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Cablegate: Mozambican "Idol" Show Celebrates New Orleans

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MAPUTO 001323

SIPDIS
DEPARTMENT FOR AF/PD (LMING); AF/S (HTREGER)
PARIS FOR ARS
STATE DEPT PASS TO BBG
BBG FOR VOA (GWENDOLYN DILLARD)
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: AMGT OIIP KPAO MZ
SUBJECT: MOZAMBICAN "IDOL" SHOW CELEBRATES NEW ORLEANS
IN KATRINA AFTERMATH

1. SUMMARY. The United States received a huge vote of
sympathy when Mozambique's most popular television
entertainment program, the Fama Show, devoted a one-hour
special to celebrating the spirit of New Orleans in the
aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The September 26
live broadcast, based on "American Idol" and coordinated
with PAS, featured a mix of well-known songs about New
Orleans, music written for the occasion, and brief remarks
by the U.S. Ambassador. It reached an audience of about
500,000 largely young people, expressing the remarkable
empathy that Mozambicans feel towards the American victims
of the hurricanes, feelings flowing from their own
disastrous floods in 2000. PAS has sent a DVD copy of the
show to AF/PD END SUMMARY.

THE MUSIC IS THE MESSAGE
2. At 1730 on Monday, September 26, the country's most
popular entertainment series, the Fama ("fama" meaning fame
in Portuguese) Show, aired a one-hour special dedicated to
the victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Repeated on
October 4, the show opened with a background video footage
of storm damage and victims, set to a narration by a Fama
master of ceremonies. Next STV CEO Daniel David and
Ambassador Helen La Lime made brief statements. David
emphasized the program as a statement of solidarity on the
part of Mozambicans. Ambassador La Lime noted that
Mozambicans had suffered from floods in 2000, and understood
exactly what this kind of natural disaster meant. She
averred that it was especially appropriate that Mozambican
sympathy be expressed in music, considering that New Orleans
is the birthplace of jazz.

3. The rest of the program featured a series of songs about
New Orleans, solidarity, and one poem set to music -
"America" - written for the occasion. The music included:
We Are the World, Don't Let the Sun Go Down, House of the
Rising Sun, Heal the World, Tears in Heaven, Show Me the
Meaning, a Mozambican song, Chove Chuva (Rain Rain), We
Shall Overcome, and a rousing finale of "When the Saints Go
Marching In," with full audience participation.

CONCEIVING THE PROGRAM CONCEPT
4. Soico TV (STV) CEO Daniel David came up with the original
idea. He explained that he had reacted just the way as other
Mozambicans to the powerful footage of Americans of
predominantly of African descent caught up in the storm
damage. The U.S. and the world reacted boldly five years ago
to help Mozambicans; he was inspired to find a way to convey
the empathy felt by Mozambicans, and their desire lend a
helping hand in any way possible.

PAS IN ON THE TAKEOFF
5. David and PAS already had established an excellent
relationship. It seemed only natural to run the concept by
PAS, which immediately backed it and offered to generate
American participation. With PAS on board, the Fama special
took off with wings that would set it apart from the regular
Friday night program. The time would be crucial. He chose
the 1730 time slot on a Monday holiday because an unusually
high number of middle-class families -- notably teenagers,
the target audience -- would be at home.

6. One important difference was the decision to jettison the
usual competitive aspects of the show, such as a panel of
judges. Singers who had already performed on Fama and thus
were well known agreed to participate. STV and PAS together
produced a video montage of post-hurricane images to open
the show. In addition to arranging the Ambassador's on-
camera appearance, PAS identified an American USAID employee
who volunteered to sing "The House of the Rising Sun."

SOICO TV: THE PREFERRED ALTERNATIVE TO STATE MEDIA
6. Soico TV is one of two private alternatives to official
TV Mozambique (the other is the church-affiliate TV
Miramar). Broadcasting in Maputo, Xai-Xai, Inhambane, and
Beira, its prime-time ratings often surpass those of TVM.
Funded entirely by Mozambican investors, it exemplifies what
can happen when the airwaves open up to private enterprise,
a formula for marketing success similar to that used by
networks elsewhere: Low-brow entertainment in the form of
Brazilian soap operas and Fama, plus fast-paced, sometimes
sensationalist news.

7. The Fama Show special married STV's mass entertainment
and public affairs strengths. By attaching the brand name
"Fama Show" to the broadcast, STV guaranteed itself a young
mass audience. By dedicating it to the victims of the
hurricanes and invoking a legacy of great music, Fama
morphed into a public affairs show. Because the initiative
came from the top (the CEO), it happened fast. But without
the involvement of PAS and the Ambassador, it probably would
not have happened at all. Our role was essential
symbolically as an expression of the American people.

THE ULTIMATE TARGET OF OPPORTUNITY
8. COMMENT: PAS could not have chosen a more effective
public diplomacy vehicle, a mass media target of opportunity
with a huge built-in youth audience. We were ready to seize
the moment because of a strong pre-existing relationship
with STV; all we had to do was to say yes to the core
concept, and move forward. Money was never an issue since
STV covered all expenses. PAS simply helped a local
institution to do what it wanted to do anyway, and
accomplish the job with a credibility that the USG never
could have had on its own. Consequently and perhaps
paradoxically, the Fama Show special demonstrated that the
hurricanes have had the effect of softening the image of the
U.S. among Mozambicans by humanizing us.
Dudley

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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