By Katlego Mereko

A conversation which began in 2016 has over the years gained traction and divided opinion among celebrities, media hopefuls and fans alike. On Wednesday 13th March, Media personality Melody Miya hosted a seminar on “How to Open Up the Industry” at the University of Johannesburg Library. 

The sold-out event included multimedia students, social media brand influencers and a renowned actor or two. The featured panellists were Masechaba Ndlovu of Metro FM, Tshepo Maseko of It Has to Be Jazz, Candice Modiselle of YoTV and Generations fame, and Nicolette Mashile of Daily Theta. The event was hosted by MCs Zanele Patilwe and Melody Miya

The #HowToOpenUpTheIndustry debate has gone on for the better part of the last two years, with critique aimed at the media industry for recycling personalities in different genres of media. This has invited rebuke from several celebrities such as Thando Thabethe and Lerato Kganyago. The former contends that there is a patriarchal lace in the debate as male figures who fill different roles in the media space are not factored in on the criticism. Both Thabethe and Kganyago cite hard work as pivotal to their own rise in the industry.

Somizi Mhlongo & Bonang Matheba at the launch of the House of BNG

The debate is seemingly an important one to have in an industry saturated with young hopefuls who are trying to break in the different markets. Often these young hopefuls hit several snags in the pursuit of their dreams because they do not meet a certain criterion or because they refuse to do one or other thing.

The Panellists at the UJ library shared their experiences of breaking into the media space. Candice Modiselle shared how she had to fend of speculations about how her famous sisters might have made her entrance into the industry a lot easier. She spoke about her actual hardships of how she was the oldest presenter at YoTV, co-presenting with someone several years her junior being one of the things that she had to go through before landing bigger gigs. Modiselle, whose talent is undeniable, had this to say about the contradictions in the media space;

“We must understand that the industry is an economic activity, which means that quantity is prioritised over quality, it is numbers before talent. And in this industry, it is popularity before craft. So, in this engagement, we acknowledge that we are in an industry that glorifies numbers, popularity and followers before looking at one’s individual craft and talent”

Nicolette Mashile also reiterated hard work to get where she is right now. Importantly, she also added that one must find what one is good in. “What was crucial for me is that I found my niche and the kind of TV presenting that I wanted to be involved in,” she quipped.

The debate about how to open the industry remains as an important one, but one which must feel like it is dragging its feet in trying to find solutions. Clearly, there needs to emerge new ways to think about the industry itself and what about it needs to be transformed in order to promote more inclusivity. 

This debate, as Melody Miya promised, was only the first formal installment and will continue towards a second edition in coming months as the search for solutions continue.


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