October 4, 2002

Nujoma bans movies on television

A move by Namibian President Sam Nujoma to pull the plug on foreign television shows featuring sex and violence, has been met with protests from the political opposition and dismay by viewers.

Nujoma and senior Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) staff met behind closed-doors Monday, September 30, where Nujoma instructed the state broadcaster to stop airing foreign films, soap operas and series "that have a bad influence on the youth," said sources, who did not want to be named. Instead, the president suggested productions showing Namibia "in a positive light", including broadcasts of the arid southwest African country's spectacular wildlife. But Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) chairman Uazuva Kaumbi said the sweeping changes taking place at the NBC had little to do with Nujoma's instructions to cleanse the airwaves of foreign programmes promoting what is seen as immorality. He said the changes were part of the NBC's business plan to increase local content on television to 80 per cent of all the programmes in three years.

Monday night saw the pulling of the science-fiction series Dune, based on the award-winning book by Frank Herbert, which was replaced by a re-broadcast of the ruling South West Africa People's Organisation's (SWAPO) congress in August. An AFP correspondent reported that the popular American soap opera "The Bold and the Beautiful" had been axed from its late afternoon slot, but was aired Wednesday after complaints from viewers. Since Monday, viewers have been faced with children's programmes, a smattering of soaps, news, local language programmes and a feed to CNN.

Nujoma announced a surprise Cabinet shake-up in late August, where, apart from his presidential duties, he also took on the post as Minister of Information and Broadcasting. The move came as he apparently tried to resolve financial problems at the ailing broadcaster and to discipline its employees.

Speaking on condition of anonimity, a Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) member said since Nujoma took over the portfolio, NBC has given much more time to his speeches and SWAPO-related issues. "Stories that dont really deserve prime space on the news get it just because its the president speaking," said the MISA member, who worked for the organisation's media monitoring project. "In the past weeks news bulletins he has featured in at least five of the leads and once in a second lead."

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting released a statement Wednesday defending the president, saying that his actions were "that of a responsible father". It said Nujoma advised the management at NBC to "revisit the screening hours of foreign programmes containing violence and explicit sex scenes to prevent Namibian children from being exposed to it." (THE NAMIBIAN)

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