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| 141 The New Frontiers of the Ethiopian Television Industry TV Serials and Sitcoms Bitania Tadesse T he history and development of Ethiopian cinema and the fijilm industry has receivedlimitedattentionintheacademicdebate.Thisisparticularlyvisible whenitcomestotherapidlyevolvingTVindustrythathasgrownoutof fijilm production, witnessing the expansion of TV dramas and sitcoms. Among other factors, the relative infancy of TV serial dramas and sitcoms has contributed to the absence of literature around the topic. This chapter will therefore fijill an important lacuna and contribute to analyzing the growing production of screen content in Ethiopia. EthiopianTVserialdramasandsitcomshaveachievedimmensepopularityand are emerging as a critical cultural force among the domestic audience and also in the diaspora.1 This is all the more striking when we bear in mind thatTVserials and sitcoms are a recent phenomenon in Ethiopia. In the past, when TV serials were broadcast they were only limited to a few episodes, whereas shows can now run for multiple years often surmounting one hundred episodes. Gemena/FamilyConfijidences was one of the pioneeringTVshows in this regard, with episodes running for a full year and divided into two seasons. Similarly, works such as Gorebetamochu/The Neighbors and Betoch/Houses signaled the advent of sitcoms in the Ethiopian TV industry.2 Both genres are very popular among the 142 | Bitania Tadesse TV-watching audience with their entertaining stories able to serve as moralizing didactic devices as well. As far as TV in Ethiopia is concerned the scope of the changes is profound. Despitethebroadcastingof TVserialsgoingthroughvariousphasesof development, they do not have a long history in Ethiopia. Until very recently TV entertainment was only transmitted through the airwaves of the government-owned Ethiopian Television (ETV) (now known as the Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation, EBC, since a rebranding in 2015), but more diversity has emerged since the proliferation of satellite TV. This study will analytically describe and assess the production process of TV serials and sitcoms and their broadcasting by EBC and Ethiopian Broadcasting Service (EBS), a satellite station that commenced its operation in 2008 and is based in the United States. The study will explore the structures and dynamics behind agreements between producers and TV stations, and also describe the broadcast process. The proliferation of TV serials and sitcoms is a manifestation of, and also reflects, the continuing evolution of a hybrid production environment defijined by state control and the growing prominence of fijinancially independent entrepreneurs.Thishasnotonlyledtotheexpandingstandardizationof production but arguably represents a marriage of convenience between state-controlled broadcasting and market forces. The chapter will also delve into the reasons behind the increased output in the production of TVserials and sitcoms in recent years. It will explore the correlations between increased technological innovation, capital flow, the proliferation of production companies, and how all these in combination have accelerated production. Finally, the chapter will assess the impact on the future of the TV industry in Ethiopia. Methodologically, the chapter is based on on personal interviews and discussions with a range of key fijigures in the TV sector such as directors, producers, and scriptwriters, combined with my own participatory experiences and knowledge both as a researcher on the Ethiopian fijilm industry and a consumer of Ethiopian TV products. Importantly, this chapter assesses the various phases of the development of TV serials and sitcoms by looking at the trendsetting works, the boom that is being experienced since 2013–14, the challenges that have accompanied this development, and the future of the industry. TV Serials and Sitcoms | 143 TV Serials and Sitcoms in Ethiopia A key issue should be mentioned in terms of classifijication centers on defijinitional issues. While there is seemingly a clear distinction between sitcoms and TV serials or dramas, the reality is that distinctions are blurred in many ways as alluded to by authorsdiscussingtelevisionproductsinothercontexts(Mumford2010).Mumford suggeststhatdefijinitionsof TVgenresarenotonlyamatterof industryandacademic defijinition but also defijined by audience expectations and understandings. What is interesting about the TV serials in the Ethiopian context is the similarity they share in terms of origins with Latin American telenovelas. While Latin American telenovelas emerged in the mid-twentieth century, their emergence also had roots in an earlier cultural form, namely the radio-novellas that were aired on radio in weekly or daily installments (Benavides 2008). In the Ethiopian context, long before localTVserials and sitcoms acquired their current prominent position in the cultural landscape, they were preceded by the weekly aired radio-novellas that were avidly followed in urban Ethiopia. Television as a cultural medium assumed importance in the twentieth century. In this period, it was instrumentalized as...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781609175726
Related ISBN
9781611862928
MARC Record
OCLC
1039349703
Pages
315
Launched on MUSE
2018-06-13
Language
English
Open Access
No
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