days.

“When you take a look at the designs of the Big Brother, the lure, the cash rewards, the freedom to eat and do whatever you like in the name of reality and perhaps to become victorious in the end, you will know that it is not ordinary.

“I have not seen an education programme. I have not seen a mentoring programme or religious activity where such resources are invested before. Yet governments and companies that have sacked their workers sponsor such shows. It is satanic. Avoid such wealth, avoid such programme, you don’t need it; you should not watch it because you cannot learn from it.

“The joy is ephemeral. It is God that promotes a man and can locate you anywhere you are, as long as you continue to look up to him. You don’t need to yield to the desires of the devil to become somebody and I tell you, there is dignity in labour,” she said.

She likened the programme to a “kingdom competing with God’s kingdom,” stressing that it has continued to expand, because of the number of youths who participate in it. It has continued to expand because of the level of publicity that goes into it. It has continued to increase because of poverty created by our leaders and social deprivation that the youths have been subjected through lack of employment after graduation, among other vices.

Nneka Ugwu, a year three student of Mass Communication at the Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT), said she liked watching the reality show and would want to participate if given the opportunity.

“It is educational. It is real. There are no pretenses and it makes you to discover who you are. I watch people criticise the programme and I ask why? There are many channels to watch and various programmes on the television anybody can tune to. Nobody is forced to watch it. I strongly believe that for anyone to claim to be literate, he must be versatile in so many areas and this reality show is one aspect.

“We usually discuss the sequence in the class. Anytime I did not meet with any of the tracks due to other personal engagements and probably power failure, I usually ask my friends in class and they will end up, briefing me. It is a way to catch fun and I do not see changing me in anyway. I don’t see what they are doing there, that we have not seen or done before, so it is not a big deal. I take whatever I feel is good from what they are doing and I leave those ones that are not in my interest.”

Also, a Theatre Art undergraduate, Njideka Ejike said it was one reality show that every young person should make time and watch, adding that it does not promote immorality in the youths.

She said: “There is nothing new about it. Are you saying that our youths don’t drink, don’t go naked after drinking, don’t engage in illicit affairs at will, what? Apart from that, the programme gives you an element of exposure, you meet and make friends and if one can participate in the reality show and still keep his or her head high, I do not see anything wrong about it.

“They will tell you that it is bad, how? I believe it is a programme created to empower youths and whoever has opportunity should not miss it. I am praying that God should give me opportunity to participate in it and my life will not be the same again”.

But Mrs. Glory Nnabuike said she does not allow her children to watch the reality show because, “they are too tender to understand what is going on there.”

‘Parents, Clerics, Students Kicks Against It’
By Charles Akpeji, Jalingo

A visibly dejected a mother of three and Jalingo-based businesswoman, Becky Oiza A., said no amount of money involved would make her allow her children to participate in such an ungodly show.

“For me to allow any of my child to go naked in the public in the name of bringing money and fame to the family is irresponsibility taken too far. I rather prefer to remain poor to maintain my good relationship with my God,” she said.

Sad that some parents have thrown the culture we are known for in Africa away to embrace the white man’s ways of life in the name of making money and become popular in the world, she vowed to resist any act that would encourage her and her children to follow the majority.

“My household and I would continue to follow God’s authority and not man because that is the only way I feel we can all move ahead.”

Corroborating Becky’s position, a senior pastor of the Daystar Convenant Assembly, Anthony Dorofi, expressed sadness that some parents have deviated from the path of Christ to that of world.

“Who told you that the only way you can make it is to go about the streets naked? He asked.

Citing various verses of the Christian Holy Books, he challenged parents to desist from allowing their children to be used as instruments in the hands of the devil, adding that majority of those who participate in such shows are demonised and needed deliverance.

Dorofi, who vowed not to allow any member of his congregation participate in such shows pleaded with other clerics to condemn the show, as the Bible did not support such acts.

“Even the Africa traditional religions, I believed did not ask our children to expose their bodies in the public just because they want to be rich and famous. So, we must all stand our ground and condemn their so called show,” he added.

