Originally created 08/07/03

Malawi parliament turns off Big Brother Africa



BLANTYRE, Malawi -- Malawi lawmakers voted to ban the popular reality program Big Brother Africa from the nation's airwaves Tuesday, declaring it immoral.

The show, which locked 12 petulant housemates from across the continent in a house in South Africa, has been praised for bridging the cultural gaps that separate many on the continent and exploding some of the myths they share about their fellow Africans.

The show also includes risque interactions between young adults, apparently what prompted the ban.

"People are subjected to horrible pictures, which are corrupting the morals of our children," said Taylor Nothale, chairman of Parliament's media committee.

Nothale said he has received a chain of complaints about the show, particularly from parents. "We want the government to stop that nonsense on TV," said opposition leader Gwanda Chakuamba.

The show is beamed 24 hours a day to Africans with satellite dishes, but the highlights of the show are broadcast on local stations in many African countries. The state-run Television Malawi broadcasts the half-hour highlights every evening.

Benson Tembo, director general of the public broadcaster, said he would abide by the vote.

Last week, Namibian President Sam Nujoma also criticized the program, saying his country's national broadcaster should be showing programs on the history of Namibia instead.

Big Brother organizers said they were perplexed at the Malawi decision, pointing out that the highlight show was cleaned up for family viewing.

"If (Big Brother Africa) didn't generate any controversy, the project would be a failure," Carl Fischer, a producer of the show, said in an e-mail.

Malawi's representative in the Big Brother House, Zein Dudah, was voted off the show about a month ago.