Big Brother Naija And Socio-Cultural Contentions By Etete Enideneze


Indecent and pornographic content in this year’s Season Six of the Shine Ya Eyes edition of Big Brother Naija, has attracted scathing public criticisms. Concerns have been raised as to whether, the show is meant to promote immorality and relegate the host country’s core values, while the producers and sponsors make profit. These are indeed contentious issues, not easily addressed even in Mass Communication and Film Studies, let alone doing so in practice, where it is sometimes difficult to pin the media to regulations, because of stakeholders' monetary and political interests.


Theoretically, one school of thought argues that, negative media content, for instance, explicit sexual and violent acts on television and internet, could massively influence audiences’ attitudes and behaviours negatively, like a bullet shot from a gun.  A counter school of thought contends that, there could be no such massive negative effects on everybody or society at the same time.  The reasons are that - a programme might not be viewed by everybody; individuals are different, hence some persons, especially, non-addicted and media literate viewers as well as those who have self-discipline, could avoid the negative influences. This is more so as there are other non-media sources of information and entertainment, besides peer influences and poor family upbringing that could trigger anti-social behaviours. Yet, some scholars of Media Studies, take a middle position, that negative media content, could however, moderately instigate anti-social and violent behaviours in some heavy viewers.


These daisy theoretical arguments are usually considered by many democratic countries, to determine the extent to which the media could be regulated through laws and professional ethics, but without curtailing press freedom.  The academic views, besides Nigerians' appetite for entertainment, to get comic relief amid austerity and insecurity, may have made President Muhammadu Buhari administration and Information and Culture Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed to backtrack on earlier plans to ban Big Brother Africa's shows. Instead, the government conditioned Big Brother Africa to produce the show in Nigeria, so as to encourage more local participation and plough-back part of the economic benefits to the country and the local sponsors/advertisers.


Despite extant regulatory mechanisms, the ongoing Season Six Shine Ya Eyes edition of the localised BBNaija, is beaming indecent, nude, pornographic and culturally debasing acts of some participants to handheld electronic devices and homes, even during children time belts. Many families and kids are engrossed in watching the uncensored indecent content, at the expense of important routines such as praying, studying for examinations as well as carrying out official and domestic chores. The rating of the telecast for under-eigtheen and above is not really adhered to; many parents and viewers lack media literacy and the psychological inoculation abilities to deflect negative influences of the programme. Unfortunately, cases of immoral and culturally debasing acts are still being transmitted uncensored given the programme's live-format.


One of the current gist is that which allegedly involves Miss Angel Agnes Smith and Mr. Cross Sunday Ikechukwu whose video of alleged erotic acts have gone viral online, and being condemned by sane minds.  This follows the alleged escapades of Tega Dominic and Boma Martins Akpore which perplexed viewers and non-viewers of the show, early this month. And more offensive scenes might still be relayed in the days ahead. The alleged indecent acts of these participants, beamed to the whole world, seems to confirm suspicion of voyeuristic and pornographic motives of the programme, as also symbolized by the eye logo.


The eye symbol could imply that Big Brother is seeing participants and everything is recorded. But going by semiotics, the eye sign seems to connote voyeurism.  The producers and director, could be leveraging on human beings' psychological tendency to peep or gaze at nude and sexy acts for self-pleasure, a theoretical technicque usually applied by some filmmakers. And this tactic particularly works on indisciplined and immature viewers.  Therefore, the ultimate aim of BBNaija showing sexy and pornographic scenes might be to attract a large audience, and to inturn attract many advertisers to place products on the programme. Unsurprisingly, some viewers and Nigerians are speaking out against the corrupting aspects of the BBNaija's reality telecasts.  They are countering that Nigerians are not really the characters portrayed by the acts of the “lovebirds”. And that, even if a Nigerian is a whore, he or she might not engage in televised pornographic acts, to relegate personal dignity, womanhood, matrimonial sanctity and cherished cultural values/mores, be it in drama or real life, except they are porn stars.


The wild condemnations and the use of protest votes to evict participants allegedly bringing shame to themselves and Nigeria, have depicted Nigerians as a cultured people. And more of such persons are to be voted out of the house by audiences. The quick actions, attest to the power of audiences, once seen as passive in conventional mass communication, when the legacy media existed without online alternatives.

Despite the public outcry, the Federal Government seems not to have publicly called the producers of the programme to order, neither has Big Brother Africa assured it would make amends to stop projecting the country, its citizens and culture to the world, negatively.  Notwithstanding calls for banning the programme on account of immorality and cultural debasement, my stand is that, the Federal Government, could rather compel the producers to redesign the programme for subsequent editions.  For instance, participation could be limited to unmarried youths; separate living rooms could be provided and for each person or according to gender, while inmates interact at common meeting grounds/activities; excursion trips to cultural, tourism sites and traditional institutions, could be introduced, to enable them and audiences learn and project the country's cultural heritage.


Also, folklores, native music, ballads and cultural values should compulsorily form part of the content; number of participants could be increased and then more use of native costumes and languages should be encouraged in performances and interactions.  A bit of privacy should be accorded participants when necessary; digital electronic devices could be used to filter indecent contents; broadcast should be limited to adult time belt; media-use literacy education for audiences should be done; stiffer rules for the producers and participants, particularly in the aspects of near-complete nudity and open sexual acts are equally vital.


Reviving of the National Theatre at Igamu in Lagos, should equally be expedited, so as to encourage Nigerian producers and indigenous performers to produce reality shows with local content to creat employment and wealth. Adopting these measures, might not only help to improve the content and public-approval rating of the reality show. It could also be of more benefits to the Nigerian audiences and the country, instead of fulfilling the monetary interests of the stakeholders alone.


In the long-run, the producers could as well make more revenues through good approval rating that will later attract many persons who disliked the so-called corrupting aspects of the show. These suggestions are vital, especially in this era in which the cultures and traditions of many parts of the country are going extinct, and young ones are adopting alien cultures in the name of civilization.  This trend, besides governments' inability to provide jobs and essential services, are increasing idleness; social vices, rate of divorce, and criminal activities such as drug abuse, rape, incest, money rituals, online fraud, kidnapping and murder.  Now is the time, to therefore, rethink the socio-cultural impact of BBNaija show, and regigg its content in order to inculcate the right values in the young ones, as well as project the culture and tourism potential of Nigeria to the world.


By Etete Enideneze, Media Professional/Public Affairs Analyst



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