In the same vein, an Islamic cleric, Isa Jallo, said: “It is unfortunate that some parents have become tools in the hands of evil spirits. I don’t see what they stand to gain by supporting their children to go naked publicly.”

‘Government Must Regulate What Nigeria Audience View’
From Alemma-Ozioruva Aliu, Benin City

In Edo State, the ongoing Big Brother Naija reality show has generated a lot of mixed reactions, with majority of the people insisting that there was the need to regulate the contents of the programme.

Even among the young, which formed majority of the viewing population, there are reservations as most of them see the programme as being at variance with the people’s cultural and moral beliefs.

Speaking to The Guardian, Miss Rose Paul noted that although she watches the programme, she has serious reservations about what goes on in the house.

“I watch the programme but I don’t like it. It does not teach any morals. I think they should stop the programme because it is not teaching us any morals. The money in question is just for one person. I can never participate in such a programme.”

However, a clergy, Pastor Mike Erhumwunse told The Guardian that censorship remains the best option even as he condemned the show in its entirety.

“This is one of the programmes I expect the government to disallow from our airwaves, especially in a society like Nigeria, where those in government know that our sense of morality is very low. There is high moral decadence in Nigeria and knowing this, government should find a way to ensure that these programmes are screened.

“Even if they are going to do it for show business, there must be restriction so that it is not everything that happens there that should be broadcast. There must be censorship to ensure that all those sexual aspect of it are not shown. Government should look into the content for the viewing audience.

“Personally, I have never taken interest in it because it is not something that edifies my spirit and the Bible admonishes us that we should abstain from anything that does not edify our spirit,” he said.

‘It Is A Misplaced Priority That Breeds Immorality’ 
From Oluwaseun Akingboye (Akure), Maria Diamond and Henry Ekemezie (Lagos)

Weighing the pros and cons of Big Brother Naija Reality Show, which is fast becoming the talk in every home, Bunmi Ojoye, described it as rubbish that must not be encouraged in a sane environment.

She said: “They are promoting and encouraging prostitution in the society, certifying ungodly acts among the youth, whose strength and vitality should be sublimated for positive energies. The BBN organisers and sponsors are not taking priority right for national development.”

The Programme Officer of Upline Resources Foundation, Martins Alo, lamented that the moral standard was nothing to write home about, adding: “Any show that promotes promiscuity, pornography and other sexual vices should not be readily broadcast.”

He noted that he would neither be a party to the show nor allow his children to participate in it, adding that the stakeholders behind the show were not investing in a venture that would berth solid economic growth.

A clergy with the United Apostolic Church of Christ (UACC), Pastor Tope Abraham Fayehun, said: “It is one of the potent signs of the end-time, as youths are given the privileges to commit immorality publicly.

“It is a manufacturing outfit, workshop and warehouse for merchandising sin and other illicit acts. It is a training ground to cause huge wreckage in the society after the housemates graduate and come to the larger society.”

Fayehun stressed that no child of God would be found in such act because “blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stand in the path of sinners. No righteous child shall be found in the congregation of sinners.”

He urged the organisations sponsoring the show to invest the money, time, resources and encouragement in other resourceful areas that would profit the larger population than promoting immorality among some 20 youths who are nursed as time bomb.

Contrary to widespread condemnation hinged on moral questions and proprietary acceptance, some social critics still believe that it was serving some positive roles in creating a vivacious society.

Yinka Ogungbemi, a youth vanguard, said Nigerian youths had long been marginalised and prevented from active participation in several facets of life, even those that directly relate to their wellbeing. To me, there is nothing wrong with the show.

“It is only an avenue for discovery of talents and hidden potential. Those criticising it are only crying wolf where there is none. And on promiscuity, we still have housemates that are extremely decent. It is a platform for personal assessment and introspection,” he said.

Also, Olasoji Ajayi opined that the show was worth the while for the organisers, participants and viewers, without baiting an eyelid that really matters.

Assessing the moral standard in all segments of the show, he said: “The moral standard is low, but not below the average moral standard we have here. I have heard a lot of criticisms against the show. It is so hypocritical. We have serious stuffs to deal with other than a show.”

Although he stressed that he would never participate in such show, he disclosed that he would not restrain his children from doing so if that was their choice.

Ajayi maintained that organisations and companies sponsoring the shows with huge money should not be crucified for it.

“They are there for their own personal development just like most businesses. Let the government and NGOs worry about national development first, while others will follow in their own way.”

Also speaking, Mrs. Olabisi Afolabi, a mother and businesswoman, said BBNaija show tended to become addictive when one indulges in watching it.

“I always engage my children in productive activities while the show is on. My children are under 18 and as such, they should not be exposed to anything pornographic.”

Steven Ngeraem, a student, said: “Nigeria is broke morally and financially, yet sponsors are wasting millions of naira on a highly immoral reality show. I’ve been wondering if there is any moral lesson one can learn from this big brother show and what gain from it”

To Faith Porbeni: “Nigeria keeps falling every year. Our government should come up with an idea of something more positive, which could influence the youth. I doubt if this generation can nurture and produce another mindsets like Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Cyril Stover and others. What foundation are we laying for the upcoming generation?”

According to Ebuka Ojukwu: “Obscenity and nudity have become rampant in the show and such should not be encouraged in our society. The show has shaped the perspectives of youths to embrace unethical and immoral scenes as if it is a convention.

“It is an avenue to make fast money without meritorious cause and a perverse drama costumed with the facade called entertainment”

A student, Jennifer Egwuatu said that the present crop of housemates has never shown any sign of seriousness and it all appeared that they are more interested in catching fun and involving illicit activities than winning the whopping prize money of N45m.

Similarly, Chineye Amadi said she does not have problem watching the show, because it is a form of entertainment.

“I cannot participate, as it would mean revealing my nudity and exposing myself to the whole world. I however, participate in voting for my favourite housemates just to help them make it to the finals and probably win,” she said.

I Will Allow My Child To Participate In The Show, Says Clergy Man
From Tina Todo, Calabar

Speaking to The Guardian in Calabar, the Cross River state capital, one of BBN’s fans, Blessing Ovo, a student of the University of Calabar, said the reality show has a lot to offer in terms of exposure and being oneself.

In her words: “The programme is about a lot of things, especially how to interact with people. You see people with different life styles and what I have leant from it is to be myself. I don’t have to be someone else. It tells more about you. I think it is educational in a way because it helps the youth to become more familiar with the people they meet.

“I think the show is also educational in the aspect of immoralities. I heard the last girl that was sent away was brought back for people to vote for because she never slept with anybody in the house but others did so with that they are trying to encourage housemates that have not really started sleeping around to keep themselves.”

A pastor, Temple Tandu, said he would allow his child to partake in such programme, considering the discipline imbibed in the housemates.

He said: “Considering what happened in the camp, two of the housemates were dropped because they caught them kissing. That alone shows that the show is not really bad. If they can discipline children for putting up such immoral act, it means they are not trying to portray immorality to the public.

“It is not about what people think about the whole thing. Some of us who are pastors are extremists and do not want to look at the other side of the programme, since it is not talking about the Bible. They just believe it is bad but they need to look at the activities involve, look at what they are doing then decide if your child can partake in it or not but for me, even though I am a pastor, I can allow my child to partake in it because already I have built a godly foundation in my child.

On whether the money involved worth the stress, he said: “I think the show is worth the stress. This has nothing to do with the money involved. One, a child that takes part in that kind of programme and wins, will get exposed to the world. It is an opportunity for that child to see the other side of the world. Another thing is that it brings out boldness in that child.”

But another student from the University of Calabar, Silas Bassey disagrees.

He said: “It has been good so far and at the same time, it is not encouraging for the young ones, it is not educational. It does not add anything to the life of the youths rather it only teaches immorality.

“That is why I don’t follow it up.  They should change the face of the programme end it completely. Some children watch Big Brother Naija from morning till 10pm without doing any other thing.”


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