After 17 years on air, Channel O finally bowed out on April 1 at 1am. It was called a handover to Africa Magic World, which will now focus on serving the South African market.
The channel had held the flag as the leading pan-African music television. When it debuted in 1998, it was the kind of rebel channel that surprisingly showed up on our terrestrial platforms before we were ready for it.
It was the beginning of a long journey, mainly made of South African music and a few West African acts whose names had crossed seas to Europe and America.
With less than five local TV stations at the time, and literally no music shows to write home about, Channel O became a darling for many Ugandans, who cared less if all they played was American music and a few songs from African artistes such as E-Smile, Brenda Fassie, Lucky Dube, Youssou N’dour and Angelique Kidjo.
The channel was so famous that we even had a beard style named after it, if you remember the saying: “Guy oyo asaze ka Channel O.”
But the more people loved it, the more it came under criticism for screening indecent music videos and taking up teenagers’ time with lots of music. Soon, the channel became exclusive to DStv, which was afforded by a few, ending our little music holiday.
With the emergence of more TV stations, East Africa TV and Channel 5 tried to fill the gap but they had a lot of Tanzania’s Bongo Flava than music from the rest of the region. Channel O’s re-emergence was in 2005 after MTV launched an African chapter in MTV Base. This saw Channel O become more aggressive than before, getting availed on all DStv bouquets.
The channel also started its own music awards that recognized our own Bebe Cool, Peter Miles, Keko and XOD. In the same way, in 2008, MTV Base launched their MAMA awards, nominating Bebe Cool and his Bashment Crew, Mowzey Radio and Weasel, Blu*3 and XOD.
The competition has been so high – with many East African artistes investing a lot in making nice videos to compete with Nigerians and South Africans.
But with Channel O gone, these artistes are left in a rather cold place. Yes, there’s MTV Base and Trace but many East Africans, particularly Ugandans, don’t feel safe either.
Winnie Nakate, an ardent music fan, notes that much as Channel O pushed a lot of South African and Nigerian music down our throats, they still had the pan-African interests at heart than MTV Base and Trace combined.
“It has been easier to catch a Kenyan or Ugandan song on Channel O than on Trace or Base those people worship Nigerian music,” she says.
Her reasoning could probably hold some water. For instance, while Bebe Cool’s Love You Everyday premiered on Channel O last July, it took MTV Base more than a week to play it and almost a month for Trace, yet these stations have a video debut slot on a daily basis.
This could probably explain why since the inception of their respective awards, Channel O has been rather consistent than MTV Base, which has held theirs only four times since 2008.
Bebe Cool, who doesn’t believe the channel closed, thinks there is a better plan coming, while Navio, a four-time nominee in the station awards, thinks Channel O has represented Uganda well and will definitely be missed.
“It is a big loss to the industry but we wish them the best in future,” the rapper says.
Some pundits, however, believe the closure is a blessing in disguise because artistes had lost their originality, taking Nigeria, Channel O and MTV Base as their yardstick.
“They [musicians] will strive to create a huge fan base at home and make profits right in their bases instead of being infatuated by international fame when they are known little back home,” says Emmanuel Simon Mwanyongo, a PR consultant and music enthusiastic in Malawi.
Others, however, note that East Africa deserves whatever is befalling them because the region had a chance of creating a g brand out of Channel 5 but ignored it for new boys. At the moment, refocusing on Channel 5 is impossible since they have also restructured to mainly cater for their Tanzanian market.
With nowhere to run, East Africans can either wait untill Trace and MTV Base think of playing their videos or resort to social media like YouTube to push their videos beyond their borders. And like Navio notes, it’s just laziness but Ugandan artistes still have chance online.
“If Klear Kut were on planes to the Kora awards at a time where there was no Facebook, YouTube or Instagram, then there is still a way,” he says.
At the moment, even the Channel O number 320 has finally been erased from the East African platforms. MultiChoice Uganda’s public relations manager Tina Wamala says that at the moment, they are still looking for an alternative, though, East African music can currently be found on Maisha Magic Swahili.
Efforts by the writer to watch music on this channel proved futile as they mostly have films and series from Tanzania and Kenya on rotation.
Source : The Observer