A collective of queer activists has met with the producers of the Phat Joe TV show Cheeky Palate over homophobic comments aired in the first episode.
The group, which included Steve Letsike (Access Chapter 2), Thokozani Ndaba (Ntethelelo Foundation), Roché Kester (OUT), Mpho Buntse (Embrace Diversity Movement), Petros Abraham (Exit), Ntsupe Mohapi (EPOC) and Rev Tebogo Moema, held discussions with Connect TV on 22 October.
Basetsana Kumalo, CEO of the production company, was also in attendance, although the host of the 1Magic celebrity dinner and debate reality show, Phat Joe, was not.
The meeting was organised by Access Chapter 2 (AC2) to discuss offensive comments made by some of the high profile guests in the 9 October episode dealing with spirituality. In particular, TV personality, businesswoman and pastor Gerry Rantseli Elsdon has been criticised for stating that “the word of God is very clear that homosexuality is a sin.”
The episode was also slammed for not including an alternative pro-queer voice on the topic and for it being hosted by Joe, who has a documented history of on-air queerphobia.
The three-hour engagement in Johannesburg was described by Letsike as frank and open. “Many issues were raised about the content, the shift from the topic ‘spirituality’ to ‘homophobic’ attacks, the lack of accountability from the host who failed to direct the discussions, the fact that they overlooked the harm this has on the community, and many other issues,” Letsike said.
Connect TV expressed its queer allyship, that it did not intend to attack the community through the show, and reportedly admitted that mistakes happened.
“They affirmed their commitment to do better and besides the fact that they are bound by the agreement, they have with the client. Basetsana apologised ‘personally’,” Letsike said.
Connect TV also appeared to shift some of the blame to the broadcaster by pointing out that the host and the guests are decided on and finalised by the channel.
Mpho Buntse, from the Embrace Diversity Movement, argued that the channel and broadcaster also need to take responsibility for these kinds of incidents as they ultimately own and commission the content.
“The legality of content commission makes it almost impossible to hold production houses accountable. Media has an incredible role to play in building rather than destroying, and MultiChoice needs to account for this spewing of hate on national television,” said Buntse.
The collective recommended that the Connect TV team and senior managers undergo compulsory sensitisation training, review and revise guides for the host and editors, and work with LGBTI organisations and individuals.
An apology was also requested, including one from Joe specifically. It was further agreed that the issue will also be taken up with channel.
The Broadcasting Complaints Commission of SA earlier confirmed receipt of numerous complaints about the show. In addition to its submission to the BBCSA, AC2 also lodged a complaint with the SA Human Rights Commission.
“There is clearly a learning that many of the production houses need to undergo. They can’t operate on the basis of making money at the cost of lives and how whatever shows they create incites violence and hate towards the LGBTI community,” Letsike told MambaOnline.