MTG Group takes TV back to the 40's & 50's in Ghana

27 Apr


The steady growth of commercial television in Africa is demonstrated well here in Ghana with a variety of commercial channels that are owned by the state and public and private companies. All of these channels have the problem of how to fill airtime at the lowest possible cost.

One such channel, Viasat 1, is owned by the Swedish media investment group MTG (Modern Times Group) with studio centres in London, England and Scandinavia. The owners were eyeing Emerging Markets with a view to cashing in on what could have enormous future growth potential.

With this in mind, it was with some interest that I noticed Viasat 1 transmitting a cheap Nigerian soap opera at around 17:30 hours where the entire cast was smoking. In every scene the actors were smoking or lighting up.

Clearly the Nigerian producers have had the majority of their production costs underwritten by the American Cigarette Companies. What is less clear is how cheaply these programmes can be purchased for re-broadcast by other networks because of the product placement of cigarettes.

There is also the issue of possible cash payments by Cigarette Companies direct to broadcasters for carrying this content. This is not a continent where rules or laws are enforced with any degree of regularity. It is possible the MTG Group is feeling relaxed and at home.

It’s all so surreal. Just like those American Chesterfield and Marlboro sponsored television dramas of the forties and fifties that ended up killing millions of citizens over five decades, the tobacco companies are back. Only the backdrop has changed.

-Jay Liotta, Accra, Ghana.


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