Can Sadia really tell the Ghanaian story?

BY: Francis Doku
 3FM’s Miriam Osei Agyemang (middle) poses with Akumaa Mama Zimbi, Harold Amenya and other cast members from Sadia
3FM’s Miriam Osei Agyemang (middle) poses with Akumaa Mama Zimbi, Harold Amenya and other cast members from Sadia

The biggest news story blazing the airwaves over the past week has to be the deaths and sickness at the Kumasi Academy Senior High School. Very tragic, horrendous and extremely disappointing that it would take such a long time to determine what was causing the deaths in the school.

As a nation, we have, paid no attention to issues of public education and public health for so long a time and it is catching up with us. Children would suffer under conditions that could and should be controlled and parents would be wailing for wanting to educate their children.

Just as it always happens, we shall see politicians and officialdom prancing about in the news and pretending to care and wanting to find solutions to another disastrous catastrophe and yet we all know it would not amount to much. The next disaster would soon emerge and more citizens would suffer. The joke is always on us.

On the content side, the big news was TV3’s introduction of a new local soap opera called Sadia. The station is pitching this content to Ghanaians as the game changer for the industry, as the over reliance on Mexican soap opera on prime time television needs local competition.

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“Sadia is a game changer”, said Pearl Esua-Mensah, Group CEO of Media General Group at the launch of Sadia last Friday. “For the first time, a media house in this country is investing into the production of a world class local drama series that will change the narrative and redefine the concept of telenovelas in Ghana.”

For Pearl and the team at the station this couldn’t have been done by any other station than the one that had led in broadcast of local drama productions for a long time. “We are delighted to be the company leading the way to provide Ghanaians with a better alternative to foreign telenovelas,” she noted while placing Sadia in the genre she coined as ‘Ghananovela.’

While he noted that he would now find a reason to go home early before Sadia airs at 8pm on Mondays and Tuesdays, special Guest of Honour at the premiere, the Minister for Information, Mustapha Hamid described the series as a “novela brewed in an African pot” to project the Ghanaian story.

He commended the Media General Group for continuously projecting Ghanaian values through its programmes, adding that this new addition would take TV3 to the high echelons of the media consumption rankings.

On his part, Eddie Seddoh Jnr., General Manager of Adesa Productions, the producers of Sadia, told the gathering at the Executive Theatre of TV3 that television audiences were about to witness what they have not witnessed with local production in a long time.

The man who worked on some of the biggest Ghanaian productions including writing the script for Things We do for Love and also writing, producing and directing XOXO thinks Sadia would tick all the right boxes and get television viewers glued to their seats.

According to the channel and the production company, Sadia tells a true Ghanaian story imbibed with the diverse cultures and languages of Ghana. They believe that the 100 episode Ghanaian drama series will chronicle the life of Sadia – the main character – and take viewers on a journey of discovery whilst bringing to the fore some of the challenges with migration of young people on the continent of Africa.

Almost every television station worth its name has one or two of such South American or South East Asian drama that many of their viewers adore and in such a milieu, it would be very challenging to sell something different – something Ghanaian, African and authentic.

Time was when many Ghanaian drama productions festooned the television screens. Inspector Bediako, Taxi Driver, Ultimate Paradise and later the likes of Efiewura and Chorkor Trotro drew a lot of viewers to channels that broadcast them.

To be fair, the terrain at the time wasn’t as cluttered and as competitive as it is now. The current situation makes it even more difficult for a station to dare to gamble with the type of content it shows to its audience as a false step could be a great loss for a long time.

The one content that shot Net 2 TV to fame more than any other was Second Chance, the Mexican drama. What actually got UTV to get to the top of the slippery pole were two Mexican drama productions, including the one that has Marie Cruz (or so she was called) and Adom FM leveraged Kumkum Bhagya to dominate the television market and in the process drew a lot of advertising cedis from agencies and their clients.

It must be noted also that at some point (especially in the days when I was on the media buying side) TV3 led the market with local productions, especially with Chorkor Trotro, Efiewura and Edziban and so it is worth noting that if done well, a station can get the results it desires from local drama programming.

The question however is whether Sadia can tell the story as the channel and producers want it to. In the face of unbridled love for Mexican (and to a fair extent Indian soap operas thanks to Kumkum Bhagya, Tarshan and such drama, it is important to ask such a question.

Pearl Esua-Mensah and Eddie Seddoh on the one hand are convinced as channel owners and producers that this is the drama series that would change things for the drive for local content in television programming (remember Ursula Owusu Ekuful, Minister of Communications has given notice that the policy for 70%-30% local content programming in prime time would soon come into force).

Mustapha Hamid on the other hand, representing many Ghanaians who have had enough of the Mexican and Indian drama, are of the hope that Sadia would live up to what its creators and promoters have been touting – the new game changer in local television drama.

With a cast including Kalsoume Sinare, Akumaa Mama Zimbi, Harold Amenya and a host of others, Sadia promises to be good, but can it really tell the Ghanaian story? Make a date every Monday and Tuesday at 8pm to follow the 100-episode journey of Sadia.