Thursday, November 28, 2013


Dear TV Viewers,

         I don’t know if I will fall foul of South Africa’s new Secrecy Law if I reveal this, but I’m going to take a chance any way.
         Have you noticed that odd things have been happening lately on Top Billing, one of the Government’s South African Broadcasting Corporation’s most popular programmes?

         In a land where most of the people are poor and half of them are unemployed Top Billing highlights the lives of the very rich by showing homes and other luxuries that very few people will ever be able to afford.
         Since the Black African National Congress came to power in 1994 their policy of Black Economic Empowerment has been implemented to ensure that Blacks get jobs before anybody else and that being the right colour is the most imported qualification for everybody.

         However if this is allowed to creep into a COMPETITION with a Grand Prize valued at nearly R6-million it devalues the whole thing.

         Top Billing has been running this to celebrate its 21st anniversary. In keeping with its luxury image the Grand Prize consists of a Cape Town apartment valued at R3.5-million sponsored by Private Property; furniture and appliances worth R1.5-million; a R700 000 Cabriolet sports car and a R100 000 Woolworths spurge.
         As part of the competition two competitors have been competing each week in a quiz via telephone live. The show airs on SABC 3 every Thursday and in this Private Property section competitors can win an iPad mini and be entitled to go forward to the next round of the competition. The questions relate to the particular episode in which the quiz takes place.

         However in two of these that I watched it appeared as if Blacks were getting preferential treatment.


         Top Billing is produced by Tswelopele Productions that was founded by Patience Stevens and Basetsana Kumalo, a former Miss South Africa and Miss World runner up. This company also produces two other SABC programmes Pasella, which is in Afrikaans and Ses’khona which is in the local Siswati and Ndebele tongue.

         Stevens, who heads the company, has said that it is one of the very few empowerment (presumably Black empowerment) television companies. And that although it is important to us, in that we are proud to be recognised as one of the Top 300 empowerment companies in  South Africa, we never assume the acquisition of business contracts based on this. Companies want to work with us because of our reputation of getting the job done on time in the most professional manner. For them, the fact that we were empowered is just an added bonus.

         This is what happened on the iPad quizzes I saw. 

17 October 2013:
The competitors were a Black guy Thulani Xhakaza and Manoj Bhudia. They were each asked questions and from what I saw the presenter appeared to be perfectly satisfied with the way it went and I could see nothing wrong with it either. Xhakaza was well beaten with Bhudia getting four questions right to Xhakaza’s 1. So he was declared the winner of an iPad enabling him to go through to the next round.             

The following week I was surprised to see Xhakaza appearing on my screen again; given an iPad and told that he was still in the competition. So I asked Patience Stevens for an explanation.

She explained that having reviewed the show of the previous week they noticed that on the second question our presenter had not heard Thulani Xhakaza say his name first, so she did not give Thulani the chance to answer first. This happened again on question four.
So in the interests of fairness to both parties and to give Thulani the benefit of the doubt that he could have answered both the questions correctly had he been given the chance, and therefore won 3/2, both Thulani and Manoj were award prizes.
This means that both their names go into the draw for the one place amongst the ten finalists that will be filled by a winner of the smart tablet competition.
I then asked her in an email: But even if one accepts your explanation surely it is totally unfair to give somebody an iPad and advance them in the competition when they haven’t won anything by answering questions as the other people have done? But she didn’t reply to this.

Her explanation did not make sense as the rules make out that competitors take it in turns to answer the questions.  

24 October 2013:
        This time the organisers seemed determined to make sure that there was not a repeated of what happened the previous week. The competitors were a Black woman, Thandi Tlaka and Clifford Olivier. Some of their questions were repeated and they were given help with the answers. And both were given an iPad on the basis they had an equal number of correct answers.
         I made a point of recording this quiz which began with presenter Aidan Bennett saying: You each have a turn to answer a question.  

         He asked Olivier where the dream home was situated: Was it in De Waterkant or Woodstock? When he didn’t answered immediately he was told it rhymed with water and he then gave De Waterkant, which was the correct answer.

         One of Tlaka's questions was: Telkom are
known as the leaders in fixed broadband or fixed wireless? After having the question repeated she answered quite deliberately Fixed broad brand.
         Absolutely correct Bennett told her when it wasn’t.
         I told Stevens that I had let three people with much younger ears than mine listen to the recording and they all agreed that what Tlaka had said was brand not band.
         But when I put this to Stevens she maintained that Tlaka had hesitated for 2 seconds and responded with ‘fixed broadband.’
         While the question was repeated for Thandi, Clifford Olivier was given a clue regarding the suburb in which the dream home is located which helped him answer the question correctly, so both contestants  were given an equal opportunity to succeed, and both won an iPad, Stevens maintained.said.
         If Clifford had not been given the clue Thandi would have been the winner.
         So whatever version you accept, mine or hers this was not fair to other competitors who didn’t get the same kind of help.

         She maintained, In all instances we aim to be fair to our viewers and contestants and to allow them a chance to win and enjoy being part of the competition.
Justin Clarke
, the founder and head of Private Property that lists properties on the web, told me his company was not involved in the judging in any way.

         I have read your comments and don’t feel there is anything unfair in the way the competition has been run. There are still further levels of the competition so whether there are 10 or 20 iPad winners, it will have no real significance on the overall outcome.

         In two subsequent episodes I watched nobody had a question repeated and nobody was given a clue. And when I mentioned one of these to Stevens saying: This was how all of them should have been done.

         She replied: Glad you were happy – thanks for the feedback.


Regards Consumer Watchdog Jon

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