Future of African Media?

As some may know, I have a weekly column in the South African newspaper, City Press’ lifestyle supplement 7 in which I explore different aspects and thoughts on popular culture, ranging from media, music, lifestyle, art, theatre, entertainment, etc. Below is my most recent column. You can also access this and past pieces in the columnist section of their site.

Tim Kring

Mid-September. London. Tim Kring steps on a stage at Nokia World. The creator and executive producer of the TV series Heroes, he falls within the same category, for me, as TV producers and writers like Tom Fontana (OZ), Dick Wolf (Law & Order) and Anthony E. Zuiker (CSI). These are all shows that have influenced and guided my engagement with television, both as a viewer and as someone who has been involved behind the scenes. These are all individuals who created something that so resonated with me; I aspire to being able to create something similar in my lifetime.

Which is why, when I heard Tim Kring was speaking, I was there well in advance, sitting front row. He was billed as a “Transmedia Storyteller”. He talked about what he calls Social Benefit Storytelling where he sought to blur the lines between fiction and reality. His talk was followed by a panel discussion on the future of television with representatives from Nielsen (which does all the ratings), Virgin Media (leading UK media company), Freemantle Media (owner and producer of Idols, Got Talent, and X-Factor, etc) and Comcast Corporation (own E! Entertainment Television & Style Network).

Traditionally, media related primarily to radio, television and print. The internet threw a curveball and sent everyone scrambling, trying to figure out how they fitted this new platform into everything. The cell phone came, morphed into the smart phone, and has created more confusion. A pet subject of mine centres on how one evolves the storytelling form to move across mediums. For example, how would one take a 24 minute television programme and present that on the cell phone in a way that doesn’t wear people out and chase them away?

Transmedia storytelling, that Kring is exploring, is about creating stories that live across the different platforms. For some, the three screen approach that Virgin Media is taking is the way. They are perfecting how to ensure that you can transition from television to mobile to internet (laptop) and back smoothly, always picking up from where you left off. Multichoice is now in what seems to be its final stretch with providing mobile television as extension of what they provide on telly. We need to stay plugged into these types of conversations and ensure that we are both up to speed, as well as represented.

The politics and fighting; the focus on everything but the actual content and the delivery of said content to the people of this country, is pushing us even further and further behind. With information, we have the potential to catch-up. If we do not recognise this and take advantage; we will be responsible for continued demise of our creativity.

